BY DECLAN VARLEY
One of Ireland’s leading diaspora initiatives has launched a new network of regional Irish partners to connect those of Irish heritage abroad with their places of origin.
Ireland Reaching Out (IrelandXO ), which has more than 150,000 members worldwide, wants to team up with local organisations to help drive regional tourism as part of the economic recovery.
The charity plans to build on the surge in people tracing their Irish roots during the lockdowns and who now wish to travel to Ireland as the country starts to reopen.
To support this expected influx of Irish Diaspora tourists to Ireland, the Irish Partner Network of Ireland Reaching Out has been established.
This new network of regionally-based partners aims to improve the service offered to diaspora as they visit Ireland – both north and south.
Three key groups – Visit Castlebar, Tower Museum and Ballyhoura Development CLG — have already joined and Ireland Reaching Out is now seeking other interested regional heritage and tourism groups to join.
Established in 2010, Ireland Reaching Out is a volunteer-driven, non-profit organisation connecting people of Irish heritage with the local community in their place of origin in Ireland. It is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade and is based in County Galway.
This unique charity offers anyone from anywhere in the world with Irish roots the chance to connect with the community they have descended from by engaging with locals on the ground and online through its online platform – IrelandXO.com Members avail of free advice from a large team of volunteers, helping them to trace their roots and connect with their Irish place of origin.
Ireland Reaching Out has sought partners who are leaders in heritage and tourism in their regions. Each Network Partner will provide support to Ireland Reaching Out volunteers in a number of surrounding counties in order to increase engagement with the diaspora in those areas.
The first three partnerships established are:
Visit Castlebar – which will cover the counties of: Sligo, Roscommon, Mayo, Leitrim, and Donegal
Tower Museum – which will cover the counties of Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Down, Armagh and Antrim
Ballyhoura Development CLG – which will cover the counties of Cork, Kerry and Limerick.
Laura Colleran, Ireland Reaching Out Programme Manager, said the network of regional partners will provide assistance and support to the many Ireland Reaching Out Volunteers across the island of Ireland. It will also ensure that those visiting Ireland for the first time to trace their roots in Ireland have a better chance to engage with the locals living in their communities of origin in Ireland.
“With volunteer help, they may get to see the homestead of their Irish forebearers, walk the land their people farmed before leaving Ireland, see the graves of their ancestor and, if possible, get to meet living relatives in Ireland. As we emerge from COVID restrictions and look to develop creative solutions that re-ignite tourism, IrelandXO is an important diaspora engagement resource for the whole country.”
Mick Baynes, Tourism Officer for Visit Castlebar, said their objective at Visit Castlebar is to promote tourism in Castlebar and the surrounding areas. But this partnership with Ireland Reaching Out is about the wider experience of the West and the North West. We will be collaborating with volunteers in Mayo, Sligo, Roscommon, Leitrim and Donegal to increase tourism for all the counties. If we can get people to one of the counties in our area, it benefits the wider area. If all the countries act and work together as a unit, it is an investment in the entire region.”
If you are interested in volunteering, becoming (or supporting ) a regional partner, please contact Ireland Reaching Out at [email protected]