SDLP Derry City Councillor Martin Reilly has said Derry’s City of Culture celebrations should be a significant part in ‘The Gathering’, the Irish Government’s plans to bring people with Irish connections to Ireland next year.
Colr Reilly’s been speaking in support of his party’s call on the Executive to support and encourage Tourism Ireland’s plans for ‘The Gathering: An Irish Homecoming’ in 2013, promoting Ireland as a tourism destination to 70 million people worldwide.
He has called on the Tourism Minister, Arlene Foster, to engage with her southern counterpart Leo Varadkar to ensure that the benefit from these plans is derived on an all-island basis and that Derry’s City of Culture celebrations are included as an integral attraction.
Colr Reilly was on a recent Derry City Council trip to Los Angeles, where he helped promote business and tourisms links with Derry as part of the Clipper round the world yacht race.
Speaking yesterday, when the SDLP had a motion at the Stormont Assembly on the issue of ‘The Gathering’, Mr Reilly, said: “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 our economy.
“Our first meeting in San Francisco was with the Irish Consulate General and we raised the issue of the diaspora coming home to visit the North West in 2013.
“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 a truly wonderful year for Ireland. We should also use it as a springboard for future events, investment and tourism inflow.
“Given that The Gathering is aiming to market our tourism jewels to a global audience in 2013, it is vital that Derry’s City of Culture celebrations are included when marketing our country’s main attractions.
“I am appealing to the Tourism Minister, Arlene Foster, to enter into the spirit of co-operation on an all-island basis and see the wider benefits which could be achieved if she engaged with the Irish Minister for Tourism to promote this initiative.
“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.”