Last Saturday, the green bunting was up and the giant leprechauns were adorning the souvenir shops on Lexington Avenue. On Third Avenue dozens of Irish pubs had flags flying in expectation of the Big Day. New York was preparing for St Patrick’s Day, when thousands will descend on Fifth Avenue for the parade.
Far from the epicentre, there will be thousands of smaller parades and parties as the particular “Irishness” of much of Irish America is on display. These are our people and for them, Ireland is not just a small country in the Atlantic experiencing some financial difficulties. Ireland for them is something much bigger. It is the mothership of a global tribe of which the Irish Americans are the main clan.
The vast majority of Irish Americans have never set foot in Ireland but they want to be connected with the place. And that is the opportunity.
Last Saturday, heading for JFK, it was clear that the majority of the traffic was going the other way. The foyer of Fitzpatrick’s Hotel in Manhattan was filling up with businessmen and politicians as I checked out. The great and good were coming to New York to attend the various functions that mark St Patrick’s Day in the Big Apple. Business lunches and breakfasts, flashy get-togethers, speeches and glad handling will be the order of the week.
These meetings are essential and are all part of greasing the wheels of the commercial relationship between the two states and the big businesses. These financial ties are deep and significant. After all, corporate America has invested more in Ireland than in China and America combined. Meanwhile, Irish companies actually employ more people in America than American companies employ in Ireland.
Important as they are, these meetings and this effort to fuse the “Diamante Diaspora” to the mother country could really be described as the top of the pyramid. At the very top of the 40 million-strong Irish American pyramid, you have the politicians and the influential business and media people. These are the focus of much of the razzmatazz, but what about the people at the bottom of the pyramid? What about the other diaspora a few rungs down from the “Diamante Diaspora?”
What about the millions of others who know they are Irish Americans, would like to visit Ireland but have no easy way of getting to know where they are from or who their people are? Imagine one of these people got an email, not just from the Ireland their great-grandfather was from, not from the county their people came from, not even from the town but from the actual parish their forefathers were from? Imagine how that would make them feel.
And what if that email invited them home for a “week of welcomes” in their home parish with all sorts of local activities laid on?
Imagine for a moment in a world of people trying to find their ancestors, that instead of them finding their ancestors, their ancestors found them?
Well, this is exactly what is going on due to a brilliant initiative which is up and running in the parishes of east Galway and could be replicated all over the country. For me, Ireland Reaching Out is the most interesting of the many diaspora- related projects that emerged from the Farmleigh conference two years back.
What makes it so exciting is that it is a grassroots project, coming up from the parishes, rather than a top-down initiative. It is the brainchild of a Loughrea-based entrepreneur Mike Feerick and a few weeks ago when I stood up to speak at the Lady Gregory Hotel in Gort and looked out at the audience of local volunteers, I realised his dream was on the way to becoming a reality.
Last year after Farmleigh, Feerick came to me and suggested we organise and enable local Irish communities at a townland, village and parish level to find out who was born in their area, where they went, and trace them and their descendants worldwide?
That way, he suggested, we could systematically reunify our entire diaspora, creating “virtual communities”, expanding each local parish beyond its own physical boundaries and allowing people to reach out across the world.
It isn’t hard to see the common sense and power of deploying local, rather than national, resources to galvanise the global Irish tribe.
So began the development of a simple idea — something we could call ‘micro-diaspora’. The idea we had was rather than build a top-down structure with experts, we should provide the platform for ordinary people to do it for themselves.
In a sense we are inverting the pyramid. Rather than working from the apex, for example networking the top 500 more important Irish Americans, we are doing the opposite — operating around the base of the diaspora pyramid.
When you think about it, the Irish diaspora may be 60 to 70 million worldwide but it can be broken down to perhaps no more than 3,000 Irish parishes north and south.
What if each village in Ireland could harness the economic power of its diaspora? What if, as a nation, we mobilised each parish in Ireland to actively research its genealogical past and identify those people who are of its own flesh and blood and reach out and engage their interest? This local-based approach is what, in another context, made the GAA one of the strongest organisations in the country. It is local pride that motivates people to work together in national competitions like the Tidy Towns.
Once the people are contacted they are invited back to their home parish for a week of welcomes. The Loughrea initiative is up and running and already the first Irish Americans have been contacted out of the blue and they have signed up to come “home” for this year’s first week of welcomes (http://bit.ly/gA6Ght).
Far from the glitz of midtown Manhattan, on a freezing cold January night in Gort, the people who will make this happen in east Galway met up. On the stage a formidable nun — Sister de Lourdes — spoke passionately about all those who had left the area. She was a mine of information. She literally knew everything about everyone, where they went, what town-land they left from and where they might be now.
