Leitrim Roots Festival, the county’s main event for the year of The Gathering next year was launched by Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring in Ballinamore Library last Thursday, November 15.
The Minister hailed the Leitrim Roots Festival as ”exactly what The Gathering is all about.” He told the festival committee who first ran the festival in 2006, “You were ahead of your time.”
Minister Ring complimented the “beautiful county and beautiful people of Leitrim.” He said that although the county is small, “good goods come in small parcels.”
The Leitrim Roots Festival returns next year with an eight day programme from September 20-28. The event is about fulfilling a lifelong dream for many Leitrim exiles both abroad and in Ireland when they return to Lovely Leitrim and visit their ancestral homes.
Visitors will get a professional tour guide around the county, experience the history, the unspoilt nature and discover the beauty from North to South as well getting treated to Leitrim food, arts, culture and legendary entertainment.
Minister Ring paid tribute to the Genealogy Centre who are running the event along with Leitrim Tourism and Leitrim County Council, he said the reputable Genealogy centre was a credit to the county.
In a very honest speech, Minister Ring explained that the EU tourist market and American markets are re-emerging, but that the British market is low because “when we had them, we ripped them off. They find us too expensive.”
With such work being put into The Gathering, Minister Ring asked everyone throughout the county, to treat our visitors “with respect, give them value for money and treat them well.”
He said Irish people need to really give tourists the best Cead Mile Failte we can. He said the people who visit Ireland will be “our ambassadors into the future.”
Minister Ring did not hide away from the recent criticism of The Gathering from actor Gabriel Byrne, but jokingly said “We all get out of bed on the wrong side some mornings.”
He said The Gathering has already 1,200 events organised for next year and he has received pledges from people all over the world who will come to Ireland to celebrate it.
They expect 325,000 more visitors will come into Ireland next year as a direct result of the initiative and he hopes at least 5,000 of those will visit Leitrim.
Minister thanked the committee for “organising this festival” stating “It will be a success” as he launched the 2013 brochure.
John Bredin, Chairman of the Genealogy Centre introduced the festival programme which runs for eight days September 20-28, 2013.
Senator Paschal Mooney, Chairman of Leitrim Tourism Forum and board member of the Genealogy centre paid tribute to the Genealogy centre which helps “with many thousand family queries” and contributes to visitor numbers, as families return “home” to see the place of their ancestors.
County Manager Jackie Maguire said it was her pleasure that the council could help fund this festival. She said she hopes the Roots festival will “entice people back to the county and to Ballinamore.”
The Leitrim Roots Festival will visit each part of the county on the eight day tour and will include Parkes Castle in Dromahair, a cruise on Lough Gill, Glencar Waterfall, Famine Memorials, Glenview Museum, the birth place of Margaret of New Orleans, Arigna Mining Experience, The Rainbow Ballroom of Romance, the homestead of 1916’s Sean Mac Diarmada and a cruise on the River Shannon as well as the Lough Rynn estate.
Visitors will also be treated to an exhibition of GAA football and hurling in Carrick-on-Shannon which celebrates 400 years next year, and will take part in a ‘Tracing your Ancestors’ workshop in Ballinamore County Library during the eight day event.
Prices for the full week package which includes guided tours, and some lunches, dinners and evening entertainment is €450 per person.
Full details and itinerary is on www.leitrimrootsfestival.com