Hopes are growing within the county that thousands of people can be welcomed to Longford over the course of 2013 during the Gathering Ireland initiative.
The Gathering Ireland is a year-long celebration of Ireland, supported by Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland where people with a link to Ireland – or just a love of the country – are encouraged to come to the country for a series of events throughout 2013.
Over 70 million people worldwide claim Irish ancestry, with the organisers of The Gathering believing 2013 provides the perfect excuse to reach out to all those who have moved away, their relatives, friends and descendants, and invite them to Ireland.
Local communities in Longford have already started planning what they can do to attract people home, with some communities, such as Lanesboro, already establishing committees. To kick start the ideas stage within the county, a community meeting for Longford is planned for October 2.
The meeting is an opportunity for local people to find out how they can get involved and the benefits The Gathering can have for their locality. Local co-coordinator with Fáilte Ireland, Michael Brady, said the they were now at the stage of inviting ideas from communities and clubs in Longford.
“The meeting on October 2 will facilitate conversation on what the Gathering means. People can also express ideas they may have. Then we can all come together and begin teasing out the ideas further to see exactly what can be done,” Michael told the Leader.
Limited funding will be available for local groups, mainly through LCRL, but Ciaran Murphy of Longford County Council believes many of the local ideas will not require funding.
“There are larger events planned at a national level and local things such as the Longford summer festival that will require funding, but there are so many others things that can be done at a smaller level that won’t cost much money but will have a big impact all the same,” Ciaran said.
“Something as simple as a school reunion, where all the past students abroad are invited back for one big event would be a great example. Sporting organisations will play a big role over the year. An example of something a GAA club go do is invite a club from abroad to Longford for a few days for a few matches,” he said.
Jim Miley, overall Project Director of The Gathering Ireland urges people to come along to these community meetings and get a sense of how easy, and how much fun, it is to get involved in organising a Gathering locally.
“The difference between this and other tourism initiatives is that we are asking the people of Ireland to extend a personal invitation to someone they know overseas to come to gather with them in Ireland in 2013. It’s a call to gather.”
Everyone is welcome to attend the public meeting on Friday October 2 at 7.30pm in the Longford Arms Hotel. Chaired by RTÉ’s Fran McNulty, groups or individuals can express ideas for their locality. Further information is available at www.thegatheringireland.com