The summer camp program for U.S. high school teenagers announced by the Irish government at the Global Irish Economic Forum last week is a major step in the right direction. The Irish government also announced grants for writers and publications which cover Ireland and Irish themes, also a very worthy effort.
Under the summer camp program, based on a similar one called Birthright run by Israel, thousands of Irish American kids between 15 and 17 will be exposed to their roots, culture and history as well as modern Ireland for a two week period every summer.
In the Israeli case more than 400,000 youths from the diaspora have visited the homeland since the program began in the early 1990s -- a truly impressive number.
While the Israeli program takes youths between 18-26, the high school qualification in the Irish program, which starts off with a pilot program in the summer of 2016, is a valuable exercise too.
At a time when Irish heritage in America is undergoing extraordinary change both good and bad, a touchstone program linking new generations of Irish with their ancestral homeland is very valuable.
Without a constant stream of Irish emigrants coming to America, much greater focus must be aimed at the Irish American part of the equation.
With very little possibility of immigration reform given the prevailing mood in the U.S., the need to work hard at alternate connections has never been greater.
The good news is that discoveries such as the Internet have allowed millions worldwide to access the culture where they were unable to before.
Our sister publication IrishCentral.com attracts three million unique visitors a month after starting at 10,000 a month, a sure example of the potential.
The GAA has also done sterling work introducing Irish native games to generations of young Irish Americans. The thousands who attend the juvenile North American GAA championships every year is a wonderful example of that.
Last Sunday there were close to 30,000 in Fenway Park to witness an Irish hurling game between Dublin and Galway, hardly an indication of a dying sport. Indeed, the attendance was one of the largest in history for a GAA event in America. Kudos to the Gaelic Players Association in Ireland who helped make it happen.
So the new summer program comes at a time when the Internet, dedicated volunteers and the sheer ease of gaining information has given a huge boost to the Irish-U.S. relationship.
Years ago a pioneer in this field, Dr. Eoin McKiernan, launched the Irish Way, a program for teenagers to go to Ireland which was successful but sadly underfunded.
The new program administered by the Irish government will hardly lack for support. it is something that the Irish have come quite late to, but nonetheless is very welcome.
Tourism experts know that the key moment for future adherents of Ireland abroad is to visit the country. Ireland is one of those rare places that works its charms on even the fussiest travelers.
If you have been once it is highly likely you will return, which makes this a very good investment all around. We look forward to seeing the first class of 2016 begin their Irish odyssey.
The investment in writers is also a great step. In a world where getting noticed amid the media madness of every kind of device possible, the incentive to write about Ireland is a very necessary step.
Much of the emigrant press, like press everywhere, has been hit very hard by the massive changes in the publishing industry which has thrown the old ways completely out the door.
Allowing writers to know their work on Ireland will be properly compensated for and will have an audience is a very important step.
Keeping the diaspora press alive, which had always been a lifeline for communities, is deeply important. These new steps should certainly help.