Padraig O hUiginn

' Former Secretary General Department of the Taoiseach 1982-1993 '

 

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Padraig O hUiginn

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The following extracts are from The Irish Financial services centre - An international success by Fiona Reddin 2008

''A vital member of the IFSC committee was Padraig O hUiginn, who, as secretary-general of the department of the Taoiseach and chairman of the IFSC committee, was Haughey's right-hand man on the project.

O'hUiginn held the position of secretary general from 1982 to 1993, but he transcended the accepted image of the job.

In his book, the making of the Celtic Tiger, Padraic White, Former chief executive of the IDA, said that his 'natural instinct were always developmental and entrepreneurial rather than restrictive and bureaucratically. To any assignment he brought a high intelligence, humor and mastery of language'.

He was a 'Tremendously strong personality', says former AIB chief Michael Buckly, adding that the pact between Haughey and O hUiginn was essential to the success of the IFSC. 'If the committee wanted something done, it came up with a recommendation. Haughey would then back O hUiginn, who would have the right to 'persuade, bully...whatever needed to be done to get the other government departments on board'.

Known as Haugheys 'favourite civil servant', O hUiginn 'had unique levels of say-so’, says Buckley 'with more of a mandate in the Taoiseach's Department than anyone since T.K Whitaker'.

Dermot Desmond charicterises O hUiginn's involvement in the IFSC project as being 'critical'. No one could out-fox, out-manoeuver or de-stabilise him. When he made a commitment to get something done - you could take it that it would be done’, he says.

A story illustrating O hUiginn's level of influence, which did the rounds at the time in the Department of the Taoiseach, has O hUiginn ringing a civil servant asking him to do something, to which the civil servant responded, 'Who's this speaking, the Taoiseach?'. O hUiginn was said to have responded. 'No, but if you don't do it by this afternoon it will be the Taoiseach who'll be calling you'.

While O hUiginn had all the skills of a 'manderin supreme', as Desmond described him, and he was instrumental in developing the IFSC in the early days, he was not known for his attention to detail, and members of the first committee say that he wasn't bothered too much about getting to grips with the technicalities of what the committee were about.

Instead said Buckley, he saw his job as a) Facilitation; and b)ensuring that progress wasn't held back too much within the system.

Since leaving the civil service in 1993, O hUiginn has experienced much success in the private sector, most notably through his involvement as a director of Denis O Brien's Esat Telecom, which was taken over by British Telecom in 2000.''-page 40

''The success of the IFSC all came down to the nature of the individuals, it wouldn't work with other people. It is a big tribute to both Haughey and O'hUiginn, as if Haughey had been in office longer, it probably would have worked in other areas''- page 238

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The following extracts are from Saving The Future: How Social Partnership Shaped Ireland's Economic Success by Tim Hastings, Brian Sheehan, and Padraig Yeates 2007.

''A Champion of Consensus''

''Bertie Ahern remembers that when the prospect of a national agreement was first raised after the minority Fianna Fail government assumed office, the advice within the civil service was to 'stay away from it'. However, the concept had a major champion in Padraig O hUiginn, secretary in the emerging Taoiseach's department, who had already played a crucial role as chairman of the NESC. O'hUiginn was regarded as a person with an extraordinary facility to get people working together and get them to focus on solutions. Without him it is possible that the talks would have foundered.

One leading employer said O'hUiginn 'could walk on water. I mean that it's not a throwaway remark.' This is a view strongly shared by all shades of opinion, not least by former Minister for Finance Charlie McCreevy, who later recalled: 'O'hUiginn is the smartest civil servant, the smartest person I ever met. If he didn't have a solution, then there ''ain't no solution''. His role was at least equal to [ken] Whittaker, if not greater.'

In other words, O'hUiginn was an invaluable player in the search for a national pact built around the NESC report. He was also the first in a succession of talented secretary generals in the Taoiseach's department, all with a firm grasp of and commitment to what gradually became known as the partnership model.''-page 34

''Berkery recalls the influence of Austria and Sweden on Padraig O'hUiginn:''O'hUiginn had the structure and the model and he reconstructed the model for Ireland'' according to Berkery''-page 170

''Padraig O'hUiginn, who chaired the NESC at the time of its critical 1986 report, was also secretary general of the department of the Taoiseach under Charles Haughey. As one observer puts it,O'hUiginn was more closely associated with Haughey 'than would have been the norm for Irish civil servants'. Former Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy recalls that Haughey, many years after his departure from the national scene, considered O'hUiginn to be 'as wise as old sin himself'. This was, of course, delivered as a compliment.-page 178

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