Charities to gain as Ireland Funds raises targets


IRELAND FUNDS GALA:HUNDREDS OF Irish charities will benefit after the Worldwide Ireland Funds last night announced an increase in its fundraising target from $100 million to $140 million by the end of 2013.

The Worldwide Ireland Funds president and chief executive Kieran McLoughlin confirmed the board of the organisation had agreed to the new target after it reached its previous goal in May, some 19 months ahead of schedule.

Mr McLoughlin confirmed the good news at the Worldwide Ireland Funds gala dinner at Ballymaloe House in Co Cork, before an invited audience of 260-plus guests, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny and former US president Bill Clinton.

According to Mr McLoughlin, the Promising Ireland campaign, launched in 2009, hopes to raise $1 million a month between now and the end of December 2013 to support Irish charities on the entire island of Ireland.

“The response to the Promising Ireland campaign is an affirmation of our donors’ belief in Ireland’s future,” he said, noting that over 25 per cent of the $432 million raised by the organisation since its foundation in 1976 has been raised in the past three years.

Mr McLoughlin said the Promising Ireland campaign has already provided support to more than 350 charities in the Republic and Northern Ireland “whose work is vital at a time of intense social need and diminished resources”.

Mr Kenny paid tribute to Mr McLoughlin and all involved in the Worldwide Ireland Funds, saying their achievement in reaching their target of raising $100 million 19 months ahead of schedule was “a phenomenal achievement”.

“There is a deeper sentiment involved here and that is that it’s the epitome of the old meitheal concept. This is a demonstration of what the Irish can do at a time of economic crisis when the power of community comes together,” said Mr Kenny.

Mr Clinton was equally impressed by the Worldwide Ireland Funds, while he also paid tribute to Mr Kenny for securing the success of the recent fiscal referendum, which he said would help Ireland recover economically.

“I am very proud of it. It makes the Irish very proud. You should know that the diaspora has the ultimate confidence in the people of Ireland and the Government of Ireland and the national will to come back from this terrible economic crisis that you, Europe and the US and much of the world are going through.”

The Worldwide Ireland Funds chairman in Ireland, Hugo McNeill, said the reaching of the target figure some 19 months ahead of schedule was “fantastically encouraging” and reflected the tremendous response of philanthropists worldwide to Ireland’s situation.

“I think what’s happened is that people have responded incredibly to the need in Ireland, particularly from overseas but increasingly from people here in Ireland, which is important to us, with companies and individuals backing the projects,” he said.

“We have had examples in the last few years of Ireland at its worst but the people who lead the projects are absolutely at their best helping kids deal with disadvantages, people overcome disabilities, immigrants acclimatise and get work here,” he said.

Among the benefiting projects in Cork that were visited by delegates to the Worldwide Ireland Funds convention was Music Generation, which aims to provide instrument training to some 20,000 schoolchildren.

Other beneficiaries included the Glucksman Gallery at UCC, the Rebel Wheelers, who provide a multisport club for young people with disabilities, Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, and Irish Dogs for the Disabled.

Last night’s Worldwide Ireland Funds gala dinner in Ballymaloe was held in honour of Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney.

“It’s a great honour. They gave me an award 40 years ago, so they must have thought it was time for another one,” the poet said with a smile.

Among the guests at last night’s banquet were American ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney; Michael Flatley and his wife, Niamh; hotelier John Fitzpatrick; Bord Gáis chief executive John Mullins; Irish Examiner editor Tim Vaughan; and Kevin O’Sullivan, editor of The Irish Times.