Saturday 17 November 2018

Ireland's most influential teens

Patrick Collison was just 19 when he and his brother John became millionaires. Last week, their firm was valued at €1.3bn. Graham Clifford on the other Irish teenagers making their mark on the world

The young and the restless: Saoirse Ronan is a worldwide film star. Photo by Getty Images
The young and the restless: Saoirse Ronan is a worldwide film star. Photo by Getty Images
Donal Walsh
Alexander Amini. Photo by Lauri Aaltonen
Joanne O'Riordan
Ian Lawlor who was named in the Manchester City squad for a Champions League tie. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Jordan Casey developed apps from the age of 10. Photo by James Higgins
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays onto the green
Niall Horan has won the hearts of millions. Photo by Getty
Orla Gartland

Graham Clifford

When George Bernard Shaw famously penned the line 'youth is wasted on the young', the playwright could hardly have foreseen the generation of young Irish who are currently treading on the world stage today.

The young Collison brothers from Limerick, Patrick and John, last week celebrated the raising of $80m from investors in their online payment processing company 'Stripe'. John Collison was just 17 and Patrick was 19 years of age when the sale of their tech company turned them into overnight millionaires.

While impressive, the Collison brothers are not the only Irish risk-takers making waves on the international front.

Leaders in the fields of app development, software innovation, film, fashion, sport and music many Irish teenagers are now anything but wasteful with their high levels of energy and knowledge.

Indeed even in the traditional field of politics, young faces are making their mark. Last month, 19-year-old Adam Wyse was co-opted on to Waterford City Council explaining that: "My main objective is to help people. Age isn't a requirement."

Tech-savvy teens may well have stolen a march on more senior generations with their ability to use social media and software design packages to their advantage.

But the strides have been made across all sectors.

"Young people are no longer expected to be 'seen and not heard'," explains Daniel Meister of the National Youth Council of Ireland.

"Many are taking full advantage of the opportunities that digital and social media present to express their creative and entrepreneurial spirit. And in an age of disruptive innovation, young people are particularly well placed to introduce fresh ideas and new ways of doing things," he added.

A new list of the world's most influential teens published in the US magazine Time put 17- year-old New Zealand superstar Lorde (she of Irish decent) at the top of the pile with well-known names such as Malia Obama in 11th and Justin Bieber back in 13th.

So who exactly are Ireland's most influential teenagers? We look at the current crop and at some of those whose success was earned during their recent teenage years.

1. Saoirse Ronan


Fast gaining a reputation as one of the most versatile and capable young actresses in the business, Ronan, who was born in New York but brought up in Carlow, has Hollywood in the palm of her hand.

The 19-year-old burst on to the scene in 2007 starring alongside James McAvoy and Keira Knightley in the critically acclaimed film Atonement.

For her efforts, she was nominated for an Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe Award.

More nominations came her way in 2009 for her performance in the Peter Jackson directed The Lovely Bones and just last year she won rave reviews for her role of the romantic sci-fi film The Host.



Ian Lawlor who was named in the Manchester City squad for a Champions League tie. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

2. Ian Lawlor

Manchester City FC goalkeeper

The fresh-faced goalkeeper has come a long way from the playing fields of Dublin's Whitehall to now find himself at one of the wealthiest football clubs in the world.

It was while lining out for Home Farm that Ian Lawlor was spotted by a scout from Manchester City and, at the age of 16, the talented shot-stopper moved to the Premier League giants.

The 19-year-old enjoyed a spell with the first-team on the 2012/13 pre-season tour of Austria and, in September, he was named in the Manchester City squad for the side's Champions League clash with Czech outfit Plzen.


3. Patrick Collison

Scientist and entrepreneur

In 2008, three years after Patrick Collison was named young scientist of the year, he and his brother John (then aged 17) became overnight millionaires.

Patrick was 16 when his project on artificial intelligence scooped the young scientist award and, inspired by his win, he decided to study at the acclaimed Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston.

He dropped out soon afterwards, though, to set up software company 'Shuppa' in 2007 with his brother John.

