Friday, October 28, 2011


As I write this blog Michael D Higgins is waiting to be confirmed as the 9th President of Ireland.

This success follows a strange final week to the election campaign, with a big shift in the voting since the last poll - 38 per cent of the electorate only made up their minds in the final 3 days before the vote. In particular, many people shifted their support to Michael D in the final days before the voting began.

So in the end what was it that pushed Michael D ahead of the others? When it came down to it, what did the Irish people look for in their President? In a poll taken on the day of the election, voters were asked what was the most important element in their decision making. The answer? Integrity.

According to the poll,  integrity was more important than experience, skills, independence or ability. And unfortunately  it seems that for the electorate, integrity did not seem to be an abundant quality in our candidates. Integrity is a tricky beast you see. As we have seen this week, one single slip or the hint of a question mark over your past, and a shadow of doubt can be cast. And once that shadow has been cast, it is extremely difficult to shake it off.

In Michael D Higgins' 71 years he has managed to avoid that shadow. He brought an aura of honesty, passion and integrity to the election campaign. For me (and many people around Ireland) that was what sealed the deal in the end. I hate to sound too much like his campaign slogan, but I really believe that he is a President who will do us proud. I can't wait to see him in the role.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hope Deals the Hardest Blows

Did we all get a bit carried away? Did we allow ourselves to hope too much, to allow ourselves to dream the impossible dream? To dream that perhaps, just maybe, Ireland could get to the final of a Rugby World Cup (and maybe maybe just maybe we might just potentially, perhaps, win the feckin thing?). 

We were a hopeful and expectant nation. For the first time in a long time we had something to be collectively hopeful of. And it was a wonderful feeling. A great buzz swept across the country. Thousands of miles away on the other side of the world, Irish people who had left the country due to a complete lack of hope, were once again bursting with the stuff.  

Which made the defeat on Saturday morning even more difficult to take. As Foy Vance says in one of my favourite songs - hope deals the hardest blows. 

"If there's one thing that I know
It is the two shades of hope
One the enlightening soul
And the other is more like a hangman's rope
Well it's true, you may reap what you sow
But not that despair is the all-time low
Baby, hope deals the hardest blow"

It's true. But it's worth it.

Because if we do not hope we will never move beyond our current circumstances; we will never step back, see the bigger picture, believe in a better future and act to make it happen.

So after the blow that was delivered to a hopeful nation on Saturday, we have to pick ourselves up and find something else to be hopeful about, another dream to follow.  Perhaps it is now time  for us to start being hopeful about Ireland again. To hope that we can overcome the current challenges, hope that we can improve things, hope that in future things will be much better. 

In my work with social entrepreneurs, I have seen how hope can drive people to take action, how hope can help people overcome the greatest challenges, and how acting on this hope can bring about great changes......

..........and sure if changing Ireland doesn't work out for us, we've always got the footy. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The iPhone

I was very sad to hear of the passing of Steve Jobs today.

As a lover of the iPhone (quite literally apparently - according to this report) I know first hand the difference that this piece of technology has made to the lives of millions of people around the world.

People with iPhones get a hard time of it. Always being online, checking emails (work and personal) at silly times and stalking people on facebook are the usual slags. Having an 'app' for pretty much every problem you find yourself in, or simply just being the annoying person who check up on facts mid-way through a conversation.

I like doing all of these things, and so was a fan of both the iPhone and its inventor.

Many eulogies have come out today about him. For example, in the words of Obama, Steve Jobs was:
 "brave enough to think differently, bold enough to think he could change the world and talented enough to do it."
Well said.

For me though the best quote about Steve Jobs came from a social entrepreneur based in Ireland, Lisa Domican. Lisa invented the Grace App, an iPhone application that allows children with autism to communicate using a system of pictures and photographs.

Lisa created the app for her daughter Grace, who is autistic and finds verbal communication difficult. With the iPhone app, Grace, and other children like her, can communicate exactly what they want to say.

And so the words that really struck me today was a message I received from Lisa:
"Feeling very sad about Steve Jobs today. Without the iPhone I don't think Gracie would be talking to me" 
Out of all the other great things that Steve Job achieved, this has to rank right up there.