If you have Irish roots, then you might soon be receiving a letter of invitation from Ireland you may not have been expecting. Starting with a pilot project in South-East Galway, the descendants and friends of Irish emigrants are being invited to come home to Ireland this June to experience an unforgettable “Week of Welcomes”. The event is part of a new programme funded by the Irish government and Irish-American sources, aimed at reconnecting the Irish diaspora, numbered by some to be over 70 million worldwide, with the homeland. The “Week of Welcomes” promises to be an extraordinary experience, where Irish-Americans and people of Irish Heritage from around the world will gather to be welcomed and engaged by Irish people in their local communities, in a place of common ancestry where a deep and real connection is shared.
The week is part of a pilot project which will soon become a major nationwide initiative called “Ireland Reaching Out”, with a website at IrelandXO.org. “Ireland Reaching Out reverses the usual process of tracing your roots”, says founder and Chairperson Mike Feerick, who proposed the idea after the Farmleigh Global Irish Forum. “We’re facilitating local parishes in Ireland to reach out to those who left and their descendants, and reconnecting with them in a genuinely friendly way. We are looking forward to welcoming the diaspora back home for a week that we know will be an important event in the history of our relationship with the Irish abroad.”
While it’s an opportunity for cultural renewal and discovery, the week will be great fun. Special highlights include a “This Is Who You Are” Day, where participants learn about Irish history and the local history and heritage of the parish of their ancestors. Included with be tours through ancestral parishes and local tourist hotspots, including Galway City and the Cliffs of Moher; and the “reunion games”, where everyone can play on the parish team, even if your athletic skills stretch only so far as “official commiserator”!
There will be a host of learning opportunities, with workshops in activities like Irish dancing, tin whistle, genealogy, folklore, local history, Irish literature, grave visiting and even turf cutting, while the sporty can choose between golf, hill-walking, fishing, boating, or horse riding. You’ll even get to enjoy all the craic as a guest at the “wedding” of Patrick and Siobhan (don’t worry: the dress code is casual and they don’t want any presents!).
Anyone with links to South-East Galway are encouraged to participate in this year’s Week of Welcomes, and those with roots in the rest of Ireland should mark their calendars for the summer of 2012, when the programme will roll out nationwide. The programme runs June 26th to July 2nd , 2011; participants may come on their own or bring friends and family. A limited number of places will be reserved in each parish this year for people who simply want to be part of this extraordinary inaugural event and do not have direct links to a specific South-East Galway parish. Costs are being kept as low as possible. For more information, visit the website at irelandXO.org where you can read about the greater project and download the “Week of Welcomes” brochure or call Ireland Reaching Out in Ireland at 011 353 91 842013.