The financial crisis is making strange things happen. Things are bad in Ireland, but does that mean you emigrate to the US? It’s hard to know, when times are tough in the States too.
In the past few months, more Irish have been coming to New York, says Niall Burgess, the Consul General, but because emigration has lessened over the past twenty years, the support network for them is weaker.
“There was a time when the strong networks were family networks,” he said, at an Irish Network New York whiskey tasting event last night, which he hosted at his home. Now, he says, networking groups provide the social and professional support that families used to.
This is where Irish Network NY (also known as IN-NYC) comes in. It’s an Irish networking group for professionals. Ninety per cent of its members are Irish rather than Irish American, and while they’re not necessarily fresh-off-the-boat, many of them are new to the States. Irish Network New York, supported by the Consul, is intent on providing creating connections between older and newer Irish in New York.
“We started because, given modern Ireland, you had more professionals spread across the professions in New York, but there wasn’t a vehicle that catered to professionals,” says John Murphy, a lawyer at Linklaters, and a founder member of the group. Many of the traditional ways of meeting other Irish people – in Irish bars, for example – did not quite suit these people, he says.
Nor does it matter if you’re on the right or left of the political fence. “You don’t have to play GAA or be in Fianna Fail to be a member,” according to Committee member Declan Prenty.
Whether or not a networking group can ever replace family ties, those at the whiskey tasting Thursday evening were certainly having fun. The venue helped – the Consul’s home is on the 52nd floor of a sumptuous mid-town apartment with views overlooking the whole city, and people chatted on the balconies while the sun set.
“I’ve only been a member of Irish Network New York for ten minutes,” said Rory McCreesh, a man from Armagh who has lived in New York since 1985. “It’s absolutely a good networking opportunity,” he said, adding that he had already found out something he “didn’t know” about a work situation. “And the location is spectacular.”
Most others agreed. “It’s a fantastic venue, and we had home-made bread made by the lady of the house,” said John Healy, a businessman who commutes between Lucan and New York. “They gave us a cead mile failte.”
It’s crucial to help young Irish people when they come to the States, Healy said. “We all landed here at one time, and it’s good for the Irish to take care of their own.” Healy, who has his own business, and often helps J1 students when the visit New York for th summer, had a creative take on the recession. “I think people need to work smarter and do more of this type of thing – networking,” he said. “And to keep an open mind.”
The glasses chinked, musicians played, and by 9pm, the official end-time of the whiskey-tasting, few were ready to leave. Instead, guests congregated on the balcony to look at the night-sky.