The Gathering begins!

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How It’s New York: Many Irish immigrants came to New York first when they came to America, so The Gathering, designed to bring the Irish Diaspora home, really is for them.

How it’s Irish: The Gathering will take place all over Ireland. This report comes to us from Ireland, courtesy of Vinnie Murphy.

This article was first published in Irish Examiner USA. Tuesday, Jan. 8.

It sounds terrific–but maybe the Irish shouldn’t expect too much: a Scottish event called the Homecoming didn’t make an enormous financial impact.
Gabriel Byrne has called the whole thing a sham. What do you think?

The Gathering Gets Off To A Flying Start

Imelda May and her baby performed at the New Year’s Eve Dublin Fesival which marked the start of Gathering Ireland 2013 (Photocall)
The façade of Trinity College in the heart of Dublin city was lit up with a projection with a simple message “Love from Dublin”, and with that sentiment a year-long tourism initiative called The Gathering was launched on New Year’s Eve.
A concert featuring Imelda May and Bell X1 led the countdown to 2013, following a procession of light and fireworks display.
The concert, despite cynicism from some quarters, was a terrific success with up to 15,000 people taking to the streets of Dublin.
The projections became a social media hit with revellers sharing the image and its message with friends on Facebook and Twitter around the world.
The Gathering is essentially a marketing initiate that aims to bring 350,000 extra visitors to Ireland this year.
More than 2,500 events have been organised, most at community level in a bid to attract tourists.
Some involve family reunion or clan gatherings, others are business related or involve festivals already on the calendar.
There had been fears that the event had stumbled before it even began after former cultural ambassador Gabriel Byrne, labelled it a sham and a shakedown of the diaspora
But ironically, his much publicised criticisms had the effect of boosting the events profile with many Irish living overseas saying his remarks were the first they had heard about The Gathering.
The idea for the year-long tourism drive is loosely based on a similar initiative in Scotland which was called the Homecoming.
Geoff Riddington, an Edinburgh-based professor, carried out an economic review of the event and found that its value had been overestimated.
Speaking on Irish radio, he cautioned Irish organisers from expecting too much.
He said Scotland found it difficult to convince tourists to move outside of Edinburgh and that having spent £100 on every extra tourist that came.
He advised the Irish tourism officials to consider targeting new markets rather than focussing on well-established ones like the USA and Great Britain.
“I think, similar to Ireland, the package is fundamentally a marketing package. It enabled the advertising people from Edinburgh to sell Scotland in a new way, and I suppose really, that’s what the whole thing is,” he said.
The minuses, is I think, will be equally true for Ireland, is it’s going back to existing mature markets, and I very much doubt that you’ll get value for money from the marketing – that’s my own sort of feeling, that happened with Scotland – is that we didn’t get, really, that much from the event.”
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