Plan to set up dynamic link with diaspora


ONLINE PORTAL:THE CREATION of an online portal to promote Ireland as well as greatly expanded educational exchanges and scholarship programmes are among the proposals from the Global Irish Economic Forum which are being seriously examined by Government.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said he was “greatly taken” by the proposal for a “Gateway Ireland” online portal to link Ireland and the diaspora and said this and other suggestions, such as the promotion of diaspora-related tourism, would feed into this year’s Budget process.

Speaking at the end of the forum, which brought together leading Irish business and cultural figures from around the world, the Minister said the event would became a “permanent fixture” to be repeated at regular intervals in the future.

“I believe that we have achieved what we set out to do: identifying a range of ideas to help address the economic challenge that confronts us; and taking an important step towards establishing a new, more dynamic relationship between Ireland and its diaspora.”

Leading businessman Denis O’Brien said Ireland needed a long-term plan to connect with its 70 million-strong diaspora, using culture as the main conduit.

He also called for greater links with the 800,000 Irish people living abroad as well as “new-style” embassies throughout the world to promote Irish interests.

Mr Martin also said that criticism expressed at the conference by a former chief executive of Intel should not be taken to relate to any plans the company has for its massive operations here.

Former Intel boss Craig Barrett had some harsh words for Ireland’s record in research and development when he addressed the forum in a closed session on Friday, according to those present. Dr Barrett is reported to have told the conference that many of the reasons why Intel came to Ireland in the first place no longer applied, and that spending on RD was only half the level it should be.

Some participants interpreted his remarks as an indication that Intel’s long-term future in Ireland was not guaranteed, but Mr Martin said it would be “very wrong” to think this.

Mr Martin said Dr Barrett had for many years been raising his concerns about the profile of science and maths generally and it was a “gross distortion” to relate his comments to any plans the company might have in Ireland.

A number of speakers stressed the importance of a Yes vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum. Mr O’Brien described the referendum as an “elephant” for Ireland, which had to get it “over the line”.

Riverdance creator John McColgan made the proposal for a “technically sophisticated, stylish, interactive, cutting-edge” online portal to join up all things Irish on the internet.

Loretta Brennan Glucksman, chairwoman of the American-Irish Fund, said such a website needed a strong “corporate” component so culture was not isolated from the “real work” of getting business into a good position.

Author and journalist David McWilliams, who first proposed the forum, suggested the Government should issue a financial bond for the diaspora, the income from which would be used to support Irish enterprise.

Mr McWilliams said the forum, most of which took place in private, had seen plenty of straight tough talk and a number of “sacred cows” had been slain.