In the parlance of modern business Sister de Lourdes is the “killer app” — the special, unique feature that will make this project work over and above others.
But think how many Sister de Lourdes might be out there? The country is full of people with an encyclopedic knowledge of their own parish. If their knowledge is harnessed and combined with modern technology the combination will be unstoppable.
This recovery will not come from outside. It will come locally and it will come from us. Ireland Reaching Out is part of that process.
Act locally think globally?
Wish you well with the endeavour, things have to be tried.
David, I agree 100% that the Ireland Reaching Out initiative needs to be supported and developed. It would be great, if this time next year, when the Taoiseach visits the White House for St. Patrick’s Day, that such an opportunity could be used to promote Ireland Reaching Out to Irish-American diaspora. Maybe even get Moneygall in Offaly involved and do a showcase on President’s Obama’s Irish roots, or do something similar with Joe Biden. BTW if anyone is interested the Ireland Raching Out link on Facebook is as follows: facebook.com/irelandxo I think it is an idea worth supporting. All the… Read more »
This is a brilliant idea, need to get more publicity and show people how to do it, how to make the connections, etc etc
[…] David McWilliams – The invite that we should all be clamouring to send: Last year after Farmleigh, Feerick came to me and suggested we organise and enable local Irish […]
The main reason for this initiative is purely down to commerce.
Now, when the connections are made and the americans make a trip to revisit their roots what next then.
Will the local communities reduce the rip off B n B prices. Reduce the rip off restaurant and hotel prices and will the quality of service and bang for your buck be there for the homecoming.
And the answer is ………………………
There is a lot of goodwill in other countries towards Ireland, from people of Irish descent. However, I think that there are also points to remember. Irish Americans have urgent issues in the US to resolve, like jobs for their kids, the value of their savings, the community spirit etc. And secondly, we must get rid of the tendency towards arrogance that has developed since the mid-1980s. We are very good at turning other people away with our arrogance, and yearning for “know-it-all” superiority. A large amount of humility, and self-respect would be called for. In other words, if we… Read more »
Just a quick entry.
Last Night there was a claim on Euronews that could mean that the chief proponent of “Marxist intervention for multimillionaires” might be in serious political trouble.
More stuff you won’t see on RTE or in the Irish Times – until after it goes viral on the internet.
Google “Anglo bondholders revealed”.
Post 1960, economic policy has centred around integrating Ireland into the global economy, via luring multinationals to locate here and developing tourism.Net result is bankruptcy , record no of people out of work and emigrating.More of the same policies ?
Begorrah, bejaney, be the hokey. Top o’ de pops to yee all! Whatever happenned to the Green parties we use’ta have? Sure isn’t it grand to be at the bottom of the barrel and not just scraping but diggin with gusto with mighty belts of the oul shovel! Sure if we keep diggin’ loike this the oul’ creditors will never again find us. We’ll be loike the ould spuds in before Paddy’s day and not out again til God knows when! Sure God bless us and you too! And sure couldn’t we sell it all and in the future say… Read more »
For decades the Sisters were not too keen on giving out information on the children they sent to the four corners under different names. Now they are all sweetness and light and want us all to be one big happy clan again. There is something shallow in all of this David At the moment there is group of businessmen set to lobby for draconian measures which will hit the low paid and their families in Ireland. Our communities are dying and on the west coast there are villages that are now silent but where not long ago the air rang… Read more »
St Patrick the Corporate Protector
Obama has decided to assist the Irish keep their corporate fiscal benefits in the EU by his forthcoming visit to Ireland as a show of strength against the IMF & ECB.
I don’t know what the motivation is behind this local project but I don’t share David’s faith in the economic power of the diaspora playing a part in Ireland’s recovery. Ireland needs to sort out its problems itself, instead of relying on either Americans or Europeans to do it for them. Expecting outside help only distracts the Irish from dealing with their situation. It seems a bit odd that a country should try to attract people whose families have not lived there for generations when every week it is exporting a thousand people who have lived there all their lives.… Read more »
I had decided not to reveal this earlier so you can see yourselves the events without rhyme or reason. The actual Moon Wobble commenced on 12 March and it peaks on Saturday 19th March – to 23rd March before it begins to remove itself once more.
Now we are living in very dangerous moments as the 19th is also the Full Moon.
ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN NOW .
UN vote in: 10 votes in favour, 5 abstentions, 0 against, Western military action against Libya is certain to begin within hours.
Just be aware that many Irish-Americans have come to favor the absolute sovereignty of property over people that characterized the landlord class in Ireland, botched any good response to the famine, and sent many poor souls to the vicious prison gulags of Australia. The only issues they care about are lower taxes, attack our enemies abroad preemptively, and assert the superiority of their race and American whites over all others. They will expect Ireland to have a puppet government grateful and submissive to the USA.
