Northern Ireland will be urged to become part of The Gathering, which aims to attract Irish descendants from around the world and draw tourists to both the north and south of Ireland.

The SDLP party will sponsor a motion calling for the North to get involved in the effort to bring tens of thousands back to their roots next year.

The Republic's tourism minister, Leo Varadkar, hopes the plan will attract 300,000 extra visitors in 2013, raising 200 million euro for the economy.

"The Gathering: An Irish Homecoming is a fantastic tourism initiative being advanced by Tourism Ireland with the aim of bringing the Irish diaspora home and stimulating the economy," said SDLP deputy leader Dolores Kelly.

"The majority of people of Irish descent living abroad regard Ireland as all 32 counties and therefore The Gathering should be embraced on an all-island basis to benefit every part of Ireland both North and South.

"Tourism is a key economic driver on our island and, as public representatives, we have a duty to maximise upon the tourism potential of The Gathering in the run up to 2013 and make it, not only a truly wonderful year for Ireland, but use it as a springboard for future events, investment and tourism inflow."

She added: "It makes good economic sense for our Executive to work with their southern counterparts to broaden and deepen their working relationships, stimulate tourism, create jobs and improve the quality of government services for everyone on our island."


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