I am delighted to be involved with the idea of having an international political Gathering in Dublin this year. International politicians with Irish heritage are to be invited to Dublin for a get together being organised as part of The Gathering. The event was announced in the Seanad chamber today, and is something that I have been working on with a cross party group of politicians, including Fianna Fail Senator, Mark Daly, and Labour Senator, Lorraine Higgins.
This is just one example of the hundreds of events that are happening up and down the country as part of The Gathering, which is aiming to increase tourism figures by 325,000 this year. Since coming into Government, we have identified tourism as a key driver of economic growth. Thanks to the lower VAT rate and a number of other measures, we have seen two consecutive years of rising tourism numbers, following three consecutive years of decline. I hope The Gathering can make 2013 an even more successful year.
The Gathering is all about connecting people in Ireland to each other and to Ireland’s global Diaspora. I believe the initiative will lead to a lasting legacy of new networks and stronger links with the Irish overseas. Most importantly, it presents an unprecedented opportunity for the Irish tourism industry to showcase what it has to offer.
The get together of international politicians is an effort by members of the Oireachtas to set a good example. We’ve been encouraging friends, family and colleagues to organise gatherings around the country, and now we’re trying to host an event ourselves.
For my part, I will be inviting politicians of Irish extraction, such as the Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and Brian Mulroney, the former Prime Minister of Canada. I hope they will come along for what is sure to be a great Gathering. I look forward to working with my colleagues in other parties on making this a successful effort.