Gateway Ireland

2nd of March 2010 by admin

John McColgan of Riverdance fame, came up with Gateway Ireland concept at Global Irish Forum at Farmleigh event, after discussion with business luminaries such as Dermot Desmond, Denis O’Brien and others.

“The vision is for a national online content hub was proposed and this was met with widespread support. This initial proposal has gathered momentum, an Advisory Group was established (it includes Google, RTE and Facebook among others) and a small team has now been put in place to carry out a feasibility study to review all aspects of the project.”

They are currently seeking a web specialist to work with the team as they “prepare a fully-specified feasibility report to be submitted to Government at the end of May.”

You can listen to a recent interview with John on Marian Finucane

The question is will Gateway Ireland be another Mobhaile or something that can both move the needle in terms of Global Irish business as well as helping to stimulate the Irish web startup scene.

I have some suggestions for John and his team, and no doubt the community has loads of ideas. Please leave some comments and I’ll collate.

32 Responses to “Gateway Ireland”

Fergus–thanks for stoking a dialog. Is there a discussion about what the goals of the technology are? Who is a target user? What change in the user will the site effect? In 6 months after launch, by what metric will the project be said to be successful?

I have a bad habit of enjoying some parts of my projects more than other parts. Most of my failures came from overbaking the product development and underbaking the customer devolopment. It sounds like Mobhaile suffered from the same issue. And I am interested to see what the customer goals are for the national online content hub.

What is a “national online content hub”? What’s the purpose, audience and benefits etc.? There isn’t enough information to form an opinion.

Brands alone, isn’t sufficient to represent the Industry’s best interest (in anything) – you need academia, individual experts (whether they work for brands or not), public sector etc.

I don’t even understand what it is… listening to the radio interview now but I still don’t get it yet.

Please check out

Is there any more info online about what ‘Gateway Ireland’ is – I can’t find much? I suppose that’s why the web specialist role is being advertised ! Still, I’d love to see a basic brief on what was proposed at Farmleigh.

As an Internet Infrastructure person, I instantly think about the platform for a Content Hub. Is this similar to the International Content Services Centre in the governments Smart Economy plan? Will Ireland step-up and create a legislative framework around Cloud Computing and Content (in terms of online management) that makes us a real leader in encouraging but managing this space? I think about the entrepreneurial (EI) and FDI (IDA) opportunities we could create if we built a framework around these ‘platforms’.

So personally, I’m with any proposals that start us down this path!

Could be a good idea if its done right and has the right people leading it. Something to showcase the innovation going on in arts/tech etc. without the look of an EI annual report. Would really like to see it come with a fund to invest in projects.

I’ve always been a fan of starting with something small and functional and iterating out from there. Gateway Ireland strikes me as an ideal opportunity to build a core platform that the global Irish community can build on.

Instead of the usual boil-the-ocean approach to projects that take years to roll out and either miss the mark completely or are out-of-date, get Occam’s Razor out and spec a platform.

One thing we have plenty of around the world is Irish software developers. Imagine giving them the APIs, tools and platform to build what their communities needs. So not one community but many overlapping communities ebbing and flowing and interacting.

I’ve written here before (2007, 2009) about the need for and Government 2.0.

The activity in the UK and US should be the inspiration. Just look at what John Handelaar is doing with KildareStreet. He is taking the platform built by TheyWordForYou in the UK and extending it to do far more. This is what you get when you provide open platforms and open data.

If data doesn’t have a privacy requirement then it should be available via API in a structured form to whoever wants to do anything with it by default not by FOI request.

Off the top of my head thinking about the Irish Diaspora, imagine if Gateway Ireland provided the platform for people to build mashups using the following data:

Irish 1911 Census
UK Census
US Census
Ellis Island Records
Irish Ordnance Survey
Geni Genealogy Database
Mormom Databases
Google Maps
Facebook Connect

Don’t try to guess what we need, give people the data and access they need to scratch their itch and then make those apps available to everyone.

Developers and those in the arts, business and public sector could work together to implement ideas quickly. Many will fail but many more will take off beyond anyones wildest hopes.

Gateway Ireland could be the exemplar for how we do things right on the web in Ireland.

Not to be too negative, but this project is already failed;

The question is will Gateway Ireland be another Mobhaile or something that can both move the needle in terms of Global Irish business as well as helping to stimulate the Irish web startup scene.

