“The Gathering gives each and every one of us an opportunity to do something positive for our country in our own unique way.”
An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore have asked every community in Ireland to get involved in The Gathering Ireland 2013, the biggest tourism event ever held in Ireland.
Speaking at the launch today in Dublin Castle, the Taoiseach and Tánaiste also urged businesses, clubs and organisations right across the country to get involved in The Gathering.
An Taoiseach said: ‘This initiative needs the widespread participation of communities and local organisations all across Ireland. The Gathering gives each and every one of us an opportunity to do something positive for our country in our own unique way’.
“It’s all about you, your family, your neighbours, your sports club, your college. Whatever community or group you belong to, we would like you to start planning special events to highlight what is great about that community, and about Ireland.”
The Tánaiste explained that the global Irish diaspora will also be crucial: ‘The Gathering aims to engage with our global diaspora, to entice them to come home in 2013 and to encourage them to extend an invitation to Ireland to others. It’s not just about encouraging anyone with Irish heritage – it is also addressed to those who love or have an interest in Ireland’.
The Gathering Ireland 2013 is being spearheaded by Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar, who outlined a series of new festivals and events being held especially in order to encourage more visitors to Ireland next year. These include a new music festival, international GAA events and a new project from the organisers of Riverdance.
Minister Varadkar said: ‘We are inviting the world to Ireland next year for this festival of festivals. It promises to be the biggest tourism initiative ever staged in Ireland. I want The Gathering to be an event that belongs to everyone in Ireland, and which everyone in Ireland feels part of. If you want help organising your own Gathering, then log on to the new Gathering website at thegatheringireland.com to take advantage of all the available supporting material’.
“The public response from people at home and abroad has been fantastic with ideas for potential gatherings coming in every day. These range from family Gatherings, school reunions and even a gathering of twins. Towns and communities are also pitching in. The Gathering team are receiving queries and offers of help from individuals and organisations throughout the world.”
Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring announced that Gathering Community Meetings will be held around Ireland in the year ahead. Local Gathering organisations are being set up in every county, comprising sporting bodies, cultural and musical organisations, local authorities, and local development companies.
“This is a people’s project. It is extremely important that this initiative is not confined to big cities but is an event that will happen across the country and show off Ireland at its best. Everyone can help by doing something as simple as sending an e-mail or postcard to a relative or friend abroad inviting them to Ireland in 2013,” Minister Ring said.
Community projects already underway include clan gatherings, genealogical projects, and an outreach initiative where local communities will contact people who have left the country. One Irish family which recently returned from the US is already organising an O’Dea clan gathering for 2013.
Kerry and Waterford County Councils have established dedicated local groups to drive the initiative forward and all local authorities have been briefed on The Gathering. Carrick-on Shannon is holding a special town and community gathering to celebrate its 400th birthday next year.
The Gathering was launched internationally by Government Ministers in 27 cities over St Patricks Weekend, and the project team and corporate partners are now firmly in place. A number of well-known Irish personalities have pledged their support, including Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson, Maeve Binchy and Paul O’Connell.
A large number of companies and organisations have already got involved including Google and Facebook, while KPMG and PwC have confirmed they will hold their international alumni events in Ireland, bringing 1,000 international visitors.
Speaking at the launch today in Dublin Castle, Shaun Quinn, CEO of Fáilte Ireland emphasised: ‘The Gathering has the potential to be a real ‘game-changer’ not just for Irish Tourism but also for Ireland as a whole. The real power of the Gathering lies in its ability to leverage the efforts of any Irish citizen, community group or indeed any diaspora member to roll up their sleeves and take an active part in mobilising behind an initiative to support our national recovery. With a fair wind, many of the seeds planted through events and initiatives at local level all around the nation, will bloom into longer term beneficial networks and opportunities for the country’.
A calendar of significant festivals and events will form the spine of The Gathering year, and the aim is to foster a multitude of grass-roots events around these festivals. This calendar is constantly evolving and will see many established festivals being significantly enhanced:
• New Year’s Eve Festival
• St Patrick’s Festival
• Galway Arts Festival and Wexford Opera Festival, Cork Choral Festival, Dublin Horse, Bloom and Temple Bar Tradfest
A number of new festivals and events will also be created exclusively for the Gathering. Discussions are currently taking place around the following:
An International Harvest Gathering – a celebration of Irish food;
love:live music, 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;
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.
The Gathering Ireland 2013 aims to be the biggest tourism event ever held in Ireland, bringing in 325,000 extra visitors.
Minister Varadkar has allocated €5 million to Failte Ireland this year to set up the support structure and to market the event.
Tourism Ireland will have specific responsibility for promoting The Gathering in overseas markets.
Fáilte Ireland’s call for 2013 Festival & Events funding applications will issue much earlier this year in order to populate the Gathering Ireland 2013 calendar. A dedicated advertisement is running in national newspapers today announcing the new timeline. Approvals will be made in July and August so that The Gathering calendar can be completed as soon as possible.
Gathering corporate support
A growing list of well-known organisations are now on board. These include the likes of:
• Irish Farmers’ Association,
CCMA – County and City Managers Association representing the 32 local Authorities around Ireland, Irish Local Development Network representing the 52 local development companies,
Scouting Ireland, Chambers Ireland
Irish Country Women’s Association, ICMSA- Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, Irish Farmers’ Association
Ireland Reaching Out, Certificate of Irish Heritage, Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Eireann, Conradh Na Gaeilge,
Irish Sports Council, IRFU, FAI, GAA, Horse Racing Ireland
Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, KPMG, PwC
Irish Hotels Federation, The Doyle Collection, Manor House hotels of Ireland, Irish Tour Operators Association, Restaurants Association of Ireland, Bed and Breakfast Ireland, All Hallows College, Vintners Federation of Ireland and Good Food Ireland.
Gathering the community
Ultimately, The Gathering’s success will hinge on the participation of the public and the mobilisation of local communities to create their own local events and to utilise their own overseas connections. To assist this central strand of the initiative, the new website is online at www.thegatheringireland.com.
The website provides online supports and ideas for those interested in setting up their own event. It also includes some examples of local The Gathering events underway. These include:
The Ireland Reaching Out project (where volunteers in Irish communities find those who left, or their ancestors, and contact them so that the global Irish community can once again become connected) will run a ‘Week of Welcomes’, from Donegal to Kerry – during one such week last year in Galway, visitors attended history lectures, genealogy sessions, took trips to the parishes where they hailed from, attended a hurling match and were even guests at a local wedding;
The O’Dea Clan Gathering is planned by James O’Dea who, along with his wife Anola, returned home in the 1980s from Wisconsin Rapids, USA to County Clare and restored the ancestral home of Dysert O’Dea Castle where they will host a great gathering of O’Deas in 2013;
People are now being urged to pitch their ideas and events via the new website and the number, date and location of these will be plotted on a map online as they come in. The number of events is expected to gather apace following nationwide workshops which will take place in communities around the country throughout the summer.