By Ann Marie Foley - 04 February, 2015
Driven by the wish to get people back to work, two priests and a parish administrator have been canvassing American companies to set up businesses in Ireland.
In Tullamore, the parish administrator Tom Whelan, curate Fr Shane Crombie, and retired parish priest Fr Sean Heaney have been linking into the network of catholic parishes all over America by writing to them.
They want to spread the word that their town is crying out for new industries.
Tom Whelan told CatholicIreland.net that with the difficult financial situation in Ireland and high unemployment, they felt that they would like to do something as a parish.
“Tullamore is like every other big town in Ireland, we had businesses here 10 years ago that don’t exist anymore,” he said.
“A lot of young people are leaving the country and we hope that we might be able to hold onto some of them. It is the same everywhere, people are leaving, and it is like going back to the fifties again.”
It all began with the successful local “Gathering” events.
At a conclusion meeting, they heard a man from Connect Ireland speak of this initiative which encourages people and communities to introduce companies to Ireland and offers a financial incentive.
The Tullamore parish trio were not motivated by the incentive but felt this was something they could try as Church helping out the local community.
They have been writing to parishes in America for a year now and between them have contacted over 100 parishes.
Tom Whelan said it is difficult to find time to write the letters but he feels it would be like ‘winning the lotto’ if even one response led to a new business in Tullamore.
As yet, there have not been concrete offers but some responses have been encouraging.
“We had contact from a priest in Chicago involved in some of the parishes there and he thought it was a great idea – the next step is the big one – it is in finding someone interested,” said Tom Whelan.
The Irish connections with Chicago are strong and there may be Irish people there who feel want to help. The trio have also been in touch with parishes in Boston, California, and Arizona.
Parishioners in Tullamore have also been invited to send letters to their own friends and relatives in America and this may also bear fruit.
When there is a contact or an offer about setting up a business, it will be passed on to Connect Ireland which will work with local authorities and take care of the business end of things.
Connect Ireland is setting up a network of dedicated liaison officials in council areas throughout Ireland who will help manage local campaigns to encourage overseas businesses to set up in Ireland.
Connect Ireland wants to link into the Irish diaspora, but also to the networks of Irish organisations such as the GAA which can claim almost 750,000 members across 2,800 clubs of which 400 are overseas.
Between the US and Australia an estimated 15,000 people are regularly involved in playing GAA games.
The group in Tullamore felt they could link into the very extensive network of the Catholic Church in America. They state that there are 195 catholic dioceses in the US, with over 17,000 parishes.