Who says Donegal is remote?

HUNDREDS of containers arriving daily to destinations such as Tokyo, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, Taiwan and the United States is being controlled from the gteic digital hub in Gaoth Dobhair.
Cork native Padraig Lawlor had worked all over Ireland and in the Middle East and America in various roles before settling down in the Rosses with his wife Martina and their three young daughters.
His consultancy company provides a wide variety of services from project management, procurement, finance to operational management and logistics.
Initially, he started working in the hot desks in the gteic innovation and digital hub before transitioning to an office provided by Údarás na Gaeltachta.
“I have international clients from the US, Asia and the Middle East. With the building here being 24/7 it allows me to service all time zones where our clients are based,” Mr Lawlor said.
Last year, his company moved more than 20,000 containers via trucks, trains and international shipping to locations all over the globe.
“There’s still a perception out there that we are remote in Donegal but we’re now connected to the rest of the world at broadband speeds which are among the best in the world,” he said.
The decision to return home, and to Donegal, was based on a number of factors.
“We were very keen that our family should learn Irish while they were growing up and with our local national school in Keadue having just changed to teaching the curriculum through Gaelic it was great timing for us as Aoibheann, my eldest, was just the age to start in school.
“We also wanted them to grow up in rural Ireland and play hurling, camogie, football etc. We are very lucky that in the Rosses and Gaoth Dobhair area there are clubs for all sports you can imagine plus, with Martina’s family being originally from the area, it made complete sense to move here,” he explained.
Before the pandemic, Mr Lawlor would have made frequent journeys to the Middle East and other trips to the USA.
“Having the airport in Carrickfinn makes my life a lot easier and allows me to connect to the Middle East and the US easily through Dublin airport. Overall the area ticks all the boxes for us from a personal and professional level,” he said.
From gteic, Mr Lawlor’s company provide logistic services mostly to the agricultural, fast moving consumer goods and construction services, with containers arriving daily to destinations across the world.
Due to the pandemic the industry is currently in a difficult situation requiring almost 24/7 monitoring of containers and bookings but he remains hopeful this will improve as the year goes along.
Work with Asia starts around 8am then the US comes into the office on the east coast around midday.
“Ireland’s time zone is ideal for interacting east and west with international businesses. The availability of broadband is the key facilitator to allowing working from the region. Without it there would be no chance of being able to make this work.
“The internet has made the world a small place but also has opened up a lot of opportunities that would never have been available previously,” he said.
Being based in the gteic building also allows him to network with the other companies in the building and in Donegal which has led to other opportunities for his consultancy business.
Mr Lawlor worked as engineer with IBM for a number of years before transitioning to accountancy which enabled him to work across multiple industries and continents around the world.
He went to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia working for a company called Almarai and then went to the US as an Assistant General Manager of a company who were setting up building manufacturing facilities.
“When I went to the Middle East my first financial controller job was to manage the transport, warehousing and workshop division. At the time we had close to 1,300 trucks and the company kept growing. I think this is where I began to understand and enjoy logistics. I moved from there to a corporate group financial planning job in Riyadh and then to the US where I became the commercial director transitioning to a more operational role. It’s here that I really began to get involved in logistics, trucks, trains, international shipping and really what I do today started there,” he said.
Mícheál Ó Duibhir, Oifigeach Forbartha, Údarás na Gaeltachta says he and his colleagues welcome queries about acquiring workspace in Gaoth Dobhair.
“Over the past two years the gteic digital hub network has played a central role in facilitating the return of the diaspora to the Donegal Gaeltacht,” he said.
There are currently five gteic hubs in the Donegal Gaeltacht, Gaoth Dobhair, Cill Chartha, Árainn Mhóir, An Tearmann and Na Dúnaibh with another three at various stages of development.
“Although the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has led to reduced numbers in the gteic hubs over the past twelve months, there has been a significant increase in the number of bookings of and enquiries about workspaces in the hubs by members of the diaspora who plan move home permanently or to spend an extensive portion of the summer months in the Donegal Gaeltacht.
“As the vaccine roll-out gathers pace, we anticipate an increase in confidence within the general population to return to work and in particular to remote work from the gteic hub network,” Mr Ó Duibhir said.

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