There is no Idea what the goal is, a sure sign that nothing will get done. The Irish mindset makes for a great start, but absolutely no maintenance (middle) and exactly zero ability to finish a project. The Mobhaile project, great vision, no idea how to keep it up, and only running out of money to finish it.

Define the question, then work on the solution. And this is:

What are you trying to do?

What am I trying to be?

How is the best way to get there?

If you can’t clearly answer these questions, stop, and find questions you can define and answer.

[...] being rude at Gateway Ireland I’m an Ass H__e. But I’m a Ass h__e that gets things done! I have spent my whole life [...]

I have little knowledge on the famous Mobhaile project and the background to this initiative. However I work daily with Irish communities of towns and villages who have great things to offer in a tourism context (authenticity, walks, heritage, traditions). These guys are often off the beaten track with little knowledge on how to communicate online.

Providing them with an easy platform to feed information and updates to a large group of people who claim some sort of attachment to Ireland is a great opportunity.

Many steps needed for this to work, some obvious ones;

* Create a platform that connect people, information and businesses who share an Irish interest

* Gateaway Ireland should have a bottom up approach (i.e. led by start ups and local communities rather than government agencies)

* Funding should be made available to Gateway Ireland to build and grow an OPEN standard platform.

* The fund should provide grants for start ups to build apps and widgets on the platform
* Start ups can build cool apps in their fields to allow communities to connect and share information

There’s lots of gaps but as a concept and from a tourism point view, I see a huge opportunity.

As a member of the Irish community in San Francisco, I would love to see the original footage so I can understand it better, and sure; Platforms rule, assuming of course we build a real Platform (hint, don’t call it a platform until it acts like one).

I skimmed it and saw “content hub”, “advisory group”, “RTE” and “feasibility study”. The technical spec is full of fluff like “[gauge] the usability of emergent and existing technologies in achieving this outcome”.

Whose content? For what audience? Why build a new “content hub” when there’s already a pretty decent one already available (it’s called YouTube)?

I’m have no idea what this has to do with web startups!

Great points, Jan.

I’m sure there are numerous content providers already collecting local, highly relevant content for tourism. There would certainly be an opportunity to aggregate this data/apps/feeds. Instead of the valid maintenance concerns expressed above, content production would be distributed.

It’s relevant to start-ups, because for some projects (like our own), typical funding routes do not always apply.

Every country in the world has a gateway on the Internet and it is by default it’s .com (e.g,, etc), internet users do not have to be trained up to realise this and the site doesnt have to spend massive amounts of money marketing this.

Why are we thinking of building Gateway Ireland, when Ireland already has its own site called

When the best business minds in Ireland got together in Farmleigh did they not realise this, surely if they have a new concept on doing business in Ireland, they should arrange a meet with whoever looks after and the government and organise whatever funding is needed to promote Irish businesses.

However, I am in favour of promoting Ireland, just dont like to see yet another waste of money, I urge John McColgan to spend wisely.


I’m thinking, black and white PC boxes and an empty factory building on the righthand side of the M1 as you head for Dublin airport.

Positive suggestion. Drop the name.

Very pleased to see something like this (almost) off the ground in Ireland.


I am increasingly finding that the collection of Irish internet people (bloggers, twitterers and the like) is a tiny, cut-off community in Ireland. Many of my everyday friends are very computer-literate anyway, but as an online community we’re becoming more and more segregated from the ‘real world’ of small family businesses, credit unions and other community things that the internet ignores. Yesterday I had a Twitter conversation with several prominent Twitter personalities, and I couldn’t tell *anyone* I met because no-one would have a clue who they were.

I think it’s more important to introduce the country *as a whole* to the internet (and maybe open source) than it is to construct a tool which in all likelihood will only improve things for us, the online community. Regrettably this is a tall order, and I’m not pointing fingers at anyone to do it. I am merely saying what is on my mind.

In any case, progress == progress, so congratulations to all involved.

Whomever was advising these people on their web strategy is quite clueless about domain names issues and branding. The domain has been registered and parked since 2005. People don’t think in hyphens and when people hear the term ‘Gateway Ireland’ they will search for the non-hyphenated version and if in Ireland, for the .ie – and that’s not owned by this operation either.

So what about all the existing content sites providing information to the Irish diaspora? Is this just an effort by a bunch of business luminaries to muscle in on a market in the guise of doing something that might have been innovative in 1994?

Every website is in a global marketplace. The fact that the origin might be Irish isn’t really relevant in a global marketplace.

