Woke Capital in the Fair City

As the new cultural revolution unfolds across the Western world, the thoroughfares of Dublin are the latest to be transformed to reflect the new order. You do not have to be an eagle-eyed Joycean observer of Dublin street signage to notice the numerous ‘You Don’t Get To Be Racist and Irish” billboards festooned around the fair city, and most conurbations nationwide.

Quoting a rather lacklustre poem penned by the singer Imelda May that went viral from her Instagram account near the peak of the recent Floyd protests, its promotion has been chosen to raise awareness of the new ‘Equality Fund‘ by the NGO ‘Rethink Ireland’. Reframing Irish identity as both inherently pluralistic as well as anti-racist is a rather tired chestnut in the repertoire for diversity activists.

While very much part and parcel of the diversity overdrive embarked upon by our cultural elites the past two months, the billboards merit some examination in both their funding and significance. A motif with anti-racist activism in Ireland, despite the supposed left-wing credentials, is the spectre of state and corporate patronage lurking beneath the surface, with this new venture being no different.

This phenomenon is referred to as ‘Woke Capital‘, and is arguably the defining feature of contemporary Irish liberalism, in a country that has been moulded in the image of the foreign corporations who inhabit it.

Rethink Ireland: The Diversity Lobby’s New Slush Fund

Numbering 200 billboards in total, the campaign was the firing shot for a nationwide effort to promote the new “Equality Fund” by the NGO ‘Rethink Ireland’. 

Roughly approximating from industry quotes the 200 billboards would cost in the ballpark region of €340 each, including printing costs for a two week slot on the streets of Dublin. It is unclear how long the billboards will be in place nationwide but a lower working figure could be given in the region of €68,000 for a two-week advertising splurge nevermind any miscellaneous costs.

In all probability the actual figure is probably a multiple of this as they appear to up longer bringing the potential costs closer to €136,000+ when all costs are included. While not astronomical it certainly is no short change, especially for promoting an Instagram post by a mediocre Irish singer past her artistic sell-by date.

With a degree of uncritical media fanfare, the fund and May’s Instagram post turned anti-racist agitprop received ample media coverage, with little examination of the powers enabling it. Along with a variety of cultural figures present at the launch were director of Bohemnians Football Club, Daniel Lambert, a club noted for its active antifascist stance against nationalists.

Keen cultural observers may remember Imelda May not just from her music career but her recent turn towards the poetic arts, best exemplified by her ode to her personal sex toys at the Irish Times’ Summer Nights festival. Regardless, the powers that be have enlisted her as a sort of anti-racist muse on this occasion.

Among the voices wishing the fund well were the presently embattled Minister for Children Roderick O’Gorman, who has engendered controversy over his relationship with alleged paedophile apologist Peter Tatchell. Indeed, Rethink Ireland boasts of increased cooperativity with state departments including O’Gorman’s Department of Children as well the Department of Social Protection. These relationships will no doubt come into play as the funding is dished out to a variety of activist stakeholders looking to alter the tempo of state policy.

The fund, totaling €3 million, is set to be dispensed over the period of three years aiming to tackle issues of systemic racism and sexism as well as the marketing of a more diverse Ireland. Issues ranging from transphobia to racism are to be challenged with funding promised to marginalised groups and community-led initiatives. 

While the €3 million figure is a hefty amount in of itself, it is merely the tip of the financial iceberg regarding Rethink Ireland and the money it channels into liberal activism. 

Registered officially under the trading name ‘Social Innovation Growth Fund Ireland’, it registers a healthy annual income stream just shy of €8 million with one half originating from the state coffers, specifically The Department of Rural and Community Development. The remaining half of the fund is constituted from money gleaned from major benefactors as well as from the corporate world. 

The fund is a rather fortunate beneficiary of the ‘Dormant Accounts Fund’ scheme redirecting money from unclaimed accounts to specific social projects. For every euro donated to the fund from the private sector or individuals the Irish State matches it, effectively doubling its bank balance in one fell swoop. Whatever the total cost of the billboard campaign the taxpayer is carrying the bucket for every second euro spent.

