09/18/2009 09:55 PM

There is an incredible amount of intellectual fire power gathered at the Global Irish Forum in Dublin this weekend.

On the first night about 50 of us were packed into a bus and brought to the residence of the U.S. Ambassador Dan Rooney. What followed was a wonderful warm welcome by an inspiring host who, of course, knows all about celebration from his time with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Frankie Gavin and the new De Danann played a rousing concert and the lead female singer looked a dead ringer for former De Dannan diva Maura O'Connell; even better she sang like her too. It was a great opening to the forum.

Craig Barrett former Chairman of Intel was there, as were John Hartnett and John Gilmore of the Irish Technology Leadership Group.The ITLG is in the process of raising $100 million to fund start-up ventures in Ireland. So far they have about $40 million of that raised and venture capitalists striving to jump on board.

The ITLG may well be the engine that helps recovery in Ireland more than any other single group. The idea is simple - make Ireland an incubator like Silicon Valley of innovative technology and creative thinking. Provide the funding and allow the Irish group to utilize an American base in San Jose where the ITLG is located. Then using best American business practices and Irish innovation create a successful start-up.

All new companies need money, contacts and luck, The last cannot be guaranteed but the other two certainly look like they will be provided by the ITLG folk who are truly blazing a trail.

Also at the event is Liam Casey, a young County Cork native who has singlehandedly created a vast and successful manufacturing and Fed Ex type empire in China. Casey is so successful that "Atlantic Magazine" recently said he understood China better than any other westerner.

Amazingly Casey speaks little Chinese, which he says allows him to keep an outside perspective on his dealing there. Either way Atlantic says he has solved the Chinees puzzle like no other person alive.

The hotel we are staying in shall remain nameless except to say it captures much of the excesses of the Celtic tiger. TV screens on the wall in the dining and bar area show a fake fire in a fake fireplace. The place has as much atmosphere and warmth as downtown Peoria on a winter's day. Ah well.

Those are the calibre of people at the weekend long forum. The big sessions start tomorrow.