The Limerick Gathering 2013 aims to attract thousands

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

FIFTY years after the historic visit to Limerick of the late US president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the Limerick link to one of the world’s most iconic families will be renewed.

FIFTY years after the historic visit to Limerick of the late US president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the Limerick link to one of the world’s most iconic families will be renewed.

In June, 1963, the then Mayor of Limerick, Frances Condell declared to the visiting president: “We, the women of Limerick, claim you.” It was a reference to the fact that it was through the maternal line that Limerck claimed him as one of its own. JFK’s mother, Rose, was a grand-daughter of Thomas Fitzgerald who was born in Bruff in 1823 and emigrated to Boston in the 1840s.

But the link to JFK will be just one strand in a bigger coming-together of Fitzgeralds which is planned to take place in Limerick next year as part of The Gathering 2013.

Hotelier Mary Fitzgerald is upbeat about the Fitzgerald gathering which she is spearheading – and about the wider The Gathering 2013 which aims to reach out to the Irish diaspora and persuade over 300,000 of Irish descent to visit the country.

Explaining the background to the Fitzgerald gathering, she says she was inspired to look into the Fitzgerald family background because of her late father’s interest in genealogy but also because of the strong links between the Desmond Castle in Adare and the Fitzgeralds.

And now a seven-day Fitzgerald Gathering package has been put together which will help people from abroad to find out about their family links and the Fitzgerald family history.

The package, which is being promoted by Abbey Tours, includes two days in Dublin, three days in Cork and three days in Adare. Among the places to be visited will be Leinster House, once the Fitzgerald town house, Carton House, as well as Adare Castle and Glin Castle. A wide range of activities is being planned to fit around these visits, including a banquet in Adare and a series of three lectures explaining the history and geneology of the Fitzgeralds

But the Limerick Fitzgeralds who are related to JFK also hope to boost the numbers coming to Limerick by linking up with the Kennedys of Wexford who are also planning a big event to mark the 50th anniversary of JFK’s visit. The anniversary event is taking place at approximately the same time in June next year, and the hope is it will create its own synergy.

To make sure that happens, Mary Fitzgerald will meet the Kennedy 50th anniversary organisers next month and she has secured the patronage of the Knight of Kerry for the Fitzgerald event.

“This is the kind of approach we must all take if The Gathering 2013 is to be a success,” Ms Fitzgerald said. “It’s about making connections and working with other parts of the country.”

These and many other plans for what is the Limerick Gathering 2013 will be discussed at a public meeting in the Woodlands House Hotel next Tuesday night which has been called by the Limerick Gathering Steering Committee.

“The meeting will offer an opportunity for local people to learn more about The Gathering and how they can be involved,” committee chairman Donal Fitzgibbon said.

The meeting will also function as an “ideas lab” for possible Gathering events in Limerick and it is hoped it will kick-start a year of events which will boost local pride and touristm.

It starts at 7.00pm, and is open to everybody. For more details go to www.thegatheringireland.com.