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Thursday 22 March 2018

Tycoons' group unhappy at leak of reform plan

Desmond among elite aiming to assist society


BILLIONAIRE businessman Dermot Desmond is said to be "unhappy" and "surprised" after a paper he had commissioned on political reform was published last week.

The Sunday Independent has learned that contents of the document, Political Reform -- Effective and Efficient Government, published in The Irish Times, have yet to be agreed upon by Mr Desmond and the other members of Ireland First, a high-powered group of the country's most successful business people who came together secretly last autumn to plan ways to restore the economy.

Others involved in the elite grouping, headed up by Rehab chief executive Angela Kerins, include Goldman Sachs international chairman Peter Sutherland, former Taoiseach John Bruton, Glen Dimplex chief executive Sean O'Driscoll, telecoms tycoon Denis O'Brien, One 51 chief executive Philip Lynch, former Bank of Ireland chief executive Mike Soden and former finance minister Ray MacSharry. One notable absence from the group, however, is Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary. While it is understood that the hugely-successful aviation boss engaged in what one informed source described as "exploratory talks" with Ireland First, he declined a request to involve himself in the project any further.

The Sunday Independent understands the group has held a number of meetings in Dublin since its establishment to discuss numerous issues, including job creation, the restoration of Ireland's competitiveness, the EU/IMF bailout, Nama and political reform.

The outcome of those discussions, coupled with written proposals sought from individual members of the group on areas including the economy, health and education, are set to form part of a submission to the incoming Government within weeks of its formation. The proposals, which have a working title of the 'Blueprint for Recovery', will also be made public in an effort to stimulate a wider debate on the country's future.

The leaking of the draft version of Ireland First's political reform document in the midst of the General Election campaign is understood to have upset a number of members of the group.

An attempt by Fine Gael to draw links between the document and elements of Fianna Fail's proposals for political reform was described by one source within Ireland First as a "disappointment".

The source added: "There are individuals of all political affiliations and of no political affiliation involved. It was simply wrong to try to draw that connection. We're not trying to help any political party. We're trying to do something to help the country."

A spokesman for the grouping issued the following statement to the Sunday Independent: "We can confirm that a number of individuals have come together informally out of a deep sense of concern about the challenges that Ireland is now facing, to explore opportunities, identify barriers and put forward practical solutions to these challenges.

"Like many others we believe that we need to stimulate our economy, restore confidence to our people and work our way out of this economic morass. The group is examining a range of ideas that would stimulate recovery, reform public administration and engage with the public to create the necessary conditions to grow the economy and create jobs, while at the same time promote equality of opportunity, social protection for vulnerable groups and essential fairness.

"The group believes that everyone in Ireland has a role to play, and that the skills and talents of everyone, in every sector and in every walk of life, can be utilised and harnessed in a creative and positive way to assist the country towards economic recovery and ensure that Ireland becomes a stronger, efficient, fairer and more equal society."

Sunday Independent

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