Belfast Telegraph

Call to expand Irish tourism drive

A tourism drive to attract the Irish Diaspora back home should be expanded to encourage those with Ulster Scots roots to make the trip, Martin McGuinness has told the Assembly.

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

But the Deputy First Minister told the Assembly that the 2013 initiative should be considered by Executive ministers - as long as it reflected all traditions.

The Sinn Fein representative said he understood unionist concerns about the campaign.

"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 and indeed many others in different parts of the world, be it in Australia, Canada or elsewhere, I think that's something that's absolutely worthy of consideration," he 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 for all of us but to do it in a way that everybody's comfortable with," he said.

"And I think if we were to consider the prospect that the whole concept of The Gathering could be expanded then of course this is something I would have to discuss with ministerial colleagues and seek their support for, and if that could be done in a way that's inclusive, that everybody is comfortable with, then I think it's certainly worthy of consideration."

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