For a country of just over four million people a visit from Queen Elizabeth II and President Barack Obama in one week isn’t bad. Their visits show just how far Ireland’s influence can be felt due to the 70 Irish million people around the globe, the Irish Diaspora.
Irish economist and commentator, David McWilliams, wrote this week that Ireland must use their power, a “soft power” of having people scattered across the globe, to sale the country and help its economy to recover.
McWilliams, in his Irish Independent column, refers to “hard” and “soft powers” and says Ireland’s “greatest well of soft power that Ireland has is the diaspora, the great Irish tribe all around the world. They are our sales force.” He believes that the elders in the “tribe” can reinvent an economically wounded Ireland for future generations.
Although he realizes that this is not a fix-all he also comments that the presence of Irish Americans at the top of Irish multinational corporations is significant. He referred to working for Jack Welch the CEO of General Electric, whose family hailed for Cork. He was asked if he invested in Ireland because of his roots or if it mattered?
He answered “Of course if bloody did, once you guys got your act together, I was always going to favour Ireland.”
McWilliams points to the numbers to show how important it is that the President of the United States is now claiming to be one of our own. US firms employ 100,000 Irish people directly and American companies spend $21.1 billion annually in Ireland. They account for 70 percent of IDA-supported employment. The US have also invested more in Ireland than they have in Brazil, Russia, India and China combined.
This economic link is made even more solid by our ‘blood lineage’ our family bonds.
As Obama said earlier this week “Is feidir linn!” (“Yes we can!”)