In Dublin’s Fair City

“Ray wasn’t into isms or osms, so I don’t know what he’d have made of Philanthrocapitalism,” said John Healy last night at the dinner following the Ray Murphy Memorial Lecture delivered by Matthew at Trinity College Dublin.

Healy, the eminence grise of Irish philanthropy after a long career at the helm of Chuck Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthropies, felt that Matthew’s call for more, and more thoughtful, philanthropy would certainly have appealed to longtime philanthropy executive Murphy, who died two years ago. We would love to have met Murphy, judging by his famed belief in the inherent goodness of people and his fondness for Guinness.

There seems to be plenty of interest in philanthropy in Ireland, judging by the turnout at the lecture organised by Philanthropy Ireland. That is despite the economic crisis which, one top banker told Matthew, could leave the Irish economy one-sixth smaller than before the crisis began, and which has wiped out the fortunes of some of the erstwhile Celtic Tiger’s new rich.

Ireland was starting to become more philanthropic, but it has a long way to go to catch up with other European countries, such as Britain and Holland, let alone America, pointed out entrepreneur Liavan Mallan in response to Matthew’s lecture. She pointed out that on a per capita basis, Ireland should have around 850 foundations to be equivalent to America; currently it has 26.

Mallan also worried that the bulk of the 85 million euros currently given away annually in Ireland comes from three foundations that together pump out maybe 70m euros a year. These three, which include Atlantic Philanthropies and the One Foundation (established by Declan Ryan, of the RyanAir family), are limited-life foundations, that will go out of business within five years.

We are generally big fans of limited-life foundations, as they tend to involve an engaged founder who wants to ensure the money is well spent, rather than being led by a philanthrocrat with a personal agenda. Yet in this case, there is a danger of a huge hole being left in Irish giving. All the more reason, then, for Ireland’s remaining wealthy to rise to the philanthrocapitalism challenge, and start giving.