Bunhill: Lunch for the Irish

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The Independent Online
TO THE the Banqueting House in Whitehall last week, where anyone with the faintest trace of Irishness in the blood (and many with none at all) was lunching in aid of the Ireland Fund of Great Britain. The hopeful noises coming out of Ulster set the tone for a jolly bunfight.

The lunch was the brainchild of George Magan, the former Morgan Grenfell troubleshooter now running his own firm of Hambro Magan, who boasts Irish ancestors and a holiday home in Kilkenny. All that is brightest and best from Ireland and beyond attended - from Terry Wogan to Sir David Scholey, the head of SG Warburg.

His firm is said to get a lucrative wedge of business from the Dublin Government. A celebratory Warburg was hosting an entire table.

Ireland, north and south, seems to have produced a disproportionate number of UK bosses: Gerry Robinson of Granada Group, John Cahill of British Aerospace, Liam Strong of Sears, David Montgomery of Mirror Group Newspapers to name four.

The island has also produced its fair share of corporate turkeys, of course, including GPA, but no one was talking about that.

Dominating proceedings was Tony O'Reilly, the HJ Heinz boss and former rugby international. He explained the Irish managerial success to me thus: 'We're extremely good on chat, if not necessarily on hard information, so we're able to convey a spurious illusion of efficiency.'

Later, while urging the chief executives present to invest in Ireland, he revealed his failsafe motto in America: 'Look Irish, think Yiddish, dress British.'