The Collison teens headed for Silicon Valley, merged with a California based company and, on Good Friday 2008, they sold the business to Canadian company 'Live Current Media' for millions.

Today, the brothers' online payment company 'Stripe' processes billions of euro worth of payments every year for thousands of companies in 11 countries.

Last week, it was announced that $80m had been raised in investment for the brother's new online payment company 'Stripe'. The injection of capital has seen their business valued at a staggering $1.75bn (€1.3bn).


4. Orla Gartland


At just 18, the singer/ songwriter from Dublin has proved how useful a tool the internet can be for new up-and-coming artists.

Her YouTube channel has had more than 10 million views with 84,000 subscribers.

Inspired by the likes ofJoni Mitchell and Regina Spektor, Gartland's music is best described as folk pop.

When she finished secondary school, she embarked on a five-date, sell-out UK and Irish tour last summer.

Her debut EP Roots reached the number one slot during the first week of release on iTunes as well as the top spot in the Irish album charts and number two in the US singer/songwriter chart.

The late Donal Walsh


5. Donal Walsh

Suicide awareness campaigner

The inspirational teenager from Blennerville, Co Kerry, lost his battle with cancer in May of last year at the age of 16 but his anti-suicide messages have had a major impact nationally.

Donal was diagnosed with a tumour in his leg when he was 12. After numerous treatments to fight the disease it eventually moved to his lung and he passed away at home with his family by his side.

More than 270,000 people tuned in to watch Donal Walsh – My Story on New Year's Day, highlighting the appeal of the articulate teenager.

Suicide rates in Donal's native Kerry dropped substantially following his appearance on RTÉ's Saturday Night Show hosted by Brendan O'Connor where he made an impassioned plea to young people to think before ending their lives.

Alexander Amini. Photo by Lauri Aaltonen



6. Alexander Amini


Though born in Texas, 18-year-old Alexander Amini finished his school studies in Dublin's Castleknock College after his family moved to Ireland.

In 2011, Amini was named the BT Young Scientist and Technologist of the Year, collecting the award for his project on 'Tennis Sensor Data Analysis'.

He also walked away with the prestigious European Union Young Scientist award in the same year.

Now studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Amini's automated system for motion refinement is being used in conjunction with other projects being undertaken by the talented teen.


Niall Horan has won the hearts of millions. Photo by Getty

7. Niall Horan

One Direction

While One Direction's Niall Horan waved goodbye to his teenage years in September of last year, it was as a teen that he won the hearts of millions of adoring fans across the globe.

The former X Factor contestant from Mullingar has enjoyed remarkable success as a member of the band that has already generated an estimated personal combined wealth of €30m.

One Direction became the first band in Billboard 200 history to have their first three albums debut at number one. Later this year Niall and his fellow band members will set off on a major world stadium tour.



Jordan Casey developed apps from the age of 10. Photo by James Higgins

8. Jordan Casey

Technology Entrepreneur

Modest, unassuming and the CEO of his own video-design company at the tender age of 13, Jordan Casey has the world at his feet.

The youngster, who is a student at the De La Salle School in Waterford, started programming codes when he was just nine years old.

A year later he started designing his own games and, after Apple accepted one of his designs, he was declared the youngest developer of an app in Europe.

In 2012 he established his company and has been invited to give his own TED talks.

Last year he became the youngest ever entrepreneur to speak at the TiEcon Summit in California.

To date, Casey Games has developed four games, with more in the pipeline.


Joanne O'Riordan

9. Joanne O'Riordan

Disability Rights Campaigner

Determined to highlight the challenges facing people with disabilities in Ireland today Joanne O'Riordan was named Young Person of the Year in 2012.

Born with the condition Tetra-amelia syndrome, Joanne, from Millstreet, Co Cork, does not have limbs and her public confrontation with Enda Kenny following a decision to cut funding for the disabled helped reverse that decision.

The 17-year-old addressed the United Nations in New York, giving a forthright speech on the use of technology and challenging those present to build a robot for her to use. She received a standing ovation from delegates.

Irish Independent

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