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This article was published on February 9, 2009

The wrong Irish question, the wrong headline, and probably the wrong twit to ask…

The wrong Irish question, the wrong headline, and probably the wrong twit to ask…
David Petherick
Story by

David Petherick

Scotsman David Petherick is a director & co-founder of several companies, and provides social media strategy & visibility services. Scotsman David Petherick is a director & co-founder of several companies, and provides social media strategy & visibility services. David became known as ‘The Digital Biographer’ after a 2007 BBC radio interview, speaks Russian, wears the Kilt, and is a co-author for the books 'Age of Conversation 2.0, & 3.0'.

A Sunday Times article entitled ‘Ireland not open for business, says Twitter innovator‘ seems likely to set off a wave of protest, not just for its baiting headline (unsubstantiated by a direct quote in the article), but also for the lamentable political and geographical irrelevance and dangerous ambiguity of a substantial part of the content of the article.

Twitter- Blaine Cook on Times Article

For this not familiar with geography and history (and from the article, this appears to encompass both Kathryn Johnston, the Times writer, and Blaine Cook, the former lead architect on Twitter) Whitehead, County Antrim, is in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom of England, Wales, Scotland And Northern Ireland. Although it has devolved powers, its parliament is that of the UK, in London, and it is a member of the EU, and it uses the Pound as its currency. Ireland, also known as The Republic of Ireland or Eire, is an independent sovereign state and member of the EU, and uses the Europe as its currency. Its parliament is in Dublin.

Has anyone got a Map?

One of the errors made by many people (and it is an error that, for historical reasons, it is extremely important NOT to make) is to assume that Ireland is one entity, and one country. It is not. However, the writer’s headline neatly suggests this, and the article refers first to Ireland as a singular subject, and does not specifically explain that County Antrim is in Northern Ireland. Cook then refers to earlier grant-based initiatives that had been made by Ireland, and states that, in the context of new and separate joint infrastructure initiatives, these old initiatives won’t work. (Nobody is actually suggesting these old initiatives be repeated other than Blaine Cook, or possibly Kathryn Johnston or a sub-editor)

Blaine then further refers to ‘the republic’ without the clarification that he means Republic of Ireland. The writer and then refers to a joint Northern Ireland / Ireland initiative to boost its tech industry through a €30m investment in a transatlantic cable as being ‘cross-border’ investment – not making it clear whether the borders involved in being crossed are US and Ireland; US and Northern Ireland; or just Northern Ireland and Ireland. Or all three.

Red Tape cuts across every Border…

Mr Cook complains of “non-stop red tape” – specifically , that he has had difficulty getting a credit card, as he needs to obtain a utility bill, and be registered to to vote, which takes three months residency to be valid. He also is baffled by the Norther-Irish-specific issue surrounding driving licences – after a year has to revoke his canadian driving licence and sit a test to obtain a British licence. A quick look at the United States Government embassy web site reveals that, for an Irish or UK citizen moving there, such non-stop red tape is remarkably similar. “The U.S.A. has an agreement with most countries whereby the renter’s full national driving license may be used for a period of up to one year in the U.S.A. This applies to the full U.K. driving license. Provisional licenses are not acceptable.” Blaine, red tape sucks, and it sucks everywhere, but especially when you cross borders.

Blaine also goes on to say he’s surprised how little Twitter is used in Ireland compared with America, saying he only knows of one local politician who uses Twitter. Well, I think Blaine may shortly find a few more politicians and business figures around Northern Ireland and Ireland will be following him using Twitter, and they may not necessarily want to have a tweet-up or ‘friend’ him, but might wish to educate him a little about the country he has chosen to live in – or about the art of talking to Sunday newspaper reporters. Blaine is at http://twitter.com/blaine.

Blaine Cook yesterday made a statement linking to the article online at The Sunday Times on his twitter account as follows: –

By request, here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/bbwe97 – the article’s actually OK, just the headline is sooo sensationalist and wrong. ;-)

The Next Web visits Dublin: February 24th

David Petherick of The Next Web will be speaking in Dublin, Capital City of the Republic of Ireland, on Tuesday the 24th of February, at Bizspark Innovation Accelerator, which is created by Digital Media Island, in partnership with Digital Media Forum and Microsoft Ireland. Free places are still available for local startup companies by visiting Digital Media Island.

I hope to learn more about the excellent rate of corporate tax in the Irish Republic (12.5%), new investments in infrastructure, business start-up initiatives to cut red tape and help R&D, and to meet the Twitterati and Startups of Dublin and beyond. And I’ll be delighted to talk to any newspaper reporters, but always let them know that I will record what is said.

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