Irish business profile: Turlough McConnell
“Pat O’Donnell did an amazing job staging this exhibition. She is a phenomenal curator. On the day it opened, we had a party out on Quay Street. Out walked two guys, two bare-knuckle fighters. Because it’s such an authentic setting, you catch yourself thinking, ‘My God, this really is The Gangs of New York.’”
In what may seem an odd comparison, Turlough says boxing is a lot like poetry. “Boxing has this whole other dimension - the history of the individual. You have a team of people around you but when you go into the ring, you’re on your own. Very solitary people go into boxing.
“I think there are a lot of similarities between boxing and poetry. Just look at Gene Tunney. He was very literary, very well read, a writer and best friends with George Bernard Shaw, who incidentally was really into boxing and fancied himself as a boxer.”
During his brief visit, Turlough popped up to Belfast to check up on a project he hopes to develop with another lad from Budgen, Pat Doherty (Big Hill), chairman of the Titanic Quarter. In conjunction with the South Street Seaport Museum in New York and the National Museums of Northern Ireland, Turlough is working on the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the sinking Titanic in 2012.
“This as a great opportunity to acknowledge the importance of the Port of Belfast and the Northern Ireland shipbuilding industry. There’s a huge demand in New York for something big to mark the 100th. New York City Council’s Speaker is Christine Quinn. Her grandmother was one of the survivors. There’s a real interest in how we develop this exhibition authentically.”
Turlough is currently working with Tourism Ireland on a special marketing feature on Ulster that will launch later this year in Atlanta, Georgia. He’s tremendously proud of the “sea change of peace that has swept through Northern Ireland in the last twenty years. To my way of thinking, the North has a huge responsibility to show other people how it's done.”
It’s that kind of thinking that was motivated Turlough and Niall to set up the U.S.-Ireland Forum three years ago. “It’s a chance to go on record about the changing conversation between Ireland and the US. The first was in Manhattan in 2007, the second in UCD last year and this year's will be in London in November.