Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Ireland tourism drive needs Lambegs as well as leprechauns

Colin McCusker beats out a steady rhythm as his brother James listens in while tuning the Lambeg drum before the Twelfth parade through Lurgan. The brothers are both members of Boconnell LOL 123. Picture By Rick Hewitt. 12/7/11.
Looking down on Downhill Beach and Benone, from the Mussenden Temple, on a sunny March afternoon. Submitted by Rory Dunne
Coast Rd Aug 2003. Loney NJ USA

Lambegs could join leprechauns in a bid to encourage the Irish diaspora to come back home, after the deputy First Minister said he wanted anyone with Ulster Scots roots to holiday here.

Some unionists have rejected calls for the Dublin-backed initiative ‘The Gathering’ to be promoted by the Northern Ireland Executive, claiming it was too green and relied too heavily on cliched images of leprechauns and donkeys.

But Martin McGuinness has told the Assembly that the 2013 initiative should be considered by ministers — as long as it reflected all traditions.

“If there was some opportunity to expand the whole concept of The Gathering in a way that would see the Ulster Scots people of North America included for example ... I think that's something that's absolutely worthy of consideration,” the Sinn Fein man said.

“I think what we have to do is recognise that whenever this project was first mooted I think it is understandable that there may have been some concern among some of our colleagues in this Assembly about how that would be used.”

Mr McGuinness was briefing the Assembly about last month's North South Ministerial Council meeting with counterparts from Dublin.

The SDLP's Colum Eastwood had asked the deputy First Minister if he would fully engage with Dublin on The Gathering. Mr McGuinness said it was “hugely important” to gain mutual benefit out of tourist initiatives.

“I like to approach these things in a way that sees us gain mutual benefit , but to do it in a way that everybody's comfortable with,” he said.

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