A recent article sparked massive backlash for its description of Limerick, but it also presented a perfect opportunity to remind the world what the city truly has to offer, writes Jenny Darmody.
There’s something unique about watching a fallout happen on Twitter. I have often come to such incidents via something akin to the backdoor, where a mixture of subtweets referencing some sort of gaffe leads me the original source of the discontent.
Last weekend was no different when I scrolled through my Twitter feed only to repeatedly see notes of disgust and disappointment at an incredibly misguided description of Limerick in an article.
The controversial article in question was written by Stephen McBride and was published to the Forbes website. The article was written to profile the Collison brothers, who grew up in Ireland and went on to become Silicon Valley billionaires with their fintech company Stripe.
‘The article is undeniably tasteless. But it did shine a much-deserved spotlight on Limerick as a major STEM hub’
It began with a tasteless opening labelling Limerick as “stab city” and explaining how the tech founders had “escaped”. Cue a very justified onslaught of anger, including, unsurprisingly, from the Collison brothers themselves.
In a tweet, Patrick Collison said the article was not only mistaken about Limerick, where the brothers went to school, but said the idea of “overcoming” anything was also incorrect. “We are who we are because we grew up where we did.”
His brother John weighed in with his own tweet, calling the article “daft”.
In spite of the sour taste left by the article, which has since been taken down, there is an undeniable silver lining to the incident.
For a start, the outcry has forced Forbes to address the issue. The article was a contributor piece and Forbes said self-published articles from contributors are not always edited or fact-checked by the website in advance.
Not only has Forbes now admitted that the article failed to meet its own editorial standards, but its chief content officer and editor has committed to visiting Limerick and even plans to host a Forbes ‘30 under 30’ gathering for the young entrepreneurs of the city.
Limerick’s mayor, Michael Collins, said the Forbes event would be a “creative solution and a positive opportunity” following the controversial article.
“In a city where more than 50pc of the population is under 35, I think Forbes will be spoilt for choice with some of the brightest minds and talent that is emerging here. And I look forward to the story of Limerick’s young, creative and bold minds being showcased to the world at a time when it’s safe to do so.” he said.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
The references to Limerick in the article were undeniably tasteless. But the incident did shine a much-deserved spotlight on Limerick as a major STEM hub.
This is the true reputation of the mid-west city, which it has been working hard on building up for years. Back in 2018, Silicon Republic examined Limerick’s sci-tech ecosystem in great detail, which comprises innovative start-ups, training initiatives and a coterie of tech and pharma companies.
The city also boasts a strong education sector, with the presence of University of Limerick and Limerick IT.
Speaking to Siliconrepublic.com, IDA Ireland’s mid-west regional manager, Will Corcoran, said Limerick along with its neighbours Clare and Tipperary offer a great quality of life and fantastic career opportunities.
“Limerick and the greater mid-west has a vibrant tech scene with companies like Transact Campus and Axiom SL recently joining companies like Jaguar Land Rover, Fiserv, WP Engine, General Motors and Becton Dickinson, who have world-class technology operations in the mid-west region,” he said.
Limerick is also a major engineering hub, with the Limerick for Engineering group that creates a unique collaboration between industry and education and training providers.
It is also at the forefront of innovation and smart city technology. In 2018, the city won €6.5m in funding spread over five years as part of a new EU smart cities project.
By winning its grant, Limerick was deemed the first Irish ‘lighthouse smart city’, which would develop and test integrated innovative solutions at district scale and act as advisers for its region and other cities and regions across Europe.
The following year, the European Commission announced that Limerick was one of the continent’s greenest cities for its efforts in building new smart homes. In explaining why Limerick was chosen, the judges commended the city for its ongoing investments leading to improved air quality and noise levels in the city.
“The city is effectively managing its air quality thanks to the acquisition of particle and gas monitors,” the European Commission said at the time. “Limerick also encourages people to leave their cars at home by providing better cycling, walking and public transport infrastructure with the aim of reducing transport emissions.”
Limerick has undeniably been punching above its weight when it comes to its sci-tech ecosystem, but as the misguided Forbes contributor article clearly highlighted, the city’s success has not been shouted about enough. The heart-warming rush to defend the mid-west city in the past week will hopefully help Limerick cement its reputation as one of the top STEM capitals of the world.
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