\"Minister

Minister of State for Tourism Michael Ring (left) and Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar attend the launch of The Gathering 2013 during the Global Irish Economic Forum in Dublin Photo by: The Irish Times

Ireland announces a global Irish homecoming for 2013

\"Minister

Minister of State for Tourism Michael Ring (left) and Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar attend the launch of The Gathering 2013 during the Global Irish Economic Forum in Dublin Photo by: The Irish Times

The Irish government has unveiled plans for what has been billed as the country’s biggest-ever tourist initiative.

The year-long event, titled ‘The Gathering’, is expected to attract up to 325,000 extra visitors into Ireland in 2013.

The initiative was announced on Friday at the Global Irish Economic Forum by Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar, who described it as “an invitation to the world to come and join in Ireland’s renewal."

“The Gathering will be a year-long program of events, festivals and fun designed to bring record numbers of visitors.”

Such a boost to tourism is predicted to generate an extra $399 million for the Irish economy.

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“People often ask me what they can do to help get Ireland out of recession and back to prosperity. Irish people living and working abroad ask them same thing," he continued. “The Gathering is the answer to this question.”

Every town and village in Ireland will be asked to participate in the events, which will be aimed primarily at the Irish diaspora, as well as people with an interest in the country.

The main focus of The Gathering will be a series of flagship festivals throughout the year, both existing and new, along with special interest spin-off events, designed to showcase Irish arts, food, sports, genealogy, family heritage, learning, science and hospitality. The initiative will be officially launched with a number of special events on St. Patrick’s Day.

Tourism Ireland stated that The Gathering could generate up to $399 million for the Irish economy and create 2,000 jobs.

It is based on ‘Homecoming Scotland’ which broght 100,000 people to Scotland in 2009 marketing drive.

"There are a lot of people with Irish connections or a fondness for Ireland who have a vague plan to get here some time -- we want to light a fire under them and get them here in 2013," said tourism chief executive Shaun Quinn.

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