What now seems a lifetime ago, in late 1995, I made friends online with several University students in Ireland. They were around the ages of my own kids
and we hit it off quite well. They issued an open invitation (bordering on a dare) to visit Ireland and to stay with them. A few months later circumstances fell into place that allowed
me to do just that, so in March 1996 I made my first visit to Ireland and was hooked.
Staying with students for a month let me see Ireland from 'the inside' and not as a tourist. My lack of knowledge about Ireland was an embarrassment in some ways and
and the many misconceptions I had as an American about Ireland specifically and life outside the United States in general were astounding.
I headed to Ireland again in spring of 1997. By winter one of my student friends and I started putting in place plans to start a web design business
with a site about Ireland as our showcase and on December 8, 1997 the first Ireland Now site was launched along with Digital-Presence
web design and hosting.
Thus began my oddessy of traveling to Ireland for the three months I was allowed to stay on my passport then back home to Texas where I would
continue to work on Ireland Now and web sites for Irish businesses.
As long time visitors to the site know, I documented my quest for permission to work in Ireland through newsletters. It was as good as any soap opera!
It also gave me first hand knowledge of what it takes to be allowed to live and work in Ireland. I
finally obtained business permission and got it renewed each year for several years.
I was close to meeting the requirements to apply for dual citizenship when events began to alter life as I knew it. First was the dot com
bubble bursting. It made it harder for small businesses to risk venturing onto the web but I still managed to make a living.
Then 9/11 changed things even more drastically for everyone.
My youngest son was at the Pentagon, first for rescue, then recovery. My middle son was stationed at Fort Knox and preparing for a year in Korea, waiting to see
what part the aftermath of 9/11 might have. My oldest son, a Fort Worth Police officer was chasing down reports of
mysterious powders in elevators that usually ended up being powdered sugar from someone's donut. Trips home to visit became stressful with the heightend security.
Somewhere in the middle of all this the Republic of Ireland was hit hard by foot and mouth disease, even though the island itself only had one
ase in Northern Ireland. Throw in a record setting year of rain and bad weather and tourism, one the mainstays of the Irish economy, suffered enormously.
Finally the American media began touting a recession and everyone bought into it. It is said that when the American economy gets a cold that the Irish economy gets pneumonia. Since Ireland was producing more software than any other country in the world there was backlash.
All the big American companies in Ireland began to down size or pack up and go home. In Ireland many people in the huge IT
sector were laid off during the dot com bust and now more were being laid off and the thriving Celtic Tiger began to weaken.
Things changed just enough that making a living became a hit or miss affair, especially being dependant on business permission to be allowed to
work in Ireland so in late October 2002 I came home to Texas.
I was a bit disheartened about how my adventure had turned out so Ireland Now was 'set on the shelf' as I
worked to get back on my feet. I still miss Ireland everyday!
I want to give a huge thanks to the loyal visitors that have frequented Ireland Now (many who have become good friends through email)
through the years and many changes and redesigns and give a warm welcome to those new to the site. I hope you too become long lasting fans and friends.