The North's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said this week that the new tourism drive to attract the Irish Diaspora to visit Ireland in 2013 should be expanded to encourage those with Ulster Scots roots to also make the trip.

According to the Irish Independent some unionists have rejected calls for the Dublin government-endorsed 'The Gathering' tourism drive to be promoted by the Northern Ireland Executive.

The unionist politicians claimed that the initiative was 'too green and relied too heavily on images of leprechauns and donkeys.'

Responding to their concerns the Deputy First Minister told the Northern Assembly that the 2013 initiative should still be considered by Executive ministers, as long as it reflects all traditions. McGuinness added that he understood unionist concerns about the campaign.

'If there was some opportunity to expand the whole concept of The Gathering in a way that would see the Ulster Scots people of North America included for example and indeed many others in different parts of the world, be it in Australia, Canada or elsewhere, I think that's something that's absolutely worthy of consideration,' he said.

'I think what we have to do is recognise that whenever this project was first mooted I think it is understandable that there may have been some concern among some of our colleagues in this Assembly about how that would be used.'

McGuinness added that it was 'hugely important' to gain mutual benefit out of tourist initiatives.

'I like to approach these things in a way that sees us gain mutual benefit for all of us but to do it in a way that everybody's comfortable with,' he said.

'And I think if we were to consider the prospect that the whole concept of The Gathering could be expanded then of course this is something I would have to discuss with ministerial colleagues and seek their support for, and if that could be done in a way that's inclusive, that everybody is comfortable with, then I think it's certainly worthy of consideration.'


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