Amid all the political gloom, hundreds of new tech startups are quietly creating jobs, boosting exports and revitalising our economy…

I’m a Nolan addict. There, I said it.

Recently Nolan Live clipped off an interview with Shaun Woodward where the former SoS spoke of the potential for Northern Ireland to return to violence if Stormont doesn’t get it together over welfare reform.

Here’s that 28-minute interview with  Shaun Woodward in full:

Nolan followed this up on his radio show the next day, asking ‘what if Stormont were to collapse’?

Then came some catastrophising about the future for Northern Ireland.

But that got me thinking – what if Northern Ireland’s future was not so catastrophic? What if (aside from the politics) we could take heart from some of the really great things we’re doing right now?

Last year I worked on the Friday Night Mashup – a quarterly grassroots networking social event  for the tech community. The Arts Show covered our event at CultureTech last year.

I got to meet a lot seriously smart and ambitious people during this time. People like Debbie Craig from Limejar, Vincent Breslin from Sian’s Plan and Matthew Large from Glistrr.

The buzz around Northern Ireland’s tech scene is being noticed. But it’s going beyond the media interest, some seriously influential and well-placed people like US Ambassador to the UK Matthew Barzun are advocates.

Check this out from 2mins 20secs.

So what if Stormont were to collapse? It is an important hypothetical question, and it’s worthy of serious debate.

But what if Northern Ireland has a great future based around a tech sector with an awesome international reputation? This to me doesn’t dwell within the realms of the hypothetical.

We have the tech infrastructure, ambition and the talent to make a positive impact on the world around us.

There are a plethora of supportive movements (like CoderDojo), festivals (like Culturetech), collectives (like Farset Labs) and organisations (like Digital Circle).

Our younger generation has a confidence and ambitionwhich I simply did not possess at that stage in life. School pupils, like those involved in DarvaghNav, are identifying and solving problems in clever ways.

According to the UKTI Inward Investment report, we are outperforming other UK regions in terms of attracting FDI. Firms like DisplayNote are selling software into Japan on a massive scale. As things stand, Seagate’s Springtown factory has built a quarter of all drive heads for disc drives in the world today. NISP CONNECT tell us we are now No2 in the UK for fast-growing companies. There is now a pipeline of truly breathtaking innovations coming through via the Invent programme.

NISP CONNECT Director Steve Orr has said “Northern Ireland’s entrepreneurs are now on an unstoppable path of progress”.

All of this says that Northern Ireland is doing some great things at the moment. We are able to compete against much larger countries internationally.

“It is therefore important we continue to build on our strengths, to present a positive and supportive image to potential investors and to work together to sell Northern Ireland internationally,” says Alastair Hamilton.

The things happening in tech and the private sector seem to answer Alastair’s invocation.

What if Stormont were to collapse?

Well, what if we had political infrastructure, talent and ambition every bit the measure of what’s happening in the tech community right now?

That would likely give us the space to talk more about the good stuff we’re doing. Because it’s happening all around us.

Geoff McGimpsey is a PR consultant specialising in tech. He also blogs at and is an interviewer for NVTV’s ‘Behind the Science. None of the companies mentioned above are his clients.


  • the rich get richer

    Nolan seems to have based his Radio/TV personality on Ian Paisley.

    I suppose the Big Man knocked a lot of Nice Little Earners out of it.

    Immitatation being the Sincerest Form of Flattery !

    Re NI economy; Wouldn’t it be great if the NI economy was so successful as to move on from Blustering Buffoons !

  • terence patrick hewett

    What is “Tech”? as I understand it: it is mobile-blo*dy-phones. What does it do apart from moving a bit of cash around?

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    That NI produces such innovation and dynamism in spite of a legislative backdrop of stalemate, impasse, intransigence, cowardice and fear is the message that we should be trumpeting. It represents the antithesis of our political and tribal morass and yet we don’t hear enough about it. Would Nolan have ‘the biggest show in the country’ if he didn’t keep churning the same old negative barrel? With paramilitaries out of the picture, it’s only our politicians that can attempt to stymie this growth.

  • Brian O’Neill

    It is this site you are reading and the device you are reading it on.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Tech business is the best area to launch a business in NI. It bypasses the red tape of incompetent local people in charge of legislation. It then makes your potential market to be the entire world. The main hurdle to business starting in NI is the local red tape and the very slow mentality of people in charge of it locally. If I was wanting to start a business, I would be looking to bypass the local bell ends and try and do something online. Best wishes to those people !!

  • Sir Rantsalot

    What I mean is, try to do business by other means. The local assembly and civil service are complete morons. So do business by the internet. Anything local is destined to end up with someone who is looking at what religion people are, and if they like the colour green or orange.,…

  • terence patrick hewett

    Well yes: but I gain the impression that apart from big serious players like google, apple , sony, amazon et al who deal with big data acquisition with a view to controlling future smart manufacturing technologies most of it is PR smoke and mirrors. I have yet to find anybody to explain it without recourse to jargon ridden nonsense. I would welcome a serious analysis on its practical functions, how it generates income, aims and impact: that will convince that it is not in actualité a chimera.

    What really raises my suspicions is the word “Tech” itself: which is to me meaningless apart from being a diminutive of the word “Technology” Most plainly it is not primary science or technology; it is just bog-standard e-commerce.

    The accompanying video has all the qualities of an Elmer Gantry revivalist snake oil spiel.

  • Kevin Breslin

    In East Belfast a former civil engineer was voted out in favour of a former clown, mainly for the sake of a piece of cotton or textile mounted on some bricks and mortar, something that he would have no say over in Westminster as was the case with his predecessor. That’s a quantum of what the general public wants from its political institutions here.

  • Kevin Breslin

    A lot of scientific and technology work faces obstacles and challenges too. The idea that such breakthroughs happen without any impasse, inhibitions or even intransigence is ridiculous.

  • cimota

    What if Stormont were to collapse?


    If it were to collapse again?

    More of the same.

  • cimota

    No, it’s people making stuff. Yes, they’re connecting things together but there’s also some novel stuff. And yes, sometimes it’s technology driven rather than market driven.

    It can be for online type/font management (like the acquisition of Belfast-based FRONT a few years ago by Monotype) or it can be for online sales, stock management and point of sale on mobile devices (like our very own AirPOS). It can be in making new entertainment products for a hungry audience (any of 38 games companies in Northern Ireland) or it can be finding new ways to help the young and the old take their medication at appropriate times (two products I know of which handle it in different ways).

    And yes, in some cases it can be about chasing the rounding errors in transactions – which is onanism at best – and beloved by our regional development agency.

    But ignorance of the subject doesn’t devalue the subject.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Which has not answered the question: how is it different from e-commerce.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Where did I say it did? My point, along with Geoff’s, is that there is a quiet revolution going on and it’s meeting with a lot of unsung success. Meanwhile a certain loudmouth keeps his eye on an increasingly dysfunctional and redundant ball and the rest of us phone in and rancorously play the blame game that’s expected of us. Innovators & entrepreneurs don’t tend to swallow what they’re given.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’m careful not to blame “the blame game” because the blame game is part of politics everywhere.

  • LordSummerisle

    You have taken the first step to recovery. Admitting that your are an addict. Nolan support groups are available throughout the province you can call them on 08457 909090.