Ladies and gentlemen.
Welcome to the launch of The Gathering. Thank you all for coming,
In Irish – we use the words criunniu agus bailiu – to denote gathering together.
Bailiu denotes a collecting of people.
With cruinniu, in turn, there’s the sense of a gathering of people together for a common purpose.
An indeed, our Gathering that will run throughout 2013, has a definite common purpose.
In Ireland…. the idea of who your people are….has resonance and reaches through the generations.
With The Gathering we want to bring our people home….be they by generation, or by desire, or by adoption….
We want to get these highly-motivated and highly in-touch and connected people to map and to explore with us, the best possible ways to achieve a recovery for our economy and resurgence of Ireland and the Irish across the world.
With The Gathering, we will aim to focus international attention on our country….. and for all the right reasons.
With The Gathering, we will showcase our tourism product that is at the heart of our future success and the envy of many small countries…and not so small…..nations across the globe.
We estimate this project alone, can bring in an extra 325,000 visitors to Ireland in 2013. With all the attendant revenue.
To be truly successful, this initiative needs the widespread participation of communities and local organisations all across Ireland. We need the active engagement of every locality in the country to make this the truly unique experience it can be.
In turn, the Government will do our part to ensure that these events are supported by an exciting festivals programme and information and help on how to get involved.
So, we are calling now on every community, from city suburbs to rural villages, as well as clubs, associations and businesses to start thinking about how they might work together to develop events which celebrate their own unique stories and engage the interest of their networks and connections around the world.
This initiative was first presented at the recent Global Irish Economic Forum.
We looked at what is, by any objective measure, the downright dazzling potential of the Diaspora.
And we sought ways not to exploit…. this altruism and affection of Ireland………. because to ‘exploit’ is too superficial for the project in which we are engaging.
Instead we sought ways to work with this economic altruism…..ways to work with this great cultural affinity…….this great affection……. that would benefit and inspire all involved in what is not just a time-defined project but a long-term and evolving relationship.
This taps in to the essence of who we are – as the Irish people.
Proud, confident, artistic, passionate, compassionate, literary, dramatic, patriotic.
Independent….. and always intriguing.
The Gathering, then, is a 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. Because like I used to say when I was Minister for Tourism, in Ireland the tourism business is everyone’s business.
And in 2013, I’m asking everyone in Ireland to play their part.
2013 is the International year of the Citizen so let’s give that great Irish welcome, invite friends and family home…and not just friends and family….but colleagues, fellow professionals…..your old classmates…..
Use your heads, your hearts and the social networks….
And when they do come to Ireland……or back to Ireland…..I ‘m asking you to go that extra mile…. to make them feel that they are truly ‘at home’.
Family and clan gatherings will have their own special role.
We have a world class product. Let the world see it for itself.
Many will come almost on pilgrimage. It will be a sacred journey… a promise kept maybe to a father a mother, a grandparent who has passed on.
If you run a bar or a cafe, get yourself up to speed on your local area. Become a resource and a great story to be told in from Dallas to Durban.
Communities and organisations have a crucial role.
Your festivals, your stories, your community projects are key.
We need everyone to get involved.
The Gathering is Project Ireland – do your bit, make the difference, be the difference.
Imagine all ‘our people’….. ar ghaolta fein… converging on this tiny Atlantic island.
From the pampas of Argentina to the skyscrapers of Boston to the grand chateaux of Bordeaux, there are millions who are proud of their roots, however distant, in Ireland.
Drawn by what they can do for their country…… though it might be ten generations since they were ‘home’.
We are an island of scientists, artists, musicians, poets, philosophers.
Let’s use our talents to bring visitors who might have no blood connection to Ireland but are drawn to us by our arts, heritage and culture.
While the Gathering may be centred on 2013, I am sure that many events, by offering unique and engaging experiences to visitors, may develop into annual traditions or create on-going connections with other parts of the world.
More importantly, the connections we strengthen and build, at home and abroad, will I believe be the most important legacy of The Gathering Ireland 2013.
Whatever you decide to organise, there will be help at hand. There will be a wide range for supports in place to assist organisers in getting the most from their planned events in 2013, including marketing toolkits, ‘how to’ guides, databases of useful contacts, tips and advice, communications and promotional templates to name but a few. It’s all there at thegatheringireland.com.
In the meantime, get your thinking caps on and start having those conversations with those around you to generate possible ideas. Those ideas are the raw material which will propel The Gathering to success.
But over and above everything else, remember say to the world….
taraigi anseo agus bigi linn i 2013.
Come home….. it’s where the heart is….