A GROUP of some of the most generous philanthropists to the country heard last night that they are ahead of their schedule to raise and donate €70m.
The figure was set by members of The Ireland Funds in 2009, who agreed to reach the target by 2014.
At their annual conference in Dromoland Castle, Co Clare, chief executive of the foundation, Kieran McLoughlin, admitted that with €50m already raised it was hoped the €70m mark would be reached.
Over 100 donors and group members from across the world made their way to the mid-west region this week, where they visited projects that The Ireland Funds has supported.
Established in 1976 by businessman, Sir Anthony O'Reilly, and Dan Rooney, who now serves as US Ambassador, the foundation saw its most successful year last year, when it distributed over $40m (€28m) in grants across the country.
"What is significant about that performance is that it is still a very difficult time for philanthropy across the world, but particularly in the US," Mr McLoughlin said.
"We spend the money as we receive it. We are precisely at the mid-point now -- we should be at $50m (€35m), but because of the generosity of our donors, we are at over $70m (€50m)," he said.
"We are ahead of target and I am confident we will make it -- but I'd be very pleased to surpass it," he added..
President of the Funds, Loretta Brennan Glucksman, who was at the gala dinner last night, donated $3m (€2.1m); while George and Angela Moore (owners of Belleek China) gave an estimated $5m (€3.5m).
Two hundred charities and groups across Ireland -- including Barnardos, Cork Academy of Music, Fatima Mansions and the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund -- benefit from The Ireland Funds.
"Education, the arts, literacy, anti-drugs work, work in the North are all supported. We are there to help people at grass roots come in from the margins," Mr McLoughlin said.