Galway City delegation, members of the Chicago Sister Cities Committee, Ireland XO and Consul General Aidan Cronin with Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Ireland Reaching Out began its first major outreach drive to the Irish-American diaspora with a busy and successful visit to Galway’s Sister City, Chicago and the Milwaukee Irish Fest 2012.
The Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel has asked Ireland XO to trace the Irish roots of his wife who has Irish ancestry - this is just one of the many hundreds of requests that the team took home from their first major outreach to the Irish-American diaspora in the US Mid-West.
As part of a delegation which included both Galway City and County Councils as well as Fáilte Ireland, members of the Ireland Reaching Out Programme travelled last week to Chicago, en route to the 2012 Milwaukee Irish Fest. Supported by local volunteers from the Chicago area, the team “reached out” to the estimated 120,000 attendees at the Fest to sign up Irish-Americans interested in tracing their roots and one day returning to the parish of their ancestors. There was extraordinary interest shown by those engaged in linking to their Irish Heritage and the majority of them were planning a visit to Ireland for The Gathering 2013.
In Chicago, Ireland XO made presentations at the Irish American Heritage Centre and Gaelic Park in Chicago where Irish culture, language, music, dance and sport is celebrated by many thousands of members. In excess of 150 people attended both venues where Mike Feerick and Henry Healy of Ireland Reaching Out explained their work and closer co-operation between the organisations is envisaged. In particular, the IAHC has an excellent library and archives as well as a monthly genealogy group which Ireland XO intends to leverage.
At Milwaukee, the ancestral details of over 600 Irish-Americans were signed up for the programme. These ranged from one Virginia State resident tracing his ancestor’s departure from the town of Ballina in Mayo in 1740 and now having 1,200 people on his family tree (all members of the Ballina, Co Mayo Diaspora!), to those who were finding out for the first time about the Irish origins of their grandfather.
The Ireland Reaching Out (Ireland XO) project won the special award at the national “Pride of Place” Awards in Nov 2011 and in February 2012, was voted the “Best Community” initiative nationally by the Local Authorities Members Awards (LAMA). The project was founded in South-East Galway by tech entrepreneur Mike Feerick in 2009 and has been funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Heritage Council, the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Ireland Funds, Galway County Council, Galway Rural Development (GRD), and Irish-American sources. Sponsors include Google, Guinness, An Post, and the National Library. In Dec 2011, the project launched a global partnership with the GAA, agreeing to link newly identified members of the Irish Diaspora to the network of nearly 500 GAA clubs worldwide. Well-known broadcasters and economists David McWilliams and George Lee have been prominent supports of Ireland XO pointing out the extraordinary economic potential of the project, which rises well beyond the immediate and obvious tourism opportunity. The Ireland Reaching Out project aims to connect over million people through the project by the end of 2013. It believes it can achieve a database of 10 million members of the Irish Diaspora, including delivering one million additional visits to the island of Ireland by 2016.
For further information on the Ireland Reaching Out Programme, or getting involved, please contact [email protected] or telephone 091 842 013.