Mary Robinson to attend Mayo north Gathering

A flagship Gathering event planned for the north Mayo area received a major boost this week with the news that Ballina’s most famous citizen, former president of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, is to be guest of honour and keynote speaker at the festival’s gala dinner in Ballina on August 9 next.

The Mayo North Welcome Home Festival will run from August 1 to 9 and is aimed at attracting at least 300 additional overseas visitors to the area and providing them with a unique holiday experience based on the best of what the north Mayo area has to offer in terms of culture, heritage, scenery, leisure activities, and entertainment. The festival organisers are working closely with representatives of the Irish community in Manchester and also drawing on twin town arrangements which Ballina already has in place with Leeds, as well as with Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and Scranton, Pennsylvania. Of course, a general invitation is being issued to all of the Irish Diaspora in the UK, the USA, and elsewhere to come home for the festival. People in the north Mayo area generally are encouraged to invite home their relatives for the event.

Accepting the local committee’s invitation to attend the gala dinner, Mrs Robinson said: “I am very happy to attend a major Gathering event in my home town. I am deeply conscious of the high level of emigration from Ballina and the wider north Mayo area, particularly during the 1950s when I was growing up in Ballina. Thousands emigrated to Manchester, Leeds, and other UK cities as well as to the USA and further afield. The Gathering provides a unique opportunity for Irish people to welcome back those who were obliged to leave home in order to earn a livelihood. I am pleased to have the opportunity to join in that welcome by attending the Mayo North Welcome Home Festival.”

Festival chairman, Vincent Roche, said his committee was delighted that the former president had agreed to be guest speaker at the gala dinner which would be the final event of a packed nine-day programme. He said that people of Irish ancestry everywhere greatly appreciated Mary Robinson’s commitment to the Irish Diaspora and her attendance at the Welcome Home Festival would clearly underline that commitment.

 

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