Pivotal moments in the 25-year history of the internet in Ireland

17 Jun 2016

Today the internet is 25 years old in Ireland. Here are some of the key moments that defined the history of the internet in Ireland

The internet is 25 years old in Ireland today, and it is dizzying to think of the impact it has had on this country, the scale of the industry that has developed here, and the fact that we are still only at the dawn of the digital age. And we have a lot more work yet to do.

On 17 June 1991, Trinity College Dublin established a 19.2kbps telecoms link to the internet, which it shared with a campus start-up company called Ieunet, which was run by Cormac Callanan and Michael Nowlan.

1991 was the same year that Tim Berners-Lee revealed Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) to bring some order to the chaos of the World Wide Web.

Future Human

All this happened while I was still at school but, only a few short years later, I hopped off a DART at Pearse St Station and crossed the road to the gleaming glass front of the Trinity College annex, where I met Callanan for the first time to interview him for an article I was researching around something called the Information Superhighway.

In what seemed like the basement of the building, Callanan was seated behind a kind of receptionist counter and pointed to what today we’d call a server rack, but to my mind was a jumble of machines, lights and wires, and said that was the internet in Ireland at the time.

This week, John Sterne, Michael Nowlan and Brian Trench launched TechArchives.Irish to build a rich reservoir of stories and tales of the characters who developed the technology landscape in Ireland, even preceding the internet. It is still a work in progress and it is understood Sterne welcomes all of those with stories to contribute to the archive.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the internet arriving in Ireland, here’s my potted history of the pivotal moments that shaped the internet in Ireland and around the world:


  • Ireland’s first ISP, Ieunet, opens on shared infrastructure with Trinity College Dublin


  • Barry Flanagan and Colm Grealy launch the first consumer-focused ISP, Ireland On-Line, from Flanagan’s house in Galway


  • The Netscape browser is launched


  • Another ISP called Indigo launches on the Irish market


  • Irish Internet Neutral exchange (INEX) is established by a coalition of ISPs


  • Post Gem buys Ireland On-Line for IR£2.5m
  • EUnet (new name for Ieunet) is bought by Esat Telecom for IR£3.2m
  • The Irish Internet Association is formed in the basement of a bar on Baggot Street
  • Eircom launches its first ISP, Tinet


  • Ireland’s telecoms market is deregulated


  • NTL buys Cablelink for IR£538m
  • Global Crossing builds a IR£70m hub at CityWest
  • Esat Telecom buys PostGem for IR£115m
  • First WAP services launched by Esat Digifone
  • Digital Hub project unveiled to establish a digital quarter in Dublin’s Liberties
  • Eircom (now Eir) floats on Nasdaq
  • Y2K fears


  • Y2K fears fail to materialise, the world still beats on
  • Dot-com meltdown hits in March
  • 23 data centres built in Dublin comprising investment of IR£500m
  • Ryanair launches an e-commerce website built by two students for just IR£20,000


  • 9-11 tragedy strikes New York


  • Euro currency arrives across EU
  • Siliconrepublic.com is launched
  • As ravages of dot-com bust hit Ireland, half of the 23 data centres built in 2000 in Dublin are out of business
  • 3G licences awarded to O2, Vodafone and Hutchison Whampoa (Three)


  • Commercial launch of the first 3G services by Vodafone


  • Google, eBay and Yahoo all arrive in Dublin
  • In a dorm room somewhere in Harvard, a student called Mark Zuckerberg builds ‘The Face Book’


  • Ryanair.com is the most-searched travel website in Europe
  • MediaLab Europe, a collaboration between the Irish Government and the prestigious MIT, closes down with the loss of 35 jobs and €35m in Exchequer finance


  • Ireland has 430,000 broadband subscribers
  • Google buys YouTube for $1.65bn


  • Apple CEO Steve Jobs reveals the iPhone; Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer guffaws because it has no buttons


  • Limerick/Tipperary brothers Patrick (19) and John (17) Collison sell their start-up Auctomatic to Live Current for $10m
  • Sligo company PollDaddy.com is bought by WordPress
  • Facebook sets up its first office in Dublin


  • BT and Vodafone enter into a joint venture on broadband infrastructure in Ireland – BT transfers its consumer and business ISP business to Vodafone and unbundles 58 telecoms exchanges


  • Apple launches the iPad
  • Google embarks on a mobile-first strategy
  • LinkedIn opens its first office in Dublin
  • Dublin Web Summit brings Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, YouTube founder Chad Hurley, Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom and Bebo founder Michael Birch to Dublin


  • James Whelton and Bill Liao establish CoderDojo in Cork
  • Twitter locates its international HQ in Dublin
  • Google builds its first data centre in Dublin
  • Bioware locates major games hub in Galway


  • Patrick and John Collison’s Silicon Valley start-up Stripe earmarked as a potential $1bn unicorn
  • Gangnam Style becomes the first YouTube video to hit 1bn views
  • Netflix launches in Ireland
  • 4G auctions yield instant €450m windfall for Irish Government


  • World’s internet population is 2.7bn people – 47pc of the world’s total population


  • Lauren Boyle is named the EU European Digital Girl of the Year
  • Irish Government plans National Broadband Plan to connect 750,000 postal addresses in rural areas to the internet


  • Niamh Scanlon is named European Digital Girl of the Year
  • Apple reveals plans for an €850m data centre to be built in Athenry, Galway, to be powered 100pc by renewable energy
  • Facebook reveals plans for a €200m data centre to be built in Clonee, Meath
  • Google plans second €150m data centre for Dublin
  • Web Summit reveals it is leaving Dublin for the sunnier climes of Lisbon
  • Apple CEO Tim Cook visits Ireland, reveals 1,000 new jobs in Cork where Apple has 5,000 people
  • Tendering process for €275m National Broadband Plan begins


  • Facebook’s workforce in Dublin exceeds 1,000 people
  • Google’s workforce in Dublin reaches 6,000 people
  • Delay to Ireland’s National Broadband Plan until 2017, affecting 1.8m people who still cannot get broadband

25th anniversary image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years