In much happier days: President Marcelo and Paddy Cosgrave at the Lisbon Web Summit of 2021. Image: Hugo Amaral/ ECO
In much happier days: President Marcelo and Paddy Cosgrave at the Lisbon Web Summit of 2021. Image: Hugo Amaral/ ECO

Founder of Lisbon’s Web Summit resigns with immediate effect, guaranteeing ‘show goes on’

Paddy Cosgrave’s Israel-Hamas tweets cause political earthquake

The damage caused by the tweets of Web Summit CEO Paddy Cosgrave on the Israel-Hamas conflict have caused a political earthquake, less than a month before the 2023 edition is scheduled for its annual event in Lisbon.

Following the outrage expressed by Israeli ambassador to Portugal Dor Shapira, a slew of companies, high-profile speakers and sponsors have cancelled participation, including tech giants Amazon, Meta, Google, Siemens and Intel.

Following a statement put out yesterday to the effect that the summit was not going to be affected, Paddy Cosgrave suddenly announced his resignation with immediate effect.

As Expresso points out, it was “a reversal of the official announcement, made on Saturday morning, that the Lisbon FIL (venue) would once again be full, in spite of the confirmed cancellations of major tech brands like Amazon, Meta, Google, Siemens and Intel”.

And there was good reason: as the paper explains, there are agreements in place with Lisbon City Council which is obliged to stump up €11 million every year for the realisation of the Web Summit in the capital.

These agreements run until 2028… and their intention, back in 2018, was to ‘guarantee Portugal high profile/ high return’ for another decade. Ironically, this ambition was already beginning to show a few cracks pre-pandemic. Now those cracks threaten to become chasms.

Meantime, the fallout from Mr Cosgrave’s remarks shows little sign of abating. 

“In parallel with the Lisbon event, the Irish company that runs the Web Summit has created new events in Toronto (called Collision) and also in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Qatar. The latter two are scheduled for 2024. Incidentally, the Qatar event was used as a weapon by Cosgrave’s critics”, Expresso goes on, adding that “with this departure the Web Summit ends up losing its main face and mentor, but it also loses the participation of the main brands that helped leverage the event into becoming the main reference for innovation and technology policies in Europe”.

The trouble began following the October 7 massacre by Hamas terrorists of over 1,000 men, women and children in southern Israel – and Israel’s (and to an extent the Western world’s) response.

Paddy Cosgrave commented over ‘X’ (formerly known as Twitter): “I’m shocked at the rhetoric and actions of so many Western leaders & governments, with the exception in particular of Ireland’s government, who for once are doing the right thing. War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are”.

He later ‘backtracked’ in a series of tweets, before announcing that he was taking time off ‘X’. But the damage clearly has been too great. He said in his statement yesterday that “unfortunately” his “personal comments have become a distraction” from the looming summit “and our team, our sponsors, our startups and the people who attend. I sincerely apologise again for any hurt I have caused.”

Right now, the situation is that no-one can be sure quite how much hurt Paddy Cosgrave’s statements have caused.

Expresso adds, “there is no information on whether Cosgrave’s departure will be limited to leaving the board, or whether it will have repercussions in terms of his shareholdings in the company. Nor is it known what Paddy Cosgrave intends to do in the future”.

Meantime, Dor Shapira has moved on from the confrontation, saying “we have many more important things to resolve…

Welcoming the “unequivocal position” of Portugal’s parliament on Friday in which MPs across the board voted in favour of “condemning Hamas and supporting Israel’s right to defend itself”, he warned during a solidarity event in Cascais yesterday, that “if Israel does not stop the terrorists in Israel, tomorrow morning they will be in Europe”.

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