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MacGill School goes online for a second year


DR Mike Ryan, who has led the global response to Covid-19, and Mary Ellen McGroarty, the Mountcharles-born leader of the World Food Programme in Afghanistan, are among the speakers at next week’s annual MacGill School.
Now in its 41st year, the MacGill School will be online for the second year from Wednesday to Friday.
When Joe Mulholland founded the MacGill summer school in 1981, he did not envisage a pandemic that would change how we connect to others.
From his Foxrock home this week, he spoke about online connection platforms and its impact on the school.
The former Editor of Current Affairs, Director of News and Managing Director of Television at RTÉ has been responsible for bringing visitors and leading national and international figures to Donegal to participate in the summer school.
“Little did we think that one day the MacGill summer school would be run online but there it is. Last year’s event (also online) was very successful and people liked it but maybe the taste for Zoom has somewhat diminished. Still, it’s a good way of communicating,” he said.
“This year’s line-up is quite exciting and does, I believe, live up to the MacGill standard. It does what MacGill does and that is look at the questions which need looking at and to see what the future holds for us all,” he said.
“While it (MacGill) was never dominated by politics alone, politics always enjoyed quite a big share of the programme. This year we’re bringing together a variety of people with a variety of interests because of what’s happening to us all with Covid-19 and climate change. There’s a good balance,” Mr Mulholland said.
That balance sees two main members of Government, namely the Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, among the contributors.
Mary Harney, who served as Tánaiste from 1997 to 2006 and as Minister for Health and Children from 2004 to 2011 and Mary Coughlan, who was Tánaiste and deputy leader of Fianna Fáil from 2008 to 2011, are also listed.
“They are two ladies who have had extraordinary careers in politics while the Taoiseach and Minister for Finance are the two most important people in government,” Mr Mulholland said.
One of the advantages of Zoom is that it allows people from all over the globe to take part in this year’s event.
“Mary Ellen McGroarty is that wonderful woman from Mountcharles who decided to stay on in Afghanistan and devote her life to her job of feeding the hungry. It would not have been possible before to have her take part as she would not have been able to get back home to Donegal at this time.
“Dr Mike Ryan is Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme and he is another person who we can involve this year thanks to zoom.
“It’s often been said to me that Glenties is quite a remote location for the school so one of the advantages with Zoom is that we can have now have debate with the doctors and scientists,” he added.
“It has been a sobering time, full of stress and anxiety and sadness but also a time when acts of generosity and kindness and decency showed the human race in a different light, gave us all encouragement and hope and made us reflect on our lives,” Mr Mulholland said.
Other contributors will include: David Miliband, former UK Foreign Secretary and now CEO of International Rescue, Professor Mary Horgan, Paul Mason BBC and C4, Joan Hoey, Economist, Prof Brigid Laffan, Prof John Fitzgerald, Prof Ian Goldin, Prof Luke O’Neill, Prof. Chris Grey, Fergal Keane BBC and Geraldine Byrne Nason, Ambassador at UN.

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