Ireland’s call: President seeks big ideas

THINK not of what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country – and pocket €100,000 in the process.

The Your Country, Your Call initiative was launched yesterday by President Mary McAleese. The online competition invites ideas from everyone, at home and abroad, that will create jobs, boost the economy and exploit the country’s untapped potential.

Those interested have 72 days to lodge their idea, which can involve any area of interest, from sport to religion, science or tourism.

The thousands of ideas expected by organisers will be sifted throughout the summer, distilled down to 20 of the most viable, and then reduced to the final winning two.

The people or groups behind the two winning ideas will receive €100,000 each. They will then be backed by a fund of €500,000 so they can be implemented, with the help of pro-bono services pledged by various corporations and businesses.

The competition is the brainchild of the President’s husband, Dr Martin McAleese, who proposed the plan 18 months ago. “We were all concerned with the job of trying to leave a legacy for the next generation,” he said.

President McAleese said the mood of the country was currently one of pessimism and deep disappointment that verges on unhealthy cynicism.

“We have to shake off that cynicism, we have to shake off the doldrums and get ourselves in forward gear.”

The winning ideas should be potential blueprints for to transform our economy, she said, “game changers” created in a democratic space where everyone has an equal opportunity to have their say.

“The idea is to promote momentum, positive thinking, faith, hope and confidence. It is essentially an act of faith in our collective brain-power.”

The competition is being governed by a company with charitable status, An Smaoineamh Mór, who will oversee the process and also coordinate the setting up of the two winning ideas.

Group chairman Dr Laurence Crowley said the identity of those who are providing the funds – capped at €150,000 – would be revealed in due course, but he said that €2 million of the estimated €2.5m required had already been secured.

He likened the plan to Dermot Desmond’s idea for the IFSC in the 1980s and called for everyone to get involved. Ideas which just fall short but which are deemed to have serious merit will be directed towards state agencies for possible implementation.

TV and radio commercials for the competition begin this weekend, and the website has already gone live, meaning everyone can now do what the President demanded yesterday: “Get thinking.”

* For more information, go to www.yourcountryyourcall.ie.


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