Give credit to political leaders who agree to sit down for a live Twitter chat and face the untamed, wildly divergent questions and commentary coming their way from anyone who has picked up on the chat's hashtag.
Which in this case was #GilmoreInNY.
The "Gilmore" in question was Eamon Gilmore, the Irish Deputy Prime Minister, or Tanaiste in the Irish language, who is also the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. He was in New York, along with so many other globe-hopping government officials, for the opening of the UN General Assembly session.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore (photo courtesy of higginsphoto)
Gilmore sat down to his laptop last Friday morning in an office at the Consulate General of Ireland in New York, with the session's host and moderator, the noted digital marketing thought leader Margaret Molloy across from him and the social media savvy Deputy Consul Peter Ryan nearby tweeting out context, background, data and links to deepen the dialog.
Margaret Molloy with Eamon Gilmore (photo courtesy of Irish Consulate General in New York)
What flowed the Tanaiste's way was a mix of thoughtful questions, helpful suggestions, valid concerns, political grievances, and, it being the Internet, snark, from tweeps in New York, Ireland and other strongholds of the global Irish.
More than 500 #GilmoreInNY tweets were logged in the first 30 minutes and soon it was a trending Twitter topic in Ireland (where Twitter has its European headquarters and just announced it was doubling the size of its workforce there), so avidly followed that one Irish tweep announced she was filtered out the deluge of #GilmoreInNY tagged tweets after seeing the hashtag in so many of her friends' tweetstreams.
An early exchange in the chat:
To which he typed:
People seem to appreciate this open communication channel, peppering Gilmore with questions on the Irish economy. Among his tweets on this topic:
Other hot twitter issues were emigration, voting status of ex-pats, the role of culture in burnishing the Irish brand, the status of organized labor in Ireland, Syria, the Northern Ireland peace process, the influx of tech companies throughout Ireland...and what is it that makes Ireland such an appealing place for business, Tanaiste Gilmore?
While Molloy stayed "on message" with questions gleaned from the hashtag stream, a noisy cyberspace cocktail party conversation was chattering away around her, as tweeps found kindred spirits or opposing viewpoints through the #GilmoreInNY hashtag, began to engage with each other, retweeting cogent points, editorializing on Gilmore's responses, pressing their particular issues and finding new Twitter handles to follow.
And he tweeted back:
When I met Mr. Gilmore later that night at a consulate reception, he was still speaking enthusiastically about his Twitter chat experiment.
Meeting Tanaiste Gilmore at the Irish Consulate, NY (photo courtesy of higginsphoto)
The 140 character limit may not be conducive serious policy discussions, but the inward flow of questions and concerns had to provide the Tanaiste something of a finger on the pulse of global Irish thinking.
As for the snark, one tweep kept peppering the conversation with inane "either, or" questions for the Tanaiste. The joke got old quickly, but have to admit that asking the second most important person in the Irish government "Star Trek or Star Wars?" did provide me with a welcome comic counterpoint to an hour of very earnest communication.
PS: One area of the Irish economy that glowed last year was tourism, thanks in large part to the Tourism Ireland effort called The Gathering designed to bring the Diaspora back to the island of Ireland. They came en masse, an accomplishment noted throughout the Twitter chat.