Over the past several years, from the highest reaches of the Irish government right through to those that we might refer to as the ‘rank and file’ of the Diaspora, great effort has been placed on finding bright spots in an otherwise gloomy view of Ireland’s economic standing and future growth potential.
Many of us know the stats and the one-liners, and recite them as comfortably as we do the ABCs. Ireland ‘punches above its weight’ and ‘Ireland is open for business’ are now common phrases. What PowerPoint presentation is complete without reminding us that Ireland is home to nine of the world’s top ten medical technology companies, ten top ‘born on the internet’ companies, and so forth and so on?
One thing we know for sure is that Ireland continues on the road to recovery. A strategic combination of economic belt tightening, successful messaging, and good old fashioned ‘can do’ seems to have pushed Ireland well ahead of other nations that stood shoulder to shoulder at the precipice of economic disaster. Huge credit for this turnaround also belongs to the IDA and Enterprise Ireland, whose teams continued to do more with less, never lost sight of their objectives and never missed a day of giving 110% towards attracting record levels of inward investment and opening up new markets for indigenous Irish companies.
Perhaps most importantly though, this road to recovery has been largely paved by efforts to engage the Diaspora in a more significant way, seeking their input, inviting them to be a part of Ireland’s resurgence, and encouraging them to connect with their ‘home’ in a more meaningful way.
Since being formally established in 2010, Irish Network USA has been proud to be part of these efforts, and has made giving our members an opportunity to exercise their emotional ties to Ireland in a tangible way, a cornerstone of our mission.
By providing a national framework and support, Irish Network USA and its chapters are able to offer high quality networking opportunities for Irish, Irish-Americans and ‘friends’ of Ireland; increase business opportunities and economic development between the United States and Ireland; connect newly arrived Irish immigrants with their communities in member cities and states, promote Irish Arts and Culture through film, literature, theatre, dance and language, support the promotion of Irish sports such as hurling and Gaelic Football, and complement the efforts of pre-existing Irish organizations and associations in INUSA Member cities.
Prior to the launch of Irish Network USA, these efforts existed within individual ‘IN’ chapters, but now flourish at a national level, with chapters learning and building from each other’s success.
Irish Network USA, through our chapters, has been proud to offer a platform to reach the Diaspora in efforts to continue to strengthen business and cultural links between the United States and the entire island of Ireland. Our efforts to connect our members to Ireland as a whole are most evident in recent partnerships we have developed with government entities such as the Northern Ireland Bureau and Tourism Ireland.
In the years since our formal launch countless artists, companies, academic institutions, non profits and others have worked through the Network’s 19 chapters to develop strong bases of support here in the US.
New York City raised, but very much trained in her art through summers at her Grandmother’s side in Donegal, Tara O’Grady, a singer whose unique sound and stage mastery inspired an impromptu duet with none other than A-list actor Bruce Willis; Dublin filmaker Alex Fegan, Director of “Irish Pub”; Antrim based Randox, a global leader in healthcare diagnostics; and Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey, produced at the oldest licensed distillery in Ireland are just a few examples of those that have successfully utilized the Irish Network to further their ambitions while helping tie chapters and members back to Ireland in an intimate way.
And once again in 2014, Irish Network USA, through our chapters in New York City and New Jersey, are proud to be partners in the New York-New Belfast Conference. One of the premier events on the Irish American calendar this conference provides participants from both sides of the Atlantic with unique opportunities to rub shoulders with acclaimed artists, key policymakers, and corporate leaders whose efforts to build bridges between New York and Belfast have paid great dividends in continuing to build unbreakable bonds between two world class cities.
In short, all of these efforts described above, relate to an uptick in efforts among the Irish to use effective networking as a means to build meaningful relationships that lead to increased business opportunities and a greater understanding of how we can all work together to help each other advance our interests. Whether we choose to subscribe to ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’, ‘in unity there is strength’ or any other philosophy, it seems clear that out of this economic downturn the Irish have learned, perhaps more than anything else, that our successes and failures are intrinsically tied together, and that by harnessing the strength of our individual networks for a greater cause much can be achieved.
Our good friend Mairtin O’Muilleoir is perhaps the best example of how the art of networking can be used to tear down walls that have kept us from reaching the heights we aspire to, and even with a year of wearing the prestigious Mayoral Chain for the City of Belfast, has shown us how working together, for each other, can make the difference between simply moving ahead and rocketing to levels previously thought unattainable.
For Irish Network USA this networking happens in a variety of forums- film screenings, happy hours, fundraising galas, etc. The common thread though, and the real key to networking success, is our commitment to making sure our members are meeting face to face. Emails, tweets, and the occasional phone call are all modern conveniences that keep us connected when the miles separate us, and we of course take advantage of our robust social media and web presence to keep members connected, but it is evident that there is no substitute for making direct connections.
As the gavel comes down to open the third annual New York-New Belfast Conference we once again are proud to welcome our friends from near and far, and recommit ourselves to not only using this time to build our own set of contacts and advance our interests, but also to help those that sit on our right and our left during the proceedings build theirs, with the knowledge that together we can achieve anything.
By Steve Lenox • Co-President • Irish Network USA • May 2014
This piece also appeared in the New York-New Belfast Supplement of the Irish Echo.