Sean Cromien, who has passed away at the age of 89, will be remembered with great respect in the IIEA as a major public servant, and an affable individual, who played a highly significant part in the early development of the Institute.
At an early stage in the preparation of an initial Work Programme a number of subjects were identified – Political Union, EMU and the Common Agricultural Policy – and attention turned to working methods and to ensuring appropriate membership of working groups. The tricky question arose of involving civil servants in meetings attended by politicians.
Those leading the working groups on the three initial subjects, to which a fourth- Social Europe – was added, argued strongly that, from the outset, the Institute should seek to provide a forum within which politicians, civil servants, academics and those from all sides of civil society could openly discuss important topics in complete confidentiality. It was agreed that this objective should be pursued as a matter of urgency, following the example of the Chatham House think-tank in London, by adopting a version of the long established ‘Chatham House Rule’ which ensured confidentiality by providing that information gained in IEA events could be used but with no attribution either to individuals or to location.
This move provided the basis for an endorsement campaign within the public service which resulted in a high level of support in the senior ranks of the Civil Service. Minutes of the Institute Organisation Committee recorded personal endorsements from Noel Dorr (Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs) and Sean Cromien (Secretary of the Department of Finance).
No more significant endorsements could have been hoped for by the founding group and, immediately, the Institute working groups on Political Union and EMU approached the two Secretaries on the issue of direct civil service involvement in their debates and discussions. They responded at once, agreeing to experts from their Departments assisting the Institute’s work and going further by securing an overall agreement by all Departmental Secretaries to facilitate civil service involvement in the Institute Work Programme.
They then moved to ensure Ministerial awareness and sympathy for the arrangement by drafting a submission from the group of Secretaries to the Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, which he endorsed. Sight of this notable signature gave the Institute a most important stimulus in developing its work and working methods. Sean Cromien and Noel Dorr were honoured guests of the Institute at its official Launch in April 1991 and both became Life Members of the Institute. The significant role of the group of Secretaries was recognised by establishing an annual Institute Secretaries Lunch.
Sean Cromien retired from the Department of Finance in 1994 and remained active in public life, including a period as Director of the National Library. Widely recognised as a keen naturalist, he enjoyed a term as President of Dublin Zoo. He was elected to the Royal Irish Academy in 2006. In 1987, the IPA published ‘Managing Public Money’, co-authored with Aidan Pender.