Killarney: A promise by the Ireland Funds to shore up Irish charities in the darkest days of the recession has not just been fulfilled - but doubled and ahead of schedule, the Worldwide Ireland Funds conference has heard in Killarney this afternoon, Friday, Irish time.
And so successful is the Ireland Funds initiative, it is becoming a template for other emigrant groups such as the Greeks, hoping to help their home countries.
Thanks to “the extraordinary generosity” of its donors, some 204 million US dollars has been garnered by the Ireland Funds for Irish charities --- double the initial target set in 2009 in the darkest days of the downturn in the Irish economy by Ireland’s global supporters and almost half the total amount raised since it was set up in 1976.
The program was launched in 2009 because of more demand on charities a time of reduced resources.
The announcement was made today in Killarney at the biggest ever Worldwide Ireland Funds gathering and just hours ahead of the arrival of An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, where is is guest of honor at a gala dinner in the Hotel Europe by the shores of the Lakes of Killarney,
180 donors from eleven countries are present in Killarney - including half the entire US board of the American Ireland Fund.
The sum raised is the equivalent of half a million dollars a week, chief executive Kieran McLoughlin said.
“And we are six months ahead of schedule --- the target was revised last year because we knew we were over the 100 million initially set in 2009 in response to the severe downturn in the Irish economy. But now we are six months ahead of schedule.
800 projects have been supported.
In 2014, over 24 million US dollars in grants went to 270 Irish projects, he said.
Seven of the projects including the Little Museum of Dublin, which has been committed 100,000 euro, and the Women for Election, which has committed 80,000 euro over the next two years, are exhibiting their projects at the conference.
Former president Loretta Brennan Glucksman said the vibrancy of the organization was astonishing - the young people particularly wanted to expand.
“I know a lot of organizations that would pay a lot of money for that kind of vibrancy,” she said.
The young leaders program, which has been expanded in the US and outside of it under the direction of Caitlin Duffy and Paul Tully, has leaders between the ages of 25 and 45 from London Australia and 12 US cities. Many of them have traveled thousand of miles to be in Killarney, Ms Duffy, who has completed an MBA at UCD said. Some were first generation, some fourth generation Irish. Some lived in Dublin, some in Sydney.
“The one thing that holds them all together is love of Ireland,” Ms Duffy said.
The young leaders were now hitting a million dollars a year in their contributions to the worldwide funds.
Her father John Duffy, of New York, a board member of the funds since 2009 explained his involvement with the Ireland funds as “emotionally very rewarding.”
“If your are involved with something successful, it makes you feel good.”
The funds were now a template for other countries.
The Irish diaspora other than the Jewish were unrivaled. And Ireland was catching up with the iconic Jewish-American community.
“If we haven’t caught them already, I think we will. You can learn from other groups, “ Mr Duffy said.
In fact, Kieran McLoughlin,CEO, confirmed the Ireland Funds had been approached by the Hellenic Initiative, a Greek community who wanted to model themselves on the Ireland Funds in order to help their crisis-stricken homeland.