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Irish presidency offers realism, optimism

POSTED ON January 11th  - POSTED IN Business

By Paul Ainsworth

IRELAND’S stewardship of the European Union presidency will focus on economic issues, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has stated.

The Republic will take over the rotating EU presidency this week for six months and it is hoped that during that period a deal can also be struck on the

sensitive issue of bank debt for the whole eurozone.

Mr. Gilmore spoke of the job facing the country in 2013 at a recent press conference in Brussels where he was joined by representatives from Cyprus, whose presidency ended on December 31.

Mr. Gilmore told reporters from across the continent: “I would start by saying that the Irish presidency will be one of realism but also of optimism. For us the glass is half-full and not half-empty. Responding effectively to the financial and economic crisis remains a central concern for the European Union.

“The attention must now focus on the challenge of getting the European economy back on track by improving the EU’s global competitiveness, promoting economic growth and creating jobs.”

More than 180 EU meetings will take place in Ireland during Dublin’s six month presidency, costing an estimated €60 million. This is a significant reduction in costs since Ireland last held the presidency position in 2004, when the country’s economy was in rude health compared to Ireland post-2008.

Costs have been reduced by using state-owned venues rather than private ones for meetings, while EU dignitaries arriving in Ireland for meetings will find no limousines or private helicopters to ferry them to and from venues. most will be advised to take the bus, while private cars will be reserved for only the most high-level EU representatives.

More information on Ireland’s EU presidency can be found on a new Irish government website, www.eu2013.ie.

LUAS to be extended, integrated

POSTED ON December 12th  - POSTED IN Business

Work on constructing an extension to the LUAS train/tram line in Dublin is to begin next May. The Irish government has approved the updated business plan for the €370 million project The BXD line will run from the city center to the Irish Rail stop at Broombridge on Dublin’s northside and will also link the existing Red and Green lines. Up to 800 jobs are expected to be created during the building phase, with a further 60 permanent jobs when the project is completed in late 2017, the Irish Independent reported.

“This is an important step for the Luas BXD project, which will link up the existing Luas lines and give Dublin an integrated commuter rail network for the first time,” said Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar.

“The two Luas lines should have been joined up years ago. It’s a privilege for me as minister for transport to be able to finish the job,” Mr. Varadkar said.

Rudy rules for Dublin?

POSTED ON December 12th  - POSTED IN Business

By Paul Ainsworth

AN up market area of Dublin is seeking to phase out “undesirable” businesses, including sex shops, lap-dancing clubs and fast food takeaways.

The swanky South William Street area of the city should be cleared of such businesses, according to a report by Dublin City Business Association, which also wants to see fewer bookmakers, tattoo parlors and tanning salons, this in a bid to maintain the area’s “high-end” reputation.

In an effort keep the area afloat during tough economic times, the association is keen to clear it of all on-street parking, to make it appealing to wealthy tourists and shoppers, and to distinguish it from the city’s more run-down areas.

On the issue of sex shops, the report cites a similar scheme introduced by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, in which stores selling adult entertainment were banned from operating within a certain distance from a school or “place of worship.”

Worried association members are also keen to prevent the area, which is full of café’s and boutiques, from becoming another Temple Bar area, packed full of pubs and late night revelers.

They envisage the area’s future as similar to London’s posh Covent Garden area, with more “specialist” retailers, and space for public art and street entertainers, while cyclists would also be given precedent over motorists.

Chief Executive of the Dublin City Business Association, Tom Coffey said: “We want this area to specialize for the top end of the market.

“We don’t want a mass-market area. We also want to see less take-away fast food. There will always be a place for fast food, but it should not be dominant, or allowed to take over.”

Before Gathering, a pause

POSTED ON December 12th  - POSTED IN Business

While hopes are high that “The Gathering 2013″ will provide a significant boost to the number of people visiting Ireland, the year to date has been showing a small drop in visitor numbers compared to the same period in 2011.

New figures from the Irish government’s Central Statistics Office show about 5,631,300 trips were made to Ireland thus far this year.

Last year, for the same period, 5,652,500 such trips were made by visitors.

Despite this, the Irish Times reported, there has been a small increase in travel to Ireland in the most recent months.

From August to October 2011, approximately 1,919,800 trips were made. This figure amounts to an increase of 29,800 trips over the same three months in 2012.

Meanwhile, more than 116,000 more trips abroad have been undertaken by Irish people so far this year than were made by visitors to the country, the report added.

The most frequent visitors to Ireland this year have been from Great Britain, the Benelux countries (Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg), France, Germany and Italy.

Visitor figures for complete years are as follows: 2011 6.51 million; 2010 6.04 million;

2009 6.93 million; 2008 7.84 million; 2007 8.01 million; 2006 7.71 million; 2005 6.97 million and 2004 6.57 million.

