Tag Archives: The Gathering Ireland

Best of the Blog, 2013

This is my first annual “Best of the Blog,” a look at some of the most important news stories, historical anniversaries and personal favorite posts of the past year. I am not numbering the list to avoid the appearance of rank. Most links are to my original posts.

Enjoy, and Happy New Year:

  • The most significant personal milestone of the year was the centennial of my grandfather’s May 1913 emigration from County Kerry. I detailed Willie Diggin’s trip in a series of posts and recently published book, “His Last Trip: An Irish-American Story.”
  • The year 2013 marked the 150th anniversary of the Irish Brigades fighting in the Battle of Gettysburg and Irish-Catholic anti-conscription riots in New York City. It was the 100th anniversary of the Dublin labor lockout and the formation of the Irish Volunteers.
  • Ireland also noted the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s return to his ancestral homeland in June 1963. November marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of America’s first Irish-Catholic president.
  • Ireland liberalized its abortion laws in 2013 after a contentious debate with the Catholic Church, including a controversial appearance at the Boston College commencement by Irish PM Enda Kenny. Kenny won the abortion battle, but his effort to abolish the Seanad Éireann was defeated in a nationwide referendum.
  • The Irish community in Boston was in the news with the trial and conviction of mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, and the election of new mayor Martin J. Walsh.
  • The Irish Independent obtained recorded telephone conversations between former Anglo Irish Bank executives that revealed the depth of deception leading up to a government bailout of the failed financial institution. The Irish banking scandal and property bust reached all the way to Tampa, where I have covered problems with a retail and entertainment complex called Channelside Bay Plaza.
  • The Gathering Ireland 2013 focused on increasing visitors to their ancestral homeland. Project officials said it delivered more than a quarter million overseas tourists as of Dec. 23.
  • RIP: The passing of Seamus Heaney, 1939-2013, was probably the most significant death in Ireland during the year. Watch New York Times video tribute. The death of Margaret Thatcher also caused quite a stir on the island, though hardly as affectionate.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama and other global leaders attended the G8 Summit at County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, something that would have been unthinkable a generation ago. Nevertheless, as the year ended, U.S. envoy Dr. Richard Haass and Northern Ireland political leaders were still trying to finalize on agreement to solve ongoing problems with flags, parades and the past.
  • The past year was the 125th anniversary of the murder of Kerry farmer John Foran, a victim of the agrarian violence so widespread across Ireland in general and Kerry in particular during the last quarter of the 19th century. I look forward to doing more research and writing about this episode and the period in the new year.
This image of Kerry was used to illustrate a New York Times story headlined "Lost In Ireland. I've had it posted at my desk since it was published in October 2010. In 2014, I'll be moving to Washington, D.C. and look forward to seeing what's beyond the hill.

This image of rural road in Kerry illustrated a New York Times story headlined “Lost In Ireland. It was published in October 2010. I’ve kept the picture posted at my work desk ever sense. In 2014 I’ll be moving to Washington, D.C. and look forward to seeing what’s beyond the hill.

Blog celebrates first anniversary with 100th post; Gathering year at halfway mark

This is the 100th post of my Irish-American Blog, which also reaches its first anniversary this month. Thanks for the support.

For the occasion, here’s a link to Niall O’Dowd’s recent post on Irish Central, which celebrates the success of the Gathering 2013, a year-long tourism initiative encouraging people of Irish ancestry to return to the motherland. O’Dowd writes:

The weather has been cooperating with the warmest summer in some time which has really helped….There is always a match or a festival or some event to go to, and the people themselves seem energized by the foreigners who flock to their shore….It is as if Ireland has cast aside its penitent robes after the shock of the bad times and found a new suit that fits the upbeat mood perfectly….Sure there will be problems ahead, and winter’s dark days will draw in again, but the summer of 2013 will rightly be remembered as when The Gathering called countless Irish home.

Second quarter tourism numbers should be forthcoming from Fáilte Ireland later this month. Travel to Ireland was up 7.4 percent during the first quarter of 2013 compared to the previous year.



Cruise’s ‘Irish heritage’ certificate a wee bit too much for many

The gifting of a Certificate of Irish Heritage to actor Tom Cruise seems to be generating more outrage than good will for Irish tourism. Here’s a sample of reader comments from The Irish Times story:

Millionaire American discovered to have Irish ancestry. This wouldn’t be the Year Of The Gathering would it?

Anything to get the tourists in! What next? Osama Bin Ladens great great granny was from Aran Mór?

This desperate need to claim everyone and everything as Irish is pathetic.

The Times also did a story in October about how the CIH wasn’t attracting much support. It suggested “a paltry 0.00167 per cent of our 60 million diaspora are willing to shell out €40 for a piece of paper that proclaims their right to eat Taytos and to stand up when the DJ plays the national anthem doesn’t bode well for The Gathering 2013, our ‘spectacular, year-long celebration of all things Irish.’ “

Besides, Far and Away was horrible, in part because of TC’s terrible Irish accent.

So was the Foreign Births Registration of Irish citizenship I obtained in 1997 a similar sentimental shakedown? I don’t think so. At least I’ve known most of my Irish relatives in person. And the Ireland/EU passport I hold is a real document, hardly something “suitable for framing.”

At least it lets me walk through the “Irish Only” line at Dublin Airport.

The Gathering, 2013

The Emerald Isle is promoting a giant homecoming called The Gathering Ireland 2013.

The year-long event “is about the people of Ireland throwing open our arms and inviting anyone with a connection to our country to come and visit.”

In addition to feel-good reunions and genealogy, the promotion is designed to boost tourism and other economic development. The number of visitors to Ireland was flat during the first half of 2012, though increased slightly in the second quarter, The Irish Times reported.

The timing of next year’s “Gathering” has special resonance in my family. My grandmother emigrated in September 1912; my grandfather in May 2013. Both were from rural north Kerry.

More on their centennial voyage, and next year’s events, in future blogs.