Promising grants of up to €75,000  per annum, the fund puts emphasis on promoting ‘people of colour’ as well as combating systemic issues of racism/sexism/transphobia allegedly present in the Irish body politic and civic society. The grants come after a multistage process by which potential grantees pitch their idea to the fund.

Operating since 2013 the Fund and its variety of subsidiaries has championed numerous causes from sex workers to Muslim women to LGBT rights. With a diversified history and offices off the Dublin Docklands the group has a prestigious record from partnering with Google for social innovation grants, to bankrolling progressive initiatives in the corporate world. 

The primary benefactor to this new fund are the Irish-American philanthropic couple Peter Kinney and Lisa Sandquist, long time benefactors to the charity itself. After making their fortunes through capital management, they decided to give back in the hopes of transforming Ireland into what is in their eyes a more welcoming and tolerant society. Indeed the couple are expected to bankroll half the costs of this fund over the course of the next three years with their donations effectively matched by the Irish state.

Speaking in a 2019 interview, the power couple stated their yearning to alter preconceived notions around Irish identity being conservative and Catholic, in keeping with the zeitgeist immediately following the Repeal referendum. The Chicago based duo have a registered foundation in their names, with an annual revenue stream of over $3 million as of December 2018, channeled through a multitude of charities and grantmaking globally. 

This repeats a theme found throughout the world of liberal NGOs in Ireland where affluent Irish-Americans direct funds through a third party organisation in the form of a non-profit to alter the social fabric of their home country.

What is done here with Rethink by Kinney and Sandquist was equally pursued by Chuck Feeney and his own Atlantic Philanthropies group, vital for the gay marriage referendum as well as the open borders circuit nationalists in this country castigate.

While technically non-political and mainly going towards genuine philanthropic work there is a clear pattern of money bankrolling progressive initiatives in the field of LGBT rights and immigration specifically. 

Examining accounts for the fund accurate to the year 2018, we see annual expenditure stated as €7.3 million with a further €3.7 million listed as being deferred expenditure deferred for another year. 

Alongside de facto state funding through the mechanism of the Dormant Fund scheme the fund accumulates cash from both the private sector and major individual donors like Kinney and Sandquist.

Private donors are drawn from a variety of captains of industry in the world of finance,law and tech as well as major titans in the corporate world Accenture, Arthur Cox, Bank of America etc. There are indeed a variety of tailored partnership schemes for corporations to direct their donations to.

The past few years the fund has witnessed stark growth from a measly €285,000  in 2016 given in grants to a grand total of just over €7.3  million in 2018. This is in line with a 2016 announcement to vastly augment the fund’s capabilities to the tune of €10 million using both the state and corporate sector. The past ten years have seen an effective rebuilding of the non-profit sector following the collapse in state funding in the recession epoch.

In 2018 the fund listed an annual wage bill of €670,000, with its CEO being paid a respectable €122,000. With charitable status it is granted tax exemption under the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997 another feature within the Irish NGO complex .

Presently the current CEO of the fund is Deirdre Mortell a graduate of the school of gender studies in Trinity and previously active on a variety of charity boards from Barnardos to Oxfam. In addition to these positions she has been board director for the progressive activist outfit Uplift Ireland as well as the CEO of ‘The One Foundation’ specialising in the integration of ethnic minorities into Irish life. College aged readers of this publication ought to know Uplift from communist student activism combating racism as well as its role in refugee resettlement. More recently Uplift has been at the forefront of the push towards hate speech legislation in Ireland.

In a March 2020 interview with Mortell the total size of the fund was placed at €52 million with hopes to rapidly expand into the region of €200 million in good time. In addition to her myriad of positions she has spearheaded the push towards gender equality at an electoral level as board director of the ‘Women for Election’ organisation aiming to promote the role of women in politics.. 

Read More