Ruairi McKiernan, founder of SpunOut.ie, has said that while Ireland is in a difficult situation, job creation is not impossible, though it would require a “radical re-think” of economic strategies.
Speaking after returning from a fundraising mission to Silicon Valley where he met start-up companies and leaders at Facebook and Google, McKiernan said Ireland should stop waiting on others to come to the rescue.
Instead, McKiernan believes the country should focus on harnessing the “energy, ideas and passion” of a younger generation by giving concrete support to the start-up sector.
“There are thousands of people out there with innovative ideas and the skills, determination and passion to make great things happen,” said McKiernan.
“There’s no reason we can’t create our own Google, Facebook or Nokia, or to look beyond IT and truly become a world leader in green energy,” he said.
McKiernan urged the government to “stop depending on the needs of multinationals to determine our fate” and to support Irish talent.
“Our brightest and our best are starting to ship out once more to the benefit of the UK, Australia and Canada,” said McKiernan.
“It’s time that we stopped shedding crocodile tears and paying lip service to our young people. We need instead to offer real investment, equal opportunities and meaningful support to them,” he said.
Starting up in a challenging situation
McKiernan has experience in dealing with unemployment and building up a company from scratch.
He set up SpunOut.ie, an award-winning social media agency, seven years ago from his bedroom in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, after becoming unemployed when funding for the youth health research project he was working on dried up.
McKiernan considered emigration, but decided to stay to make a difference in Ireland and realised the opportunities in the social media sector.
However, it is a challenging environment today. SpunOut.ie is seeking a new office in Dublin in which to expand, but McKiernan said that in spite of the economic collapse and a large availability of vacant buildings, it’s impossible to find an affordable space.
“It seems as if NAMA-type thinking would prefer to save the banks and have empty, unaffordable buildings than have them used for innovation, social solutions and job creation,” said McKiernan.
“It’s time we shook up this type of failed thinking and focused on community development and small-scale job creation which will have better long-term benefits for all.
“At the moment, there are too many barriers and nothing short of radical policy changes will help build the new Ireland we so desperately need,” he said.
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