New Irish consul in Boston is ‘bullish’ on priorities
By BIR News Room, October 9, 2013
BY GREG O’BRIEN
SPECIAL TO THE BIR
While Breandán Ó Caollaí never set out to make a big name for himself, he did just that with a blend of passion, perseverance, and Gaelic street smarts, all blessed from birth with a mouthful of a surname that most of us could never pronounce. This Dubliner, newly appointed Irish Consul General in Boston, has a resume of diplomatic service as long and fertile as the Ring of Kerry.
Ó Caollaí (pronounced O’Qualley) has served his country well in the headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), including working in the Anglo-Irish Division (Northern Ireland), the Irish Aid/Development Cooperation Division, and Administration Division. He also has served in the consulate office in New York, was a DFAT press officer, served in the Irish embassies in Italy and London and has been a representative to the European Union (EU).
But most of all, he’s “very happy to be a Dubliner” today, given Dublin’s recent victory in the All-Ireland Football Championship over Mayo (its 24th) by a point at Croke Park. Football, Irish style, is the coin of success in Ireland, and defines individuals like Ó Caollaí for its teamwork, discipline, and grit.
“It is a great honor to be named Consul General of Ireland in Boston,” he said in an interview, noting priorities of economic welfare, jobs, tourism, assisting undocumented Irish workers, and the promotion of investments from Massachusetts companies in Ireland, and Irish corporate investments in the Bay State, to create a “win-win.”
The Irish economy, Ó Caollaí said, “is on the rebound,” and he’s bullish about continued US investments back home. While the Celtic Tiger has been tamed, opportunities for economic growth in Ireland persist through impressive European Union markets and through Ireland’s equitable taxation system. “There are still problems, still will be tough times, but I think the people of Ireland and the government are fully committed to making it work, to taking sensible steps to bring this all about. Ireland is open for business.”
His previous service as director general of the International Fund For Ireland positions Ó Caollaí well in his new role. The Fund is an independent organization established by the Irish and British governments in 1986 to encourage contact, dialogue and reconciliation between nationalists and unionists throughout Ireland.
“The work continues,” Ó Caollaí said, “But great progress has been made on all fronts.” Tourism is chief among them, he added, in this year of The Gathering, an opening of arms to the 70 million people worldwide who claim Irish ancestry, calling them home to gatherings in villages, towns and cities. Tourism, he notes, is about 13 percent above last year.
Asked about Ireland’s influence worldwide, Ó Caollaí replied in a voice right from the heart, “The Irish have always had great capacity to look beyond the confines of an island in its appealing culture, writing, politics and music.” They have, he said, reached out ever since the time of Saint Brendan the Navigator, one of the “Twelve Apostles of Ireland,” who legend says led a band of Irish clerics across the Atlantic in a leather boat in 500 AD. “Whether Brendan did or didn’t, the story underscores the drive of the Irish to reach out. The Irish are the most globalized people in the world.”
Ó Caollaí himself reached beyond his rural boundaries as a young man, attending St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth, University College in Dublin, the Institute of Public Administration, and the Dublin Institute of Technology where he earned his master’s of Arts. Born in Cabra northwest of Dublin, the son of train yard worker, Ó Caollaí has five siblings, living in Ireland and the US. He and his wife Carmel (Callan) have three adult children: Eoin, Fiona, and Siobhan.
Looking like a modern-day Lou Gehrig, Ó Caollaí portrays in family and in life that’s he’s the luckiest man on the face of the earth.
Greg O’Brien, a regular Boston Irish contributor, is president of Stony Brook Group, a publishing and political/communications strategy firm.