A tourism Ireland initiative which was launched in Dublin on Friday is expected to attract over a quarter of a million new visitors to the country next year.

The Gathering Ireland 2013 is targeting the estimated 70 million people around the world who claim Irish heritage. It is based on a successful Scottish event called “The Homecoming” which took place in 2009.

The Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore have urged the Irish community to get involved in what will be the biggest tourism event ever held in Ireland.

At the launch, five ordinary citizens described events they have planned, including a clan gathering, a boy scout convention, a traditional music concert series, and even a gathering of chartered accountants from PricewaterhouseCoopers, in the hopper.

Speaking at the launch in Dublin on Friday, Enda Kenny said, "This initiative needs the widespread participation of communities and local organisations all across Ireland. The Gathering gives each and every one of us an opportunity to do something positive for our country in our own unique way."

Eamon Gilmore explained the important role the Irish Diaspora can play: "The Gathering aims to engage with our global diaspora, to entice them to come home in 2013 and to encourage them to extend an invitation to Ireland to others. It's not just about encouraging anyone with Irish heritage - it is also addressed to those who love or have an interest in Ireland."

Spearheaded by Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar, the Gathering will see a series of new events and festivals take place which organizers hope will entice more people to visit the Emerald Isle.

Minister Varadkar said, "We are inviting the world to Ireland next year for this festival of festivals. It promises to be the biggest tourism initiative ever staged in Ireland. I want The Gathering to be an event that belongs to everyone in Ireland, and which everyone in Ireland feels part of. If you want help organising your own Gathering, then log on to the new Gathering website at thegatheringireland.com to take advantage of all the available supporting material."

Junior Minister for Tourism Michael Ring gave an impassioned speech about the need for local communities to reach out and embrace the concept. Pointing to his green tie, he stated “We all need to wear the green jersey now.”

A number of well known celebrities such as Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson, and Maeve Binchy have pledged their support to the initiative.

“Being Irish and a citizen of the world, has made me truly appreciate Irish culture, music and history. Whether you’re first, second generation Irish or even with no connection to Ireland, you should visit in 2013 for a unique experience,” Liam Neeson previously said about the initiative.

For more information visit www.thegatheringireland.com.

Jump Into Ireland by Tourism Ireland: