President launches search for ideas to lift economic gloom
SO, what's the big idea? A lucrative new competition that will reward real proposals to help lift the country out of the doldrums -- and might do something to reduce constant moaning about the economic mess -- was launched yesterday by President Mary McAleese.
The two winners of 'Your Country, Your Call' will each receive a cash prize of €100,000. But, more significantly, the two winning ideas will then be implemented with the support of an independent working group and with a development fund of up to €500,000 each.
It is hoped that the ideas will help to create jobs and further prosperity over the medium and long term.
The competition is the brainchild of Dr Martin McAleese, and the President said it came about in reaction to the mood of dark pessimism, verging "on unhealthy cynicism", that has enveloped the country.
"We need fresh thinking and action to shake off these doldrums and get us into forward gear," the President said at the launch in the National Gallery in Dublin yesterday afternoon.
"Ireland has formidable brainpower and a determination forged and tested over many generations. 'Your Country, Your Call' is a challenge to this generation to come up with workable proposals capable of helping to put Ireland back firmly on its two feet."
The competition is open to anyone in Ireland or outside, and proposals are expected to cover a broad spectrum.
Those behind it -- including Dr McAleese and Dr Laurence Crowley -- said that they had been working on it for 18 months, and had already secured €2m in funding, with a final target of approximately €2.5m.
Dr Crowley declined to name those who had contributed, saying that it was largely "corporate entities" and a "small amount" from government, but said that donors were limited to €150,000 each and they would be named later in the year.
The ideas can be submitted online between now and April 30. President McAleese said that while the possibilities are open-ended, the winning proposals should be "game- changers" with the potential to bring fundamental benefits to Irish society.
Dr Crowley gave the example of the establishment of the Irish Financial Services Centre by businessman Dermot Desmond in the 1980s as a game-changer.
He added that the group of between 12 and 18 judges expected "thousands of entries", and would whittle them down to the best 100, then the best 20, best five, and finally the best two by October.
Dr Crowley added that the launch was the result of months of voluntary work by firms, organisations, government and individuals.
"All have recognised the untapped potential deep within our greatest natural resource -- the people of Ireland -- and they believe that we all have the power to shape our future if we put our minds to it," he said.
TV adverts starring Amy Huberman and Grainne Seoige will urge people to visit a special website with their ideas.