The Gathering is set to make 2013 a busy year for Ireland but is it just another marketing scheme to bring more money into the country? The Daily Shift’s Kirstin Campbell gives us her view…
As 2013 draws closer, the government’s flagship tourism programme, the Gathering, has been receiving mixed reactions. With over 1100 planned events for next year, it promises to be a “spectacular, year-long celebration of all things Irish”. Over 70 million people around the world claim Irish ancestry, and in 2013 the plan is that the Gathering will call this global diaspora home to celebrate Irish culture and history.
Almost every Irish person has been affected in someway by the current epidemic of emigration. It’s no wonder that some of these more reluctant emigrants are voicing their anger towards the government’s tourism programme with its plans to “invite them home.” It seems insensitive, and almost callous, to suggest a celebration of emigration when its devastating effects are being felt so acutely.
Many celebrities have endorsed the project, such as actress Fionnula Flanagan and singer Niall “Bressie” Breslin. Irish actor Gabriel Byrne however, has recently expressed his view of the Gathering, labeling it a “scam” with the belief that the main intention of the event is to milk the Irish-American tourists for “a few quid.” Without a doubt, one of the aims of the initiative is to strengthen the tourism industry and it has been predicted that the Gathering will entice an additional 300,000 visitors to Ireland next year. However, Mr. Byrne’s seemingly cynical opinion that money-gathering is the main intention of this project completely ignores the nature of the Irish people.
The Irish are dealing with challenging times, with imposed austerity, little confidence in the government and a general defeatist attitude among the people. A celebration “of all things Irish” may seem excessively saccharine, but it could be the confidence boost that this nation needs. The Gathering is a celebration of community, one of the many values that was forgotten about and tossed aside in favour of the materialistic mindset of the Celtic Tiger years.
The overwhelming scale of support from the ordinary Irish people shows that to most, the Gathering is not just about making “a few quid”, but about communication and re-connection, with volunteers organising genealogy and heritage events all over the island. The Gathering will kick off on New Year’s Eve, and will be celebrated all throughout 2013. It’s a cultural reminder, and it’s one reason for Ireland to be proud at a time when it seems as if there aren’t that many.