James Whelton is wiring up the world

POSTED ON November 21st  - POSTED IN Business

 

 

On his electronic business card, James Whelton described himself as “CoderDojo Co-Founder, Hacker & Social Media Connoisseur.”

The tag line “Not another victim of conformity” comes next.

After spending time with him at a recent Irish International Business Network event in New York, I can easily see this is an understatement.

Forging his own path since he was a 13-year-old geek, today the 20-year-old from Cork is building a global education movement, one club at a time.

The movement is called Coder Dojo. The non-profit organization centers around a series of free computer programming classes for children aged 7 to 17. The kids are taught how write code in several languages by volunteers (dojos) who range from the CEOs of successful tech companies to university students.

In an informal learning environment, kids learn how to write web scripts, create mobile apps, even video games in JavaScript, PHP or HTML. Some DoJo’s organize tours of technology companies for the kids, and bring in guest speakers to talk about careers. Besides learning how to collaborate and write code, James knows the kids are learning much needed math skills as well.

Whelton started the prototype for Coder DoJo when he was in sixth grade and taught himself how to program. Frustrated by the lack of entry level IT classes, he later setup a computer club in his school (PBC Cork) and started teaching his friends basic HTML and CSS. Things escalated when he met Bill Liao, an entrepreneur and philanthropist who was interested in addressing the need for computer technology education in Ireland. Bill saw the potential and wanted to grow the project into something bigger. In June 2011, the first CoderDojo was launched and today there are over 100 clubs spread across Italy, Sweden, South Africa, Japan and many other countries.

In the U.S. alone, there are more than 25 local CoderDojos, with the most recent one set up in Silicon Valley, California.

CoderDojo has developed its own company motto to describe its mission and culture – “Above All: Be Cool.” Kids even wear this motto on tee-shirts. Putting “Be Cool” in the vernacular emphasizes that bullying, lying, wasting people’s time is uncool. You need to “be cool” and apply yourself in a nice way to fit in here.

Coder Dojo is already having an impact on children’s lives. One in particular is 13-year-old Harry Moran, whose Pizzabot game topped the Apple download charts when it first launched, beating gaming phenomenon Angry Birds. Harry learned how to write code at CoderDoJo computer club at the Glasheen Primary School in Cork.

Adults are also benefiting from the initiative. CoderDojo offers a way for experienced developers to “give back” to the community and share expertise. Rebecca Garcia, a co-founder of CoderDoJoNYC echoes this sentiment.

“I don’t teach kids for the money, I teach them for the chance to ignite that spark. To show them that you can build whatever you set your heart to.”

Recently, James became the youngest-ever recipient of the prestigious Ashoka Fellowship, joining social entrepreneurs that include Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia and Nobel Prize-winner Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank.

With the recognition comes a cash prize of $100,000 that, according to James, will be put towards building infrastructure.

“Now that we are launching all over the world, we need to have the right legal and organizational structure in place. We need to protect and expand our model and protect the children. This all comes with scaling an idea into a global entity,” he explained at an Irish Consulate of New York hosted event.

Co-founder, Bill Liao, at the recent Dublin Web Submit ,summarized it nicely, “Ireland is a nation of storytellers and poets and code is another language for self-expression.

While it could be the initiative that produces the next generation of software developers, the CoderDojo kids are clearly turning this coding revolution born in Ireland into an international phenomenon.

For the latest news on CoderDoJo go to www.coderdojo.com and for more information on the Irish International Business Network, go to www.IIBN.com. You can follow me on Twitter @MauraKellyMedia.

Big game boosts figures

POSTED ON November 7th  - POSTED IN Business

The number of British visitors to Ireland fell sharply over the summer, according to the latest figures from the Irish government’s Central Statistics Office.

But September was a brighter spot as a result of visitors from North America, most especially those who attended the Emerald Classic football game between Notre Dame and Navy.

There were more than 80,000 fewer trips by residents of Great Britain to Ireland, a decrease of almost nine per cent for the July to September period compared with the previous year, the CSO numbers show.

But there was an increase over 2011 in visitors from other European countries of 2.6 percent, and from North America – up by 3.6 percent – in the July to September period.

Visitors from North America were up by a fifth for the month of September.

“We welcomed 36,000 American football fans for the Notre Dame v Navy game, reflecting the importance of large-scale sporting events for our tourism industry,” said Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland.

American to Dublin from JFK

POSTED ON November 7th  - POSTED IN Business

American Airlines has announced plans to begin a new route between JFK and Dublin from next summer.

Beginning June 12, 2013, American Airlines will add service between New York JFK and Dublin, the carrier said in a release from its headquarters in Dallas/Fort Worth.

American will operate this route in conjunction with American’s Atlantic joint business partners, British Airways and Iberia. Customers can begin booking travel for this route beginning Nov. 4, the company aid in the statement.

