Gathering 2013 launched in US
Standing before a green screen and slideshows depicting images of Ireland, the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore launched The Gathering Ireland 2013 in New York last night.
“There’s probably nowhere more appropriate to launch this event,” he told an audience of about 400 at the Consulate General of Ireland in New York.
The Gathering Ireland is an initiative to bring diaspora across the world together – and hopefully back to Ireland.
Billed as “a spectacular, year-long celebration of all things Irish,” it is an open invitation to visit home (there is also an artistic aspect – the Gathering sponsors cultural events such as Irish Film New York and the First Irish Theatre Festival).
Mr Gilmore explained the sentiment behind it.
“I know that my own family, very often we get together on sad occasions. One of the things that people talk about is that ‘Wouldn’t it be great to get together on a happier occasion?’”
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar said that the past couple of years have been difficult in Ireland, with high unemployment and falling living standards; tourism offers a way to fight back.
He thought that attitudes in Ireland towards the diaspora had shifted.
“In many ways when Ireland had our boom and we became rich all of a sudden, we also became very arrogant,” he said.
“The change in Ireland really has forced us to look at those relationships again.”
A band played traditional music while dancers in sparkling black outfits performed. Drinks flowed, and the launch generated a warm response from Irish New Yorkers.
“The idea of the Gathering is good, and I commend the Government,” said Fr Brendan Duggan, a 65-year-old priest in the Irish Apostolate in the Diocese of Brooklyn, originally from Limerick.
He had one complaint: the price of flights. “The big drawback is the cost of going to Ireland. I would say that’s the biggest problem.”
Miriam Nyhan, an Assistant Professor at New York University’s Glucksman Ireland House whose research focuses on migration, thought The Gathering might help Irish people view the diaspora community in a fresh light.
Many families have seen a relative emigrate, she suggested, but they tend to dismiss the role of the diaspora in a more general sense. A good relationship would work both ways.
“I just think there’s a lot of good will from the diaspora towards Ireland. I think the diaspora wants to see Ireland do well.”
Many of those present already contribute to the Irish community in New York.
John P McEnroe (77) sits on the board of the Irish Repertory Theatre. Wearing a mint green tie, checked shirt and a brown suit, Mr McEnroe (who is the father of the tennis champion) remembered his mother bringing him to Ireland as a boy.
“I love it, I’ve been back there many times. My mother took me back starting when I was in a baby carriage, literally,” he said. But he was not sure if he would return in 2013.
“I’ll certainly go again,” Mr McEnroe said. “When, I don’t know.”