The billionaire Collison brothers, who have lashed depictions of Limerick as "Stab City" and "a war zone", have been invited to help counter negative world headlines about another Irish city - Belfast.
Stripe, the company founded by John and Patrick Collison is now valued at $95bn and headquartered in San Francisco, but the pair have remained fiercely wedded to their childhood home county Limerick and to Ireland — earlier this month they announced plans to create 1,000 jobs in the south over the next five years.
The Collison brothers were brought up in Tipperary but have strong ties to Limerick where they received a large part of their education. A number of their family members also live in the area.
John Collison called the Forbes article “daft”, while his brother Patrick said the piece was “mistaken about Limerick”.
And now, publisher Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, who has pioneered a range of events aimed at changing the narrative around Belfast, has issued an invite to the Collision Brothers to speak (virtually) at the upcoming EmTech Europe event in the city. Held in partnership with the world-famous MIT Technology Review in Boston, EmTech Europe will be held in Belfast each July for the next three years.
"In Belfast, we know all about lazy, stereotyping journalism," said Ó Muilleoir. "Sadly, the morons rioting over recent times in Belfast managed to grab the headlines from Beijing to Boston, setting back the great work which has been done to project a true picture of the changed Belfast to the world. By inviting the Collision Brothers to speak at the forthcoming conference on Stripe's recent groundbreaking climate change initiative, it's my hope that they can act as a counterweight to the damaging images from Belfast which will only deter tourists and put off investors."
In his invite, Ó Muilleoir writes to John and Patrick Collison:
"I have been following the Forbes row around their coverage of Limerick and commend your efforts to put the record straight – but let me take the opportunity to introduce you to another city which has often been written off.
"For the fantastic work going on in Limerick to revive the city, focus on education and opportunity, and to challenge lazy stereotypes strikes a chord with the people of Belfast.
"Over recent years, Belfast has fought hard to put the real changes taking place in this increasingly diverse, tolerant, and peaceful city on the front pages of the world’s papers and on the homepages of the world’s news websites.
"Of course, setbacks such as this month’s rioting can undo years of work in an instant when burning vehicles make the international news. Tourists are put off from visiting, investors deterred from putting down roots and young people start looking elsewhere for a career.
"However, for the past two decades, the peacemakers and bridge-builders of Belfast have been promoting a new narrative about Belfast as the fastest-growing knowledge economy in Europe and a global exemplar of peacemaking.
"Part of that journey has been a series of initiatives such as the Belfast International Homecoming which enables the diaspora to come back to Belfast and the Friendship Four ice hockey tournament. Next up will be EmTech Europe, in conjunction with MIT, which will take place in Belfast in 2021 (virtually), 2022, and 2023.
"It would be a boon to the city’s promotional efforts if you were willing to speak at Belfast’s EmTech Europe on the groundbreaking Stripe climate change initiative – which would align well with our theme of Building a Brighter Future. Your intervention would also act as a dramatic counterweight to the negative headlines of recent weeks. Of course, it would also give you an opportunity to learn more about the city and to consider expanding your own plan to create 1,000 jobs in Ireland to our city.
"I can assure you of a warm Belfast welcome."
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