A TOURISM initiative to entice people with Irish connections to visit next year will help lift Ireland out of recession, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.
Announcing details of The Gathering at Dublin Castle yesterday, he urged everyone to engage with the Irish diaspora and invite people to visit the country in 2013.
The Gathering, he said, aimed to bring 325,000 extra tourists here next year.
The thinking behind the initiative, which came out of the first Global Irish Economic Forum in Farmleigh in 2009, is to develop links with the Irish diaspora of about 70 million people with a view to their contributing to Irish economic renewal.
“The Gathering,” said Mr Kenny, “is serious business, with serious commitment and serious gains to be made.
“Every day I meet people who say to me, ‘Taoiseach, we want to do something for Ireland. We want to make a difference in getting Ireland back on its feet.’
“With The Gathering they can,” he said.
Tourism was everybody’s business, he said. This was a brilliant opportunity for people to “step up to the mark” and organise events and “go that extra distance” with their hospitality.
“Bring them home. Treat them well. The Gathering is ‘Project Ireland’. Do your bit,” he said.
Minister of State for Tourism Michael Ring, who described his role as being to “motivate people”, said there would be “no grants”.
“We’re looking for your help and support on this. We want positivity, no negativity. We want everyone working on this.
“We have a great country, great community, great people.”
The programme will last throughout 2013 and will, say organisers, “benefit everyone”.
“It will contribute to restoring Ireland’s image as a welcoming country where visitors will receive the 100,000 welcomes that the people of Ireland are renowned for,” the organisers said in a statement.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said international businesses would be encouraged to hold conferences in Ireland next year.
“There will never be a better year to reconnect, to connect with Ireland,” he said.
Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar also said he was asked around the country: “What can I do for Ireland?”
He said: “For them The Gathering is the answer.”
He outlined events which would be enhanced next year, including the St Patrick’s Day festival, which will run for a week, and the New Year’s Eve festival in Dublin, which has been running on a small scale for two years.
There will be “Gathering” community meetings in each county from June to October. These are designed to encourage people to bring ideas to fruition.
Numerous organisations have pledged to become involved, ranging from local authorities, Chambers Ireland, Google and Microsoft to the Irish Countrywomen’s Association, the Irish Sports Council and the GAA.
A voluntary council, made up of producer Moya Doherty, diaspora specialist Kingsley Aikens, former Fine Gael adviser Mark Mortell and American Ireland Fund chairwoman Loretta Brennan Glucksman, will “activate support and enhance the capacity of The Gathering”.
A plethora of initiatives are already under way, including clan gatherings, genealogical projects and an initiative where local communities contact people who have left the country and the descendants of past emigrants.
An international launch of the project, at 40 events in 27 cities, took place over St Patrick’s weekend and Irish embassies are already promoting it.
The Gathering upcoming events
The Gathering will include already existing but enhanced events:
New Year’s Eve Festival
St Patrick’s Festival
Galway Arts Festival
Wexford Opera Festival
Cork Choral Festival
Dublin Horse Show
Temple Bar Tradfest
Plans are at advanced stages for new events for 2013:
An International Harvest Gathering to celebrate Irish food
Love: Live music: an international music day
A new international GAA event with finals held in Croke Park in August
A festival of football: overseas clubs and players will compete in matches around Ireland
An event “bringing Riverdance back home” and introducing John McColgan and Moya Doherty’s new show
A multi-venue Christmas 2013 and New Year’s Festival to end the year “with a bang”.
Source: KITTY HOLLAND, The Irish Times