All-Ireland approach needed for ‘The Gathering’ - McShane

BALLYCASTLE Sinn Féin councillor, Cara McShane, has said that the side-stepping by the North’s Tourism Minister towards ‘The Gathering 2013’ initiative by the Dublin government, will be detrimental to the tourism economy here.

Cllr Cara McShane was speaking after passing a motion recently in Moyle District Council, which called on Arlene Foster as the North’s Tourist Minister to join up with her counter-part in the South to promote ‘The Gathering’ initiative on an all-island basis.

The Sinn Féin Councillor said: “The Gathering 2013 – An Irish Homecoming, is a fantastic tourism initiative aimed at bringing the Irish diaspora back home next year in a series of organised events. Hundreds of events are planned throughout the twenty-six counties, however the North has been excluded.

“Indeed Tourism Ireland has been tasked to market The Gathering 2013. Under the Good Friday Agreement, Tourism Ireland was established to market the entire island.”

Cllr McShane said tax-payers money North and South pays for this body to function and yet they were being put on the back-foot because Arlene Foster would not engage on an all-island basis to promote Ireland abroad.

“The simple reality is that there are many people who left these shores before partition and they speak of their heritage as Irish regardless of whether they perceive themselves as unionists or nationalists. There are millions of people worldwide who claim to be of Irish ancestry and many who are first and second generation emigrants from this island.

“It is extremely disappointing therefore that the Minister tasked with Tourism here has refused so far to become involved in this Homecoming. This is too big an opportunity to be missed.

“It is ironic too that one of the ambassador’s of The Gathering is Liam Neeson, who proudly hails from North Antrim, and yet his own constituency is excluded from the events taking place.

“I am pleased that my colleagues in the Council supported my proposal to write to Arlene Foster expressing our concerns and to also write to the organisers to request that events happening in our area during the period in 2013 are included in the marketing.”