“American Airlines and the Port Authority have been great business partners over the decades, having jointly served tens of millions of our region’s air passengers,” said Pat Foye, Executive Director of the Port Authority of NY & NJ.

“Their plans to provide new international service from JFK International Airport to Dublin, Ireland is encouraging news as they restructure. We’ll continue to support their efforts to remain a strong employer in the New York and New Jersey region,” he said.

The news, not surprisingly, was warmly welcomed in Ireland where tourism leaders are making final preparations for “The Gathering 2013.”

during his recent visit to the U.S., Irish tourism minister, Leo Varadkar, expressed hope that airline seating capacity over the Atlantic would rise next year while prices go down.

“Tourism from the United States to Ireland has performed very well in recent years, and the new American Airlines service means that next year will be even better,” said Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland, by way of reaction to the announcement by American.

“We have been proud to partner with American for many years, and we look forward to working closely with them to ensure the success of this very welcome new service,” he said.

According to American, the New York JFK to Dublin flight will by covered by Boeing 757-200 aircraft with 22 first class seats and 166 main cabin seats.

What’s in a domain name?

POSTED ON October 24th  - POSTED IN Business

A few bucks it would seem.

Tourism Ireland has acquired the domain name ireland.com from The Irish Times as part of plans to unveil a new website for the Irish tourism industry, the Irish Times has reported.

Tourism Ireland chief executive, Niall Gibbons, said the domain name was “a natural fit” for the work the all-island state body does to promote Ireland overseas.

The ease of recognition for the domain name will make the site stand out as a destination for potential visitors when they perform online searches relating to Ireland, Gibbons added.

Tourism Ireland forked over a €495,000 fee to The Irish Times under what is termed “a digital co-operation agreement.”

“We are very pleased that the organization responsible for promoting the island of Ireland overseas will have the opportunity to leverage the brand and URL that is ireland.com,” said Irish Times managing director, Liam Kavanagh.

“From an Irish Times perspective, we will now focus on the continued development of irishtimes.com and to position it at home, and internationally, as Ireland’s leading quality news and information website,” Kavanagh said.

The Times, according to the report, acquired the ireland.com domain name in 1997 and for a decade the URL hosted content from the newspaper as well as a breaking news service. In 2008, irishtimes.com became the URL for all the company’s editorial content.

Tourism Ireland’s new website, meanwhile, will support 11 different languages and over 30 individual markets.

“Our new site and new URL will help us to harness more effectively the phenomenal growth in social media and to project an even stronger online presence to attract more visitors here,” said Niall Gibbons.

Monopoly takes a ‘chance’ on Cork

POSTED ON October 24th  - POSTED IN Business

Cork isn’t being snubbed this week. Quite the contrary. The city and the county have joined a global elite with their very own version of the game board Monopoly.

And the two most expensive landing spots on the Cork board are Shandon or North Cathedral, famous for its bells, and Blarney Castle, famous for bestowing the gift of the gab.

The self-declared People’s Republic of Cork has joined an exclusive club of regions around the world to get their own version of the world-famous board game,” reported the Irish Examiner newspaper which missed the boat in a sense given that it was formerly the Cork Examiner.

De paper” reported that a large consignment of games had arrived on an Aer Lingus flight from Britain and had been kept under lock and key prior to the launch, which took place on Friday last.

Fota House Arboretum and Gardens, is also well up the price scale.  Among the other Leeside landmarks in the game are Cork Opera House, the City Gaol, Blackrock Castle, the English Market, St. Patrick’s Street, Opera Lane, Merchant’s Quay, City Hall, and UCC. The Irish Examiner, which was founded in Cork in 1841, has also secured its own square on the board, the report stated.

“However, while Munster rugby, synonymous with Limerick, has landed its own square alongside Cork Racecourse and Kinsale golf club, there is no reference to the county’s proud GAA heritage,” it added.

Perhaps this is due to the fact that Monopoly is, in its origins, a “foreign game” and GAA fans held their fire. People were asked by the makers to choose their Cork landmarks for the game in an online poll earlier this year.

Dan Taylor, Monopoly manager at London-based Winning Moves UK, makers of the board game under license from Hasbro, said, nevertheless, that he felt the new board captured the spirit of Cork.

“The game is a wonderful celebration of Cork’s crown jewels. It’s been a wonderful five months consulting with the public. They got really involved and sent in thousands of votes. We would like to formally thank people for their input. Without it, this board could not have been produced,” he said.

The Examiner reported that the playing pieces and rules for the Cork version will stay the same as other Monopoly versions as will the four corner squares – Go, Jail, Free Parking, and Go To Jail.

“There will be lots of customized twists including Community Chest and Chance cards with a decidedly Cork flavor and feel.”