Age of Aquarius In Davids article he is advocating the ‘age of aquarius’ by default ( no pun intended ).This age is already upon us and its central gravity is ‘communications and languages’. This is the way forward and the beginning is no where else. We all have various experiences with our Gaelic tongue both good and bad but what is completely missing from the purpose of that language is the thought medium through which it originally was spoken.By this I mean what did this language have as ‘authority’ originally to make it spoken widespread along the Atlantic seabord.A language… Read more »
A bit if good news this morning.
The Hays recruitment agency are saying that private sector recruitment is picking up substantially.
However, the positions are in the high skilled areas of the economy. Therefore a lot of people who have no training, no third level education or no experience are going to have to do some adjusting to take part.
But the key element of this is that the opportunities are emerging for people.
Somebody once said on this web site that the island of Ireland is shaped like a baby reaching out to America. It desperately needs to be loved so that it won’t be abandoned by its carer. Enda Kenny was a bit like that on his St Patricks Day trip to the USA when he said that Ireland is America’s gateway to Europe. At least that dispels any illusion that Ireland is an independent sovereign nation. On this side of the Atlantic Enda’s been playing up his close relationship with Angela Merkel, as if his Irish charm will bring about generous… Read more »
Could we set up a separate post for the contributors who seem to do nothing other than moan about what an absolutely appalling people we are? Every country has its gobshites, rip-off merchants and idiots but only we seem to take pleasure in pointing it out to anyone who’ll listen. Most people I know in business and otherwise in Ireland are intelligent, open and generous, and if the rest of the world saw us as some of the above posts portray us we’d have closed our airports’ arrivals halls years ago… Most of us don’t deserve to be described this… Read more »
An-smaoineamh a DhaithÃ agus nÃ¡r lagaÃ Dia bhur lÃ¡imh. I gceann leathchÃ©ad bliain eile beidh an fear cÃ³ir is chuile dhiabhal bocht eile sÃ© troigh faoin bhfÃ³d nÃ³ ar an mbÃ¡d bÃ¡n ach is iad na cnÃ¡imhseÃ¡ilithe agus an lucht gearÃ¡in a bheas ann i gcÃ³naÃ, ag caitheadh clocha leo is ag magadh. Sea, beidh siad ann go deo, le saol na saol, amen.
“I gcead do chÃ³ta is d’onÃ³ir, a athair, ach lig dom an chloichÃn bheag seo amhÃ¡in a scaoileadh leo agus a chur i gcrÃch.”
(S. Ã“ Cuaig, Leagan Cainte)
The Sun This morning the Sun is out in her glory and smiling to welcome the new change now upon us .It is acknowledging the experience of the long journy we endured in the last few years and is rewarding us with laurels and feelings of success.As a Nation we have reached a very important point of change and what is happening around us outside our isle gives us the gratitude to feel lucky once more.Today we are smiling more and feeling good and seeking ‘commerce’. Above this magnificant Sun hides away the Full Moon in her Jaguar position bestowing… Read more »
You should follow the “yellow brick road” that leads from Limerick, down to me here among the “poor people of South Kerry” John Allen. Anyway, back to more mundane matters and particularly the renewal of my pub licence. At face value, you might think it would be a “rubber stamping” matter for me to have my licence renewed, i.e. when you think of the tremendous service I have provided as a County Councillor, Publican, Undertaker, Auctioneer, Post Office and Commissioner for the Peace, and that is just drawing from the first paragraph of my CV. The uncertainty so to speak… Read more »
You are always full of spirits well done keep up the rebels of south Kirrie…..poor Daniel O Connell of Caherciveen would bless you.
Thanks as always for all the comments.
I know that sometimes at first take this Diaspora stuff can seem a little intangeable, but in a world where populations are on the move and where they tend to cluster together in host countries, I believe that the entire area of Diaspora economics will become quite important. We in Ireland can take a leaf out of the Israeli model and be leaders in this field.
Such expertise could easily become a service export!!
All the best, David
David, I enjoyed your article, the subject being a perennial favourite of yours, though as usual it didn’t attract much attention here, possibly because those born in Ireland don’t quite appreciate these things in the same way as those on the outside. There is definitely potential in this on-line diaspora idea. Now I think of it I’m in it both ways, being in my own small way a member of the Mottingham (S.E. London) diaspora. A strange thought. The genealogical aspect is the obvious place to start but it has its limitations as, unlike some European countries, the records don’t… Read more »
Conas ata tu, Peadair? your soapiness!
Oh deary me Peadair, G-Sucks up to it’s goolies in doo doo again!
Consistent is certainly the word, Peadair!