Basil Geoghegan, 43, is managing director of UK banking and broking at Citi and co-chairman of the Ireland Fund of Great Britain (IFGB), which raises funds for worthy causes in Ireland and internationally. He climbed Everest this year in aid of the fund’s Forgotten Irish appeal and has, so far, raised £82,000.
What is the first charity you can remember supporting?
Like all Irish children I was given a Trócaire [Compassion] Box to save money for children in Africa.
Which cause do you feel most strongly about?
The IFGB. Its new focus is the “Forgotten Irish” campaign The forgotten Irish are among the people who left Ireland between the 1950s and 1970s. Some were fleeing abuse at the hands of the church and state, and almost all came to Britain. We found a high percentage of mental illness, inability to access social welfare and just general loneliness among [some of] these increasingly aged ex-pats. I guess it was because they didn’t have family here and some of them had moved around a lot, working on the roads, for example, so had few friends.
What’s the view like from the top of Everest?
It’s magnificent but what makes it such a unique place is what’s going through your head. You’ve overcome all those fears and pains and doubts that you might never have disclosed to anyone else – but are also bearing in mind that you still have to get down.
Why should people give money to marathon runners and mountain climbers?
I don’t think people gave me money because I climbed Everest. I think it was a convenient hook from which to ask people if they’d donate to the Forgotten Irish campaign. Your parents and your mates have to sponsor you but I think everyone else looks at the charity and decides if they want to donate to it.
Should employees be allowed days off for charitable work?
Social responsibility is a responsibility for individuals but I think it’s good if corporates are prepared to facilitate it. Giving days off is a good way of doing it, as is matching funds or supporting a cause by lending facilities.
How has the banking crisis affected attitudes to charity?
With the Ireland Fund, we’ve had a lot of people in the financial services industry giving more than ever before. I think that’s because people’s responsibility as individuals has been brought home to them.
What’s your favourite example of a charity in action?
I think the most fascinating thing in any charity is watching an individual’s life change. I have seen charities that the Ireland Fund supports move an old person [from hostels] into proper accommodation and turn them into a human being again. When I see the sparkling eyes of someone who’s living their life again rather than just surviving, I think: “This actually matters.”