London dentist wants to matchmake the global Irish

By Colin Gannon

The enduring power of Tinder — the market-dominating dating app known for its swipe-right-for-yes culture — has spawned newer, more niche competitors, as they battle to wrest some of the lucrative market.

There are now apps, springing up every few months, that narrow down potential matches by way of ethnicity or religion: Already, there are Asian, Muslim, and Jewish dating apps

“In an increasingly crowded market,” Catherine Hallaghan, the founder of new dating app Global Irish Dating, tells the Irish World, “a new generation of apps are going a step further by homing in on specific requirements that narrow down the dating pool drastically.”

The branding — Global Irish Dating — may seem exclusionary by nature: The bringing together of people of varying Irish heritage. Hallaghan, a practising dentist with a flair for entrepreneurship, rejects this assertion: “Everyone is welcome.”

But what would attract those with no Irish ancestry?

“People want to identify with the modern Irish,” she says. “The Irish were the first to bring in gay marriage by popular vote. We are are also one of the leading tech capitals of the world and Global Irish dating is about dating in an Irish way; in a progressive modern way.”

The app’s inspiration came from close to home. “A friend of mine wanted to meet an Irish guy and found she did not have time for endless swiping,” she says. “I realised at that point that there were many people like this who were time poor and that there was a niche there. One does not have to be Irish or of Irish descent. One could just have a love of Ireland, Irishness or the Irish way of craic and banter.”

Catherine Hallahan

Hailing originally from Ballina in Mayo, Hallaghan qualified from University College Cork as dentist, and swiftly emigrated to London to embark on her professional career.

It wasn’t long before she was considered, among her peers, as one of the best dental practitioners around. After a successful exit, she is now focusing on healthcare — in particular health technology and aesthetics — from her clinic based at Harley Street in central London.

Outside of financial assistance from the co-founder of her health technology firm, iMindMyHealth, Hallaghan says she has self-financed the app. David Broderick, a technologist and data scientist, compliments her business nous, she says. “We will be looking for investors in the near future so that we can scale the business on a global level.”

On Valentine’s Day, Broderick noticed people huddling in packs and avoiding mingling. “I explained that this was the norm outside of Ireland and that people didn’t meet in the pub and that everyone was on dating apps,” Hallaghan says. “The dating app developed momentum from that day on.”

The uptake, according to Hallaghan, has been phenomenal, largely due to a special offer whereby 3,333 new users can avail of the premium level — which, for a fee of €20 Euros, offers additional features like geolocation matching and the ability to see who has liked the user profile — free of charge for three months.

The app will offer three levels of membership: A free basic membership, which includes match filtering and messaging; the premium level, as mentioned; and the premium-level ‘Elite’ membership which includes audio-calling and video-calling from an anonymous number for a fee of €30.

Since the app is GDPR-compliant, and no information is collected without permission, Hallaghan cannot reveal the demographics or geographics of those who have already registered to use the service. But, she assures the Irish World, “we have had people register from all corners of the world.”

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Blind Dates launch a few years ago (Photo:Leah Farrell/RollingNew.ie)

Crucially, she says, the app is designed, in a way, as a cyber-residing Irish bar: a place of warm socialising, friendliness, and fun. “Everyone loves to go to an Irish bar because they know that the Irish know how to enjoy themselves,” she says.

Facing an increasingly packed market — Tinder, Bumble and OkCupid among others, which are more often than not more associated with “hook-ups” rather than meaningful relationships — Hallaghan contends that her product offers something deeper. “There are no filters on Tinder and people reveal very little about themselves. Global Irish Dating allows people to form a real deep meaningful connection with unique features and it will be more sociable; so watch out facebook!”

The app, though, is strictly about dating, she says. Over time, video and audio features will be added to the existing software of instant messaging. Users have the ability to curate their profile to showcase their “personal style” and can answer questionnaires to help the app’s algorithm suggest potential matches based on “beliefs and values”.

Since figures estimate that there are close to 80 million people of Irish descent around the world — including 4.8 million in Ireland, 40 million in the US and 14 million in the UK — the market is gigantic. “Global Irish dating wants to revolutionise the dating world,” Hallaghan says.

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