Come one, come all was the tourism message delivered by two of the Irish government’s leading ministers during a special event at the Irish Consulate in New York on Wednesday evening.

Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore andTourism Minister Leo Varadkar presided at the launch of The Gathering 2013in New YorkCity, a major initiative aimed at encouraging members of the Irish Diaspora from around the world to reconnect with their roots in the homeland – and have an unforgettable time while doing so.

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Varadkar told the more than 300 Irish Americans in attendance that Ireland is ready to showcase itself in a big way next year to visitors from America and beyond.

“Our economy collapsed in 2008 and it’s been very difficult for our people. One of the ways we’re rebuilding is through tourism,” said Varadkar.

Irish Americans are key when it comes to ensuring the success ofThe Gathering, which will offer special events across all spectrums – culture, sports, heritage and much more – throughout Ireland in 2013.

“The Gathering is going to be a great year, celebrating all that is Irish,” said Varadkar, noting also that 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s historic visit to Ireland.

Events will be plentiful in Ireland come the start of 2013, and the welcome will be better than ever before promises Varadkar, born and raised in Dublin to an Irish mother and Indian father.

In particular, the 2013 St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin will offer visitors an opportunity like never before, to march up O’Connell Street behind the banner of their country or county of origin.

“It’s the only year we’ve ever done that, and the only year we will do it,” said Varadkar,comparing the start of the Dublin march to the opening of the Olympics.

Irish Americans coming home to Ireland are an integral part of The Gathering, but the initiative also aims to attract those who don’t have Irish roots.

“We’re asking people to come to Ireland, and to bring other people with them,” said Varadkar, noting that corporate outreach in the form of business meetings and conferences will also be catered to via special Gathering initiatives.

Tourism is one of Ireland’s most important industries, Varadkar said, and the U.S. market is second behind visitors from Great Britain. However,American visitors tend to stay longer in

Ireland and spend more during their visits, and they can expect to receive value for their money in 2013.

“I know things were expensive a couple of years ago, but that’s not the case now,” saidVaradkar.

Though the focus of The Gathering centers on 2013, Varadkar stressed that the initiative is far from a one-shot marketing deal.

“Not at all,” he said. “In many ways (during the Irish boom) we turned our back on the 70 million

Irish overseas. And the change in Ireland’s fortunes has led us to look at these relationships again, and we will build on that for the future.”

Gilmore, in New York for a series of meetings at the United Nations, also expressed enthusiasm for The Gathering.

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“We’re looking forward to a lot of tourists in Ireland next year,” he said.

Joe Byrne, executive vice president of Tourism Ireland in North America, promised that visitors to the country next year will have a memorable time.

“The welcome waiting for you will be warmer than ever,” he said.

For more information on all that’s going on in Ireland next year, visit