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John Cullinane’s speech

The main goal of this conference is to encourage more contact between the Northwest of Ireland and Massachusetts and help both economies create more jobs.

I for one have found it very helpful because I really didn’t know very much about Northwest Ireland, but thanks to this conference, I know a lot more. Ironically, I have some important personal ties to Northwest Ireland. For example, my mother’s brother, Walter Fitzgerald, was a seaman in WW1 serving on the RMS Laurentic, a Harlan & Wolfe ship, which hit a mine just after leaving Lough Swilly, County Donegal, and sank on a cold January night in 1915.

This ship is still famous because it was carrying 3200 ingots of gold worth $50,000,000 to Canada. A mass grave, and a monument, to my uncle and the other 259 who died that night is located in Buncrana, County Donegal and it’s a place I would like to visit some day.

Incidentally, all but 20 ingots of the gold were recovered by British divers. In time, the ship also has become a destination ship for divers from all over Europe.

An ironic postscript is that the Royal National Lifeboat Institute has a station in both, Buncrana and Dunmore East, County Waterford, where my Uncle was from, as were my parents. It’s at the opposite end of Ireland from Bucrana and very much like Chatham, Massachusetts, a picturesque seaside town with a fishing fleet etc. The RLNI is an all volunteer organization that does great work in rescuing seamen, fishermen, boaters etc. However, it needed some help in securing new equipment for its boat so I underwrote the cost.

At the time the Institute had just created a museum and offered to name it after me. I thanked the head of the RNLI but suggested that they name it after my uncle, Walter Fitzgerald, who, as I said, was lost with the RMS Laurentic. The Head of the RNLI was astounded to learn this connection with the ship because he was a diver and had actually dived on the Laurentic. He had even had secured artifacts from it that were now in the Institute’s museum in Dunmore East, a remarkable coincidence.

Regarding possibilities for job creation the Northwest of Ireland that could be linked to Massachusetts, telemedicine and telementoring represents a great opportunity, in my opinion.

In essence, this would involve providing both 7/24 medical support services to patients in Ireland, or the Irish diaspora around the world. It also would include highly experienced doctors mentoring less experienced doctors using the Internet.

The timing is right because the technology exists to do it and the island of Ireland is noted for strong medical skills. These services could be provided from home, a huge advantage for rural Northwest Ireland. There is one major problem though, and that is that the healthcare industry is extremely resistant to change and innovation. As a result, hospitals are 20 years behind in IT technology.

However, the internet and smart phones, such as the Blackberry make remarkable things possible these days that could dramatically improve healthcare. It’s obvious that it’s has great potential but some say it can’t be done, others had tried, and failed and so will anyone else. That’s what they said to me when I was formed Cullinane Corporation in 1968 to specialize in software as a product. They said it couldn’t be done, others had tried and failed, and so would I. I almost did but I eventually turned the corner with some imaginative ideas to become the first successful software company in the world.

Now people think that selling software as a product is an obvious thing to do. There is a similar opportunity in telemedicine and telementoring for those smart enough to make it happen.

The thought occurred to me, literally, this morning, at 4am, why not start with student veterinarians as a way of getting around the healthcare industry. They could demonstrate the concept of using smart phones, such as their Blackberrys, to link back to their schools and/or experienced veterinarians with pictures of the animal’s problem and to be telementored, as to what to do.

This could include treatment of family pets. It would be a kind of an electronic “all creatures great and small”. Thus, maybe, the Northwest of Ireland could use this idea to make telemedicine and telementoring a practical reality. This could lead to Northwest Ireland becoming a world leader in telemedicine and a node in the virtual day. One thing I learned on my many trips to Northern Ireland is that when its people recognize a good idea they are extremely good at implementing it. Maybe, this is one.


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