Mr. Taylor, meanwhile, said the makers had been inundated with orders from Corkonians living all over the world while Cork Airport director, Niall MacCarthy, said he was delighted to see the airport on the board: “The Cork public take great pride in where they come from. I am sure we will be flying a number of the new Monopoly sets out to Irish living abroad to go under their Christmas trees this year,” the told the Examiner.

The report noted that Monopoly was born in the U.S. in 1935 and is today available in 111 countries and in 43 languages. An generally recognized forerunner of the game did, however, come into existence in the early years of the 20th century and became known as “The Landlord’d Game.

Daragh Muldowney’s entrepreneurial art

POSTED ON October 24th  - POSTED IN Business

You might expect Ireland’s economic troubles to have hit artists more than other communities since their incomes are typically more tenuous.

That may be the case, but some, like Daragh Muldowney, have found impressive ways to thrive in the new economic climate. Muldowney is a photographer from Dublin whose exhibition “Jewellery Box” is currently showing at the Irish Consulate office in New York. The photographs are close-up images of the sea life around Ireland’s long and indented coast, and the project was financed by a crowdsourcing website called Fundit.ie.

Muldowney’s images bestow an identity on the unfamiliar creatures that live underwater – anemones, limpets, seaweed and other small creatures and plants, which, in close-up detail, have definite, and sometimes cantankerous, personalities.

One photo, entitled “Pals?,” shows two beadlet anemones, one orange, the other a faded brown, sitting close beside one another.

“I thought they were the best of friends,” Muldowney writes in the book of exhibition photos.

“I have since learnt that they were probably in the middle of a slow motion fight.”

A speckled grey shell lies on a sandy seabed, displaying a serrated pink opening that looks like a mouth. It’s a dog whelk, Muldowney explains – “the predator of the rock pools.”

Eighteen Irish counties border the sea and ocean and over a period of 63 days Muldowney visited almost all of them.

He apologizes to Limerick folk for not including their county as it’s coastline was muddy and not so good for photos.

The images from the other seventeen give viewers a chance to appreciate nature and take a step back from their daily lives.

“I hope people will get a sense of awe and surprise that so much beauty surrounds the coast of Ireland,” Muldowney explained.

“I hope people will stop and look a little bit more – not just with pools but with life in general, just see what’s under their noses rather than what’s further away all the time.”

Muldowney was 21 when he first became interested in photography. He went scuba diving in Florida and was astonished by the underwater world that he discovered.

Later on, at a seized-property auction in Maryland, he bought a second hand Canon camera, and taught himself how to use it. As he made mistakes and learned what worked, he realized that the pictures he took of nature were his best.

“I went after nature specifically in an abstract way from that point,” he said.

He first brought his photographs to the public at the People’s Photography Exhibition around the railings of St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin. When 16 of them sold over two days, he decided to go full-time.

He quit his job selling sports equipment and instead spent his time snapping Iceland’s glaciers and the Sahara Desert in Morocco. It was the middle of the Celtic Tiger boom, and Muldowney was commissioned to fit out plenty of corporate offices, as well as Dundrum Town Center on the south side of the city.

“I don’t get any of those corporate gigs these days,” he observed.

But Muldowney has found a different way to finance his art. Fundit provides money for creative projects based on a crowdsourcing model in which members of the public lend their support.

Like the U.S. platform, Kickstarter, it caters to individuals across many fields – fashion, TV, the arts, media, publishing and science. Participants post up information about their project and set a target sum. Muldowney’s was €10,200 or $13,310.

They also advertise the rewards and benefits that contributors receive in return for payments. For instance, when people donated €10 ($13) to Muldowney’s project, he would send them a personal card and thank them publicly on his website. Those who contributed €80 ($104) would get three signed copies of his Jewellery Box book sent to an address of their choice.             The possibilities extended to a €2,000 ($2,609) donation. For that, you could expect a weekend photography workshop for four in a location of your choice, and – a nice touch – Muldowney would provide wholesome cooking for the duration of the trip.

Fund it takes a small percentage of the proceeds, and if a project does not reach its target by a certain date, then all the funding is cancelled.

“Jewellery Box” exceeded its target by more than €2,000 and Muldowney was full of praise

for this financing model.

“Not only does it generate the funding, but it creates awareness about the project,” he noted. “And there’s a community sense built around it – people feel involved.”

“Jewellery Box” can be seen at the Consulate General office in Manhattan until October 31. Muldowney plans to rent a van and transport it to Atlanta on November 2, where its temporary home will be at the exhibition space of a PR company, Fitzgerald & Co.

Looking ahead, it may travel to other parts of the U.S., such as Boston, Chicago and Washington D.C.

Even if those details are not confirmed, Muldowney’s goal for the photographs is clear  and that is to convey the childlike sense of peace and calm that can come from staring for long enough at the extraordinary world within our world that is a tidal rock pool.

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