The Irish Government Gets It Right

The Irish Government Finally Gets It Right

Men, women, and children dressed in hooded robes and sandals… Dancers joining hands along the banks of the Liffey for a Riverdance showdown… People with red hair gathering together to celebrate…well…their red hair…

Have the Irish people gone completely mad?

Last year, the Irish Tourist Board announced that 2013 would be the year of “The Gathering” and launched a massive campaign to encourage individuals and communities all around the country to come up with ideas to reunite their globally-spread families and friends by hosting their own take on the “gathering” theme.

Now, when an unpopular (to put it kindly) government in a struggling economy calls on its people to invite home their emigrant friends and family for a party (read: much-needed tourist income), you can’t blame those people for feeling a little cynical.

Nobodys going to buy it, I thought.

But they did.

On our recent vacation in Tralee, County Kerry, I saw posters everywhere calling on people to join in “Monk Day” in nearby Ardfert. This gathering, in the little village where St. Brendan built a modest monastery in the 6th century, was an attempt to break the existing Guinness World Record for the number of costumed monks together in one place. The village did St. Brendan proud, making the new record 472 (the old record was 250).

This month, master classes in Irish dancing are taking place in Dublin in preparation for another world record-breaking attempt. On July 21, Jean Butler–who partnered with Michael Flatley for the original Riverdance show–returns to the quays that run along Dublin’s River Liffey. There, she’ll join hands with what is hoped to be the longest line of Irish step-dancers, pounding their feet to the haunting music that took the world by storm almost two decades ago.

Riverdance tells the story of Irish immigration to America. And now, its calling home our emigrants to be part of this 1,000-person-long (the target) dance on the banks of the Liffey. The current record is 652, held by Nashville, Tennessee. I’ll keep you posted on the final result later this month.

Meanwhile, Cork is preparing for one of the wackiest gatherings, scheduled for August 23 to 25. What started off as a joke in one family in Crosshaven, County Cork, the “Annual Redhead Convention” has been running since 2010. This year, the organizers are calling on redheads across Ireland and overseas to join in the fun and raise funds for the Irish Cancer Society.

The program includes a freckle-counting competition, a redhead parade, ginger chef cook-off, and redhead photo shoots. And, over the days of the gathering, natural redheads–which make up just 2% of the worlds population–can enjoy discounts around town.

Whatever the governments motivation, “The Gathering” has restored much-needed fun and pride across Ireland this year. And, it makes it a particularly great year to come explore the Emerald Isle. From sporting clashes to beer fests to clan gatherings, you can see all upcoming events on the official website.

Of course, Irish blood–or red hair for that matter–is not a requirement. All are most welcome to join in the party.

Lynn Mulvihill


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