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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Sarah Collins

Business culture vultures: From Garth Brooks and An Cailín Ciúin, to dolmens, the World Cup and a feast of reading

Garth Brooks on stage at Croke Park, Dublin for the first in a series of concerts last summer. It was a highlight of the year for Danny McCoy. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Chief Executive Officer of business federation Ibec

Ibec CEO Danny McCoy

Danny McCoy

I really enjoyed Simon Kuper’s book Chums: How a Tiny Caste of Oxford Tories Took Over the UK, full of amusing observations
that are often beyond parody.

My favourite is the Labour grandee originator of the term ‘meritocracy’ interfering with the selection process to gain his son’s admission to Brasenose College, having failed to meet the required grades.

The last night of Garth Brooks’ concert in Croke Park was a great occasion. Nostalgia for the 1990s hits combined with the social observation of the national wealth on display to sell out five nights, even if merely delayed from 2014, when austerity was meant to have consumed the country.

Dubray Books Managing Director Maria Dickenson

Maria Dickenson

Managing Director of Dubray Books

My favourite, without a doubt, is a book by Irish author Alice Ryan called There’s Been A Little Incident. It’s super, it really is. It’s a debut and it is funny, it’s warm, it’s smart.

It talks about a girl who lost both her parents quite young and she has always kind of run from her grief. It speaks very well about grief and healing in families and it is not too heavy, either. The family relationships are warm and lovely. I’ve been bending everyone’s ears about it.

Siobhán Talbot, Glanbia Group Managing Director.

Siobhán Talbot

Group Managing Director of Glanbia

Claire Keegan’s short novel Foster was a wonderful read earlier this year. It’s a simple story told from the perspective of a young girl sent to spend a summer with relatives – ‘her mother’s people’ – in rural Ireland.

The characters unfold without haste and we uncover through the depiction of the slow rhythms of rural life, the true nature of the child’s foster family who grow in stature as the story is told, until finally their grief is laid bare.

It is a tale of family, unsung heroes and community and is wonderfully evocative of both time and place.

Colm Bairéad’s Irish-language feature film An Cailín Ciúin, based on the novel, was released this year to global acclaim and will hopefully feature prominently in the forthcoming film awards season.

An Post CEO David McRedmond. Photo: Maxwell Photography

David McRedmond

Chief Executive Officer of An Post

How come I hadn’t heard of Sally Hayden? This is her problem: the privileged in Europe don’t want to read of refugees and migration.

She just wrote the An Post Irish Book of the Year My Fourth Time, We Drowned, a searing account of migration routes from Africa to Europe. This is serious journalism: slowly she transforms the masses into a diverse, varied group of people whose only aim is a better life.

Her biography says she is a photographer and it shows. The book moves from light to dark, vast space to claustrophobia, and hope to hopelessness. Essential reading.

And my other read of the year is also by a great journalist: Colm Tóibín’s essay collection A Guest At The Feast is a profound examination of the contradictions of inner and outer lives, and the role of fiction.

Essays on the last three popes, the Irish judiciary, with a delicious Vincent Browne cameo, and on writers Francis Stuart and John McGahern, remind us that Colm is our greatest contemporary writer and thinker.

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon. Photo: Adrian Weckler

Helen Dixon

Data Protection Commissioner

My ongoing dolmen explorations have been one of my cultural highlights of 2022!

Even in this information age, these iconic neolithic structures remain remarkable and little understood.

This year, I visited the stunningly located, tall and elegant Legananny dolmen in county Down for the first time, while on a trip to beautiful Newcastle and Slieve Donard.

Much closer to home, I visited the Glendruid dolmen in Cabinteely, traversing a fast-flowing stream to reach this spectacular structure.

These dolmens truly retain their mystery and still fascinate in this internet era. How did the humans of 4500 BC get these 100-tonne capstones on top of the structures?

Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland Gabriel Makhlouf. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Gabriel Makhlouf

Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland

The book I’m recommending to people who are looking for a Christmas gift is Fintan O’Toole’s We Don’t Know Ourselves.

It told me a story of Ireland, or at least of the Ireland he grew up in, in a way that resonated with me. Perhaps it’s the fact that he is roughly my age and some of the events he describes I can relate to, or at least remember what I was doing or seeing at the time.

Or perhaps it’s the fact that I also went to a Christian Brothers school (but in England) so his views of the Catholic Church and its impact on life in Ireland is familiar, albeit from a very different angle.

The book’s range is remarkable and O’Toole has clearly done a lot of research to produce this personal history of Ireland (the book’s subtitle).

But the main reason I like this book is that I enjoy O’Toole’s writing and We Don’t Know Ourselves is full of his familiar style, accessible, frank and illuminating as well as irreverent and entertaining and underpinned by a reporter’s thorough analysis and argument.

Put simply, it’s a great read.

Cathal Friel

Chairman of Poolbeg Pharma and hVivo

The cultural moment of 2022 for me was watching the World Cup final with our kids at home. I watched as our 12-year-old son, an avid supporter of France, exploded with joy at the late unexpected French goals while the rest of us cheered for Argentina.

For the first 80 minutes France played poorly as they took for granted their expected success. This reminded me of Celtic Tiger Ireland when we all took for granted our economic success and it was only the 2008 property crash that became the wake-up call of an urgent need to regain our international economic competitiveness.

Separately, the initial international tut-tutting of the Qatari’s more conservative lifestyle made me think how eerily similar it was for me growing up in a deeply religious Ireland of the 60s and 70s.

Many forget that it was still illegal to buy condoms in Ireland until 1985. I am optimistic that Qatar may rapidly transform and become a more modern liberal state and may do so in a fraction of the time that it took Ireland.

Qatar’s decision to splash out on seven new stadiums indicates to me that they probably have designs on one of the next Olympics and in turn Qatar could become the sporting and entertainment capital of the Middle East.

Lorna Conn

Chief executive officer of Dublin-based human resources company CPL

A standout moment of the 2022 World Cup for me was witnessing the gracious and deeply respectful behaviour of the Japanese football team, their entourage, and their fans.

One couldn’t help being moved by these moments of intense humanity – leaving their dressing room spotless after each match, leaving a ‘thank you’ message in Arabic, together with several origamis in their dressing room, their manager bowing deeply to their fans in the stadium following their exit from the tournament and their fans collecting litter after each game – win, lose or draw.

Having spent a week myself in Japan only recently (CPL is owned by Outsourcing Inc, a Tokyo-listed talent solutions organisation, operating in 38 countries worldwide with over 130,000 employees), my experience there was wholly reflective of a culture rooted in deep respect.

A culture of grace and hospitability. If more societies embodied these qualities, surely we would live in a better world. Japan didn’t need to win the tournament to win big – their behaviour has charmed many people across the globe and put the spotlight on their culture in a very positive way.

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