NO idea is too small to share, no idea too big – that was the clear message from Donal Fitzgibbon when he opened the “ideas-laboratory” for the Limerick Gathering 2013 in Adare. And he stressed that it was all about a can-do attitude.
Almost 200 people had assembled for the first community meeting to organise the Gathering, one of the largest to be held around the country to date.
And the emphasis was clearly on what each community could do to make the Limerick Gathering a success.
As Mr Fitzgibbon explained to the Limerick Leader, The Gathering isn’t necessarily about organising major events. “It could be a team reunion, a class reunion, it could be a formal festival. The whole idea is you are bringing people back to this country, to share in something that is going on. And we want the ideas to come from the communities.”
Originally, The Gathering was seen as a tourism initiative, Fionan Nestor, a member of the national co-ordinating team explained.
But it has since evolved into something much more than that, he added.
For many of the 70-million strong Irish diaspora, it was an opportunity to contribute and to help Ireland out of its current economic difficulties.
And Mr Nestor urged people not to underestimate the power of the personal approach, of the personal invitation to come “home”.
At national level, there would be a number of “headline” events, he said and the country’s many national and regional festivals would also be promoted. But he stressed:
“What is going to make this initiative a success will be a layer of local, grass-roots, authentic gatherings.”
“This is about making things happen,” facilitator Margaret Barry said before the main work of the evening, generating ideas, got underway.
The participants were broken into small, working groups, each with its own facilitator, and asked to come up with ideas “that would serve Limerick well”.
Their task, Ms Barry said, was to list some of the great things about their community in Limerick, to identify ideas that would entice people to visit and then to shortlist some big ideas that could be acted on.
One local group, Murroe/Boher Historical Society proved to be well ahead with their big idea and arrived at the meeting with a Week of Welcome already planned.
“We have sent out 600 invitations and we got about 50 replies so far,” explained Aine Laumenech “And five or six people have already confirmed they will be coming.”
Ironically, the meeting was already working in reverse for Tim O’Connor and his wife Martha, from Vermont.
The couple were holidaying in Ireland and found out about The Gathering, and in particular about a Fitzgerald reunion, when they came to stay at the Woodlands House Hotel.
“We thought it was a wonderful idea and we said we would like to participate,” Martha explained. Tim, whose roots are in Kerry, was ready and waiting with his idea.
“There are 20 families of Fitzgeralds in the Brattleboro phone-book,” he said. And he planned to