Genealogy project brings diaspora home

 

TOURISM:THE ORGANISERS of the first Ireland Reaching Out “week of welcomes” have hailed the event as a success. More than 30 overseas visitors participated in the week in east Galway which ended last Sunday.

The week of welcomes arose from an idea at the Farmleigh Summit in 2009, that local Irish communities should be involved in encouraging the diaspora to come and pay a visit by tracing descendants of emigrants and encouraging them to visit.

The visitors were from the UK, US, New Zealand, Australia and parts of Ireland. It began with a reception at Cloghan Castle in Kilchreest, Co Galway, and included a tour of all the parishes in east Galway, a “who do you think you are” day focusing on family trees, a real Irish wedding and a hurling match.

Delegations from Monaghan, Kerry, Tipperary and Dublin attended with a view to holding similar events in their own counties.

Ireland Reaching Out was the brainchild of Galway entrepreneur Mick Ferrick who said the inaugural event proved “beyond doubt the huge potential for Ireland Reaching Out across Ireland”.

James Kelly, a visitor from the US, said: “I never expected to find the location or much less the remains of the house of my forebears. I’ve reached the end of a long journey. It’s very, very special.”

Ireland Reaching Out co-ordinator Dolores O’Shea said organisers had learned lessons. For example: not every parish had visitor accommodation; and that there were also issues with transport.

She said Ireland Reaching Out would need full-time staff if it was to achieve its potential of bringing thousands of visitors to Ireland. She said east Galway locals intended to repeat the week of welcomes next year.