Rather than investing in a misapprehension, I believe that it would be more productive to assist Irish websites in moving from the virtual backstreets in the global marketplace to the main thoroughfares.

How? By auditing their sites and advising them, and helping them, for free to get their information architecture and search performance as good as it can be.

Spend money on an audit board that is staffed with experts who can see the problems with any Irish company’s site in terms of search performance or clarity of message and intent, then advise and enable those companies to improve.

No other country is doing this – there’s no reason why we can’t. One of our consistent benefits in Ireland is that our small size allows us to achieve change across the board without gargantuan effort.

Setting up a ‘portal’ that people will
a. find
b. want to visit
c. have defined calls to action for each and every participant or service or offering …

is a pointless exercise. It is based on a misunderstanding of how the web works. Instead, take the intelligent action of making Irish sites compete better than others in the marketplace and give Irish companies a head start by giving them subsidised or free access to the experts that can make that happen.


Two (shaky) videos I shot today – 1 is Neil Leyden, Project Manager introducing the site –

and John Kelleher, Project Director talking about how it will develop

Better to listen than watch, if you get me.

I was (obviously) at the launch and despite my cynicism, I have to say they impressed me. They have a HUGE job ahead of them – huge huge huge – but if they get the right people and start there, it really shouldn’t fail, should it?

After watching Neil Leyden’s presentation (thanks for the videos @Darragh) it was like being back in 2000/2001 or so watching a presentation on or All that was missing was Gerry McGovern or Barry Flanagan. The web has evolved since then but obviously the thinking behind this project has either never been in direct contact with the web or has been lifted from some pre DotBomb sales brochure. A web directory is so 1994 in thinking. It was done by Yahoo and a bunch of others. had the same concept of uniting the Irish diaspora in 1998 or so. was a site targeted at the diaspora. Looking at the advisory panel brought one simple question to mind: Just exactly what do these people know about running a large scale web directory/aggregator?

I’m personally glad to see lots of people are thinking about a portal for the Irish diaspora, arising out of the Farmleigh stuff and other parallel thoughts. If this is a portal aimed at the Irish abroad, trying to attract people / money / ideas / industry back to Ireland, then great! I was due to attend #gwirl in a dual DERI, NUI Galway / capacity but am out of the country. I am sure that if something like this is set up properly, it is a potential site where the Irish abroad may go to. (Of course, *cough* is also such a place – 1/3 of our visitors come from abroad – but I think the purpose is different.)

When I first heard about this, I was worried that this could become quite messy if many people expect different things out of it, so I hoped that this #gwirl event would allow the main backers (“the money”) to state exactly what they expect. A portal for the Irish disapora could be news, forums, genealogy, product / service recommendation, relocation info, tourism, Industry2Ireland motivations, historical encyclopedia-type info – the scope is massive. It has to be nailed down to a few targets or made simple enough (e.g. Digg, Twitter) for people to benefit from just sharing interesting things related to Ireland, otherwise it could be a nightmare to visualise what it is. The main thing I think this needs to do is be easy to use with a simple input mechanism – so many people want this to be a place that will encompass tourism, research, industry, culture, heritage, etc. etc. that it is in danger of being overspecced I think. Like all these things, with so many people / groups involved, nothing coherent may gel if this isn’t sorted out first. I hope it is (and when I watch the videos later I’ll get a better idea).


@John The mention of Semantic Web stuff in Neil Leyden’s presentation was worrying because it may be expecting too much of the web. It would be great if all websites used proper Semantic Web data but most have problems even with basic meta data such as unique page titles, page descriptions and keywords. They definitely need a clearer set of objectives.

Hi John -

Yeah I guess I’d be more interested in hearing what the purpose of using Semantic Web stuff is – Semantic Web is a means to an end, e.g. bringing together distributed contributions from the Irish diaspora into this portal, or getting the content that’s on there more accessible to search engines or for pumping into Facebook using the Open Graph Protocol.

The purpose of this needs to be thought out – if it’s to get industry to set up here, then maybe the portal isn’t needed – you just need to fly them over here and show them what we’ve got – but if it’s to help Irish people to network and leverage opportunities, maybe there’s something in it.


[...] Discussion about the project at Web2Ireland, with a technologically savvy [...]

I welcome the news of Gateway Ireland and enjoyed watching the videos of the Dublin Castle event. However I have two concerns. These are not specific Gateway Ireland, but it does bring them to mind.

First off, Farmleigh was an invitation only-event and now “son-of-Farmleigh” Gateway Ireland holds its own invitation-only event. Its ironic that economic salvation based on community building and open source technologies are enshrined in initiatives that are being discussed and developed behind closed doors.

Seondly, how was the Gateway Ireland team put together? I’m guessing it was through personal contact and referral. So is really the best core team for the job? Time will tell. As far as I know the project manager Neil Leyden is also managing the International Content Services Centre project and if so is in danger of becoming the Laura Magahy of the 21st Century!

My overall concern is that the 20th century business inscestuousness and masonic practices that got us into the mess we are currently in will continue unbridled into the future. This means that despite the wonderful technologies we have at our disposal, over-engineering, poor execution and sometimes sheer incompetence will continue to prevail.

Sorry to use Gateway Ireland as a sacrificial cow for my comments, I think its objectives are great and I don’t doubt its sincerity. However its list of advisors contains many names which are on similar lists for many other initiatives. Which again sets off alarm bells. The composition of these advisory lists almost seems lazy at this stage. has been doing the Diaspora business for over a year now with major success. It seems common sense that a Diaspora site should be based in that diaspora –it is connected to Irish Voice newspaper and Irish America magazine in New York with 500,000 uniques a month.

Having setup as a hobby (and as a learning exercise – 1st website), one thing i’ve learned is that until Ireland reestablishes an equal two-way relationship with its diaspora that relationship will remain somewhat disjointed.

Gabriel Byrne has his finger on the pulse (, and i think his motivation is genuine, but there are a few questionable indicators from the state.

An example would be the proposal for a diaspora discount card ( The idea itself I think is good (submitted the same myself to yourcountryyourcall in March), but the suggestion that it should be limited to 5 years sends the wrong message.

To make this work better the drive needs to come from all levels of society. Some moves from the government and our national broadcaster reminding us about the history of the diaspora, and what it means to be of Irish descent in another country would be a good place to start. Build from the ground upwards.

We’ll know we’re getting it right when an Irish-American walks down an Irish street and genuinely gets the feel that we’re welcoming him home.

Anyway just the gist of my thoughts, but hopefully striking a cord somewhere.

These diaspora projects usually assume we need to make an effort to catch the eye of our diaspora, that it’s a prodigal son kind of relationship. There also seems to be an assumption that our diaspora is doing so well abroad that the best we can do is to pick their brains occasionally or get a few more Euro off them when they come back on holidays.

My situation is different. I was a member of the Irish diaspora throughout the 90′s, working in emerging technology at a senior level with a high-profile international organisation. I came back to Ireland in 2000 expecting to be able to make a contribution here and assuming I would slot in at a similar level. After all this was Celtic Tiger Ireland but boy was I wrong.

Nobody here showed the slightest interest in the experience I had gained abroad. So I knuckled down and found my own work. For the record, during the last ten years, I have been employed for one year, unemployed for two years and self-employed for seven years.

By comparison, a friend of mine from Finland, who came to Ireland to study and get some work experience was welcomed with open arms when she returned to her home country with an international qualification, immediately getting a job with a state agency and has just returned from the Expo in Shanghai.

I believe this happened because relatively few people leave Finland and the experience of returning immigrants is valued whereas millions have emigrated from Ireland over the years. Perhaps we have become immune to emigration, hence most returning immigrants are feted by nobody other than their families.

So maybe one of our schemes should be to enagage the diaspora by treating their achievements with more respect and placing more value on their experience. Then maybe more of them would return and make a contribution to the economy here. Meanwhile I am trying to make my own contribution, but as far as I am concerned, I am not the prodigal son, Ireland is the prodigal country

Hi Al,

Yep a complex issue. A mixture of social history, culture, and political influence over time that seemed to create a divide (a cutting of the cord) whenever someone emigrated. Probably because Ireland was historically quite inward looking and parochial in its make up.

Two things have happened – globalisation and a recession. The former creates a natural path where Ireland may see a mutual advantage in re-engaging with its diaspora, the latter runs the risk of ensuing actions being perceived as exploititive.

It’s the latter area that concerns me, and hence the view that a change in the relationship needs to stem from the ground up. A shift in the mindset of the ordinary guy in the street.

If this is to be achieved it also needs momentum at state level. A clear purposeful long term strategy that goes beyond sound bites – not one that makes a government look like it’s doing something, but one that IS actually doing something.

The current trend seems to be to take an idea and throw it out to the private sector to see if they’ll run with it. Whilst that does at least create activity I think the Irish and Irish descent abroad would also like to see state driven initiatives.

In essence a message from the country of Ireland that it wants an equal relationship, that it understands the value of heritage for those who live abroad, and that it is prepared to accept ideas and put value on the experiences and skills of those who return or emigrate back.

When you’ve got a government whose back is to the wall there’s a risk of short-sightedness and ill thought out ideas. Or worse, good ideas getting badly implemented.

Gateway-Ireland looks like a positive (privately driven) initiative and should have benefits at a commercial level. Hopefully the words of Gabriel Byrne will also resonate and form part of the character of whatever the end result turns out to be.

I guess what i’m trying to say is that ‘diaspora projects’ should have a meaningful and honest nature and that they need to have substance at a personal / individual level, and once that’s in place economic benefits will follow and evolve quite naturally anyway.

Focus on the relationship first, get it right – ‘build it and they will come’.

The first of Mr. Regan’s two June 13 posts was particularly meaningful to me. I am in complete agreement with his statement that “…what it means to be of Irish descent in another country would be a good place [for Gateway Ireland] to start. Build from the ground upwards.”

My paternal grandfather was an immigrant from Carrigdangan Townland in County Cork who ultimately settled in rural Minnesota. He died when I was very young, and for that reason and various others I was largely oblivious to my Irish heritage until a cousin took me to a now-defunct pub called McCafferty’s in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1982. McCafferty’s was, at that time, one of the few places in Minnesota where one could hear live, traditional Irish music on a regular basis. I was enthralled within seconds of arriving.

Millions of Americans of Irish descent have probably had such “aha” moments — a pivotal experience that kindled or reawakened their interest in Ireland and its culture. For me, it ultimately led to actions of the type that Gateway Ireland presumably wants to encourage, including the co-founding of two local “trad” bands, years of step-dancing lessons for my three children, trips to Ireland, purchases of Irish products, etc.

That interest in “all things Irish” ultimately prompted me and a number of like-minded volunteers to create the non-profit “Minnesota Irish Cultural Center” in 2009. Our goal is to provide services, facilities and a degree of “centralization” for the dozens of Minnesota clubs and organizations that are currently promoting and celebrating Irish music, dance, language, history, sports, genealogy, travel, commerce, etc. In effect, we hope and intend to become the primary “gateway to Ireland” for the 600,000 Minnesotans who claimed Irish ancestry in the 2000 census (and for any other Minnesotans who are interested in Ireland, for that matter).

Gates swing both ways. Organizations (like ours) with an Irish focus are natural portals for Gateway Ireland’s outreach activities. In one of the on-line videos that I’ve seen, Mr. Leyden talks about “identifying the diaspora and connecting with them.” Well, here we are, and we’re ready and willing to make new and mutually beneficial connections of the type envisioned by Gateway Ireland.

Mr. Leyden and others have also discussed the possibility of establishing “electronic embassies” around the globe to help carry out Gateway Ireland’s goals. The Minnesota Irish Cultural Center would be proud to be part of such an endeavor. Anyone who is interested in discussing or exploring that possibility is invited to contact me at Thanks, and good luck to those who are devoting their time and energy to this exciting new initiative!

Kevin Carroll, Executive Director, Minnesota Irish Cultural Center (

It is great to hear the input from everyone on this thread. Gateway Ireland is just looking at resourcing the next phase of development where the emphasis will be on engaging the community (love Kevin Carroll’s post above!!) and getting their input and feedback and helping shape the idea of what Gateway Ireland is and can be. As I said on my own blog post – – the Seminar was just putting across a vision for what it might be. Something to react against or for. The invite only event wasn’t – I don’t think – meant to be an exclusive thing – it was really just an event – and was aimed at stakeholders who mightn’t be as familiar as the online community with the opportunity web technologies now offer (remember not everyone is as “au fait” with the web as people on the web may think!!!!). Putting the videos online has now given everyone the opportunity to “attend” the event, so to speak- isn’t that the wonderfully democratizing joy of the internet?!! So hope no-one feels put out – it wasn’t the attention. My role in the project was advising for the preliminary stage – so I’m not a spokesperson or anything. I got involved because I think it is a really worthwhile endeavour coming from a good place and is a real opportunity of the moment. So I hope that Gateway will be in the position shortly to start engaging for the next phase and getting the obvious positive sentiment that I see on these pages mobilised to good effect. And thanks to Fergus for hosting this thread!

I thing it is a wonderful idea. Good luck with it.