US news media giant NBC features a wonderful piece on The Gathering from Helen O’Neill where she covers the importance of this initiative to both Ireland itself but more importantly to the Irish diaspora.
“The tall ships looked majestic as they sailed into the bay — replicas of the masted, rigged vessels that once transported millions of emigrants from these shores.
The ships had departed from Liverpool, England, three days earlier, carrying descendants of Irish emigrants in a reverse voyage billed as an opportunity to “Sail Home to Your Roots.” A crowd on the docks cheered as they entered Dublin port and the crew unfurled a giant green banner with the words, “Welcome to Our Gathering.”
The May voyage was just one event among thousands taking place throughout Ireland, part of an ambitious yearlong tourism drive to boost the country’s battered economy by luring its diaspora home.”
Billed as The Gathering, the initiative is really multiple gatherings, large and small, ranging from the cultural and historic to the sporting, the quirky and the poignant.
Highlights include flagship events like a July 21 Riverdance extravaganza, in which 2,013 master dancers are expected to kick up their heels along the banks of Dublin’s River Liffey and attempt to break the world record for step-dancing. The last record was set in Nashville with 632 dancers in 2011.
Popular annual cultural events such as the Galway Arts Festival, the Cork Jazz Festival and the Dingle Tradfest are all incorporating “gathering” programs, as are big sporting events. Choral gatherings are huge. It seems like every little village or town is hosting a gathering and inviting choirs from Europe and the U.S. to join them.
There are busking gatherings and blacksmith gatherings, scientist gatherings and even an “Evil Eye” spiritual gathering in Donegal in August.
There are quirky gatherings to raise money for charity — for example the redhead convention in Cork in August. And bog-snorkeling, sheaf-tossing and welly-throwing (Wellington rubber boots) gatherings.
The goal, tourism officials say, is to tap into the estimated 70 million people who claim Irish descent worldwide and bring at least 350,000 additional tourists home.
From around the world, they are heeding the call.”
View the article in full at: http://www.nbcnews.com/business/ireland-calls-diaspora-home-gathering-6C10212226