When Brian Cowan, then prime minister of Ireland, came to Boston in August 2009 to attend Ted Kennedy’s funeral, he met with reporters after Mass. Soaking wet in a rumpled suit from the rain that day and very tired from his late night flight from Ireland, he was asked rather rudely, “Why do you spend so much time caring about the Irish in the United States?”
Seated at the end of a small table, holding his head in his hands, and a bit slumped over, he brightened up and with a sly grin said, “Ireland is the envy of the world with our dedicated following in the United States. I want to preserve and capitalize on that love and devotion.”
And today’s Irish government is pursuing that objective aggressively, sending mission after mission to the United States to contact, organize, and influence Irish Americans young and old.
In a speech this past February, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny launched an “Action Plan for Jobs in 2012,” the aim of which is to make Ireland, “the best small country in the world in which to do business.” Kenny’s main target is the United States where Irish innovation and business leadership has proven itself many times over the past 50 years especially in some of our major cities: Boston, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.
In Boston, we have witnessed the creation of the new Irish organization “Irish Network Boston,” which is dedicated to “connecting Irish and Irish Americans in Boston and beyond.” Modeled after a similar group started in New York, and with others now spreading over the entire country, Irish Network Boston currently has 600 members who are asked to pay annual dues of $50 each. You don’t have to be Irish to join – simply have an interest in Ireland. Their website says, “The Irish Government through the consulate in Boston, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA” all support the organization. Its purpose is “to harness the energy and talents of the Irish Diaspora in The United States.”
The Irish Network Boston, under the presidency of the Limerick-born Boston businessman David Greaney, has been a great success with its regularly scheduled parties and networking events. For more information on the group, visit irishnetworkboston.org.
Just last month three more government-encouraged organizations came to Boston to gain recognition and support. In early June, “Start in Ireland” Business Development Administrator Brendan Fay visited selected Irish groups to advance his organization’s government brief to bring young companies to Ireland with a promise of “significant start up funding.” The Start in Ireland” group is part of the much larger Enterprise Ireland organization that already has permanent employees in Boston.
“Start in Ireland” literature stresses the more than one billion dollars in venture and seed capital that is available to companies locating in Ireland. This is a similar effort to that of the Investment Development Agency (IDA), which also has permanent employees in Boston, with the difference being “Start’s” emphasis on startup companies rather than the much larger established American companies the IDA has been so successful in attracting to Ireland. For more information, see startinireland.com
On June 19, yet another new Irish organization held its opening party on a beautiful early summer’s evening overlooking the Charles River at Boston’s Museum of Science. “The Wild Geese Network of Irish Scientists (WGIS) had its start in Washington DC in February 2011, and quickly posted its purpose on the internet: “The WGNIS harnesses the knowledge, experience and success of the Irish scientific Diaspora from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to provide an up-to-date and comprehensive global human database.”
Though supported by government approvals, WGIS is a private non-profit organization. Professor Mark WJ Ferguson, director general of the prestigious Science Foundation Ireland, spoke at the party, declaring his support for the organization.
Then on June 26, another party, this one at the Irish Consulate on Boylston Street, introduced a fourth organization supported by the Irish government: “ConnectIreland.” This group, also in the job creation business, offers Irish Americans cash rewards if they are responsible for attracting new jobs to Ireland. Michael McLoughlin, the CEO of ConnectIreland, was at the Consulate reception ready to discuss all the opportunities available for successful referrals.
ConnectIreland will pay from 1,500 Euro to 3,000 Euro ($1,950 to $3,900) for each job brought to Ireland by the referral. There are rules of course that are explained on the ConnectIreland website, connectireland.com. The fact remains that financial rewards are a very powerful incentive to excite not only Irish Americans but also people all over the world. The first ConnectIreland incentive bonuses have been paid to three individuals.
For Bostonians, here is an opportunity to help Ireland and themselves by simply checking in with ConnectIreland to follow the correct procedure and begin to search for companies thinking about doing business in Europe through Ireland.
The Irish government is making a very intelligent move by enlisting support for job creation programs from American citizens of Irish heritage. Irish Americans want to be involved and this is a rewarding way to help the economic recovery on their ancestral island.