Ireland’s state tourism body, Failte Ireland, has announced that Martin Sheen’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” amongst others, has helped to boost tourism numbers.
Recently, Martin Sheen traced his roots to a relative who was incarcerated in Dublin’s Kilmainham Gaol. During the documentary he discovered that his uncle Micheal Fieland was a leading figure in the IRA. Sheen stated he hoped he would have followed him if he was alive in Ireland at the time.
The actor also said he was delighted to discover that his mother’s brother from Tipperary had not taken part in the assassination of Michael Collins.
Sheen, whose real name is Ramon Estevez, was born to a Spanish father and Irish mother, Mary-Anne Fieland, from Borrisokane, in County Tipperary.
Failte Ireland says 90,000 overseas visitors came to Ireland in the last year to trace their Irish roots. They spent as much as $76.3 million (€61m) during their visits. Over 50 percent of these visitors were from North America.
A spokesperson said, “The proliferation of programmes such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” has sparked renewed interest in genealogy.
“Programmes like that can have as much an influence on roots tourism here as the likes of the visit of President Obama to Moneygall last year.”
They also expect that more overseas visitors will visit Ireland during The Gathering 2013, a series of events and festivals where people can trace their heritage.
Failte Ireland is examining how and where a National Diaspora Centre could be built in Ireland, after being requested to do so by the Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar.
Here’s a trailer for the NBC show “Who Do You Think You Are?”:

Here’s an interview with Martin Sheen on his “Who Do You Think You Are?”: