The Irish diaspora, now believed to number at least 7 million people, is being invited to come back to Ireland for a visit. Please don’t all arrive at once though!
2013 is the year of The Gathering in Ireland, and the Irish Government, tourist board, and the people of Ireland are hoping that people of Irish decent around the globe will return to experience Irish culture first hand.
Events are planned throughout the country to keep you busy, and will no doubt uplift the Irish who are in the midst of a serious recession. In County Galway alone 198 events are planned to help the visitor experience Irish culture such as music, sports and language. To check out what is planned for the county of your ancestor’s origins click here.
Events like, What the Focal? (focal is Gaelic for word) teach you how to use the Irish language in your every day language. Instead of writing LOL you’ll be writing GOA, gáire ós árd. That should come in handy around Saint Patrick’s day on Facebook.
It really is a grassroots effort on behalf of the Irish people who are organising the events and personally inviting those who left back for a visit. Here is the official advertisement for The Gathering 2013 in Ireland.
Not everyone is happy about the “selling out” of the country. In an interview on The Last Word FM, and a story in The Irish Times, Irish actor Gabriel Byrne dismissed The Gathering as a “scam” and that the Irish Taoiseach’s (Prime Minister) launch speech was “offensive.”
Byrne said, “I wish The Gathering the very best of luck but they have to understand that the bridge between the diaspora and the people is broken and I tried to fix that for two years and it’s still broken…. Most people don’t give a shit about the diaspora [in Ireland] except to shake them down for a few quid.”
Byrne’s opinion is just one man’s opinion, and might be connected to the reduced Irish government funding for arts programs in Ireland. If that is the case fostering artistic talent in Ireland has now taken a backseat to putting on a “Disneyesque” show.
Irish singer Maura O’Connell who now lives in Nashville, when interviewed on Clare FM said that The Gathering gives her the “hairy eyeball,” and called it an “advertising ploy,” and “a very good one,” too. In response to Gabriel Byrne’s criticism of The Gathering O’Connell said his opinion was, “a clearer version of what I am saying.”You can hear an excerpt of Maura O’Connell’s Clare FM interview below.
I have to say Maura O’Connell is giving the most sincere Irish reaction to The Gathering. She’s absolutely right, if a tenth cousin showed up on my doorstep at home and my mother was still alive and we heard the knocking and the calls of, “I am here, I’ve found you!” She’d get the fireside irons out and do a Braveheart charge out along the front footpath. So in other words, if you want a good laugh, listen to the excerpt of O’Connell’s interview on Clare FM. She’s a beautiful singer too by the way.
In a way I do agree with Byrne and O’Connell, these events planned around the country are to showcase Ireland and its culture in an inauthentic way. But in the light of the austere taxation measure to reduce Irish debt, and the tightening of purse strings in Ireland, maybe a gathering of people is what the Irish need to lift their spirits and line their pockets. Let’s hope some of that money goes back into funding the arts and fostering Irish talent.