Cantillon: Ireland Funds passes $500m mark

Ambitious target set for next 10 years of fundraising

Some 180 donors from 11 countries made the trip to Killarney last week for the worldwide Ireland Funds conference at the five-star Europe Hotel, which overlooks the picturesque lakes in the Kerry town.

There was much to celebrate although the mood was tempered by the tragedy that was unfolding in Berkeley, California, where Irish students had died in a balcony collapse.

The board, led by chairman John Fitzpatrick, (pictured) agreed a $100,000 donation to assist the families of those killed or injured in the collapse.

And Taoiseach Enda Kenny gave a moving speech at the gala dinner on Friday evening urging the families of the six deceased students to "cherish their memories". The dinner also heard how the fund's Promising Ireland Campaign had raised $204 million since 2009. The original target was €100 million. It's a mighty achievement by chief executive Kieran McLoughlin and his team and has benefitted hundreds of projects north and south of the Border. This news went down well with the guests, who included the fund's co-founder and former US ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney. Sir Anthony O'Reilly, another co-founder, sent his best wishes but couldn't attend due to recent back surgery.


The fund has now passed the magical $500 million barrier, after 39 years of fundraising.

So how long will it take to raise the next $500 million? Ten years was the view of one senior fund member on the hotel terrace as the guests enjoyed some post-dinner revelry.

It’s an ambitious target but could be achieved if McLoughlin and his colleagues can continue their fundraising activities at the same clip as in recent years.

One thing is for sure: the money raised by the Ireland Funds will become ever more important to Irish charities in the future as others, including Chuck Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthropies, wind down their activities.

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock is Business Editor of The Irish Times