Commuities and parishes across Co Longford are being urged to throw their weight behind what many experts believe to be the country’s biggest tourism and economic initiative for years.
Aimed at thousands of Longford ex-pats now living abroad, The Gathering is billed as a major drive aimed at encouraging members of the local diaspora from around the world to reconnect with their roots back home.
And following on from what Longford County Council executive Ciaran Murphy described as a “very successful” brainstorming seminar held last month, measures are currently being discussed to encourage even greater participation amongst rural and county development groups.
The proposals, made on foot of a plea by Cllr Barney Steele, would see members from the Gathering’s Longford steering group visit towns and villages throughout the county in an effort to drum up support.
For the time being, organisers are currently discussing the aftermath of a special event held at the Irish Embassy in London last week.
Cllr Peggy Nolan, in her role as co-chairperson of the county’s steering group, was one of several Longford personalities to make the trip.
Speaking at a recent meeting of Longford County Council, Cllr Nolan said the occasion together with last month’s public meeting on the Gathering could not have gone any better.
“The event in the Longford Arms was one of the most positive events where people from right across the county came. In total there were 26 events put forward and all 26 have been included in our brochure. It is something that we should be very proud of and again it goes to show that no outside agency can sell Longford like the people that have Longford at their core,” she proudly remarked.
Her fellow chairperson, Longford Co Mayor Cllr Sean Farrell, said many ideas had been generated in recent weeks, but noted one by Edgeworthstown man Matt Farrell as being of particular importance.
“His idea was about Cemetery Sunday. In some parishes, it can be over two or three Sundays purely because of the nature of them. It is a weekend that perhaps other events in parishes can be built around,” he said, stopping to reveal he also had been sitting alongside Mr Farrell officially submitted his suggestion.
Other proposals being considered for next year include an international ‘Mel ‘ Festival whereby members of the public christened with the name ‘Mel’ would be invited to Longford. Also, committee members are running the rule over holding a novel Garda Festival to celebrate Sarah O’Sullivan (nee McGuinness) on becoming one the first women to join the gardai in 1959.
Details of the Gathering plans set for next year come hot on the heels of the Government’s announcement last week to provide a €2m fund for projects around the country next year. The fund will be administered by local authorities to help fund three flagship events in every county and up to 700 more community events all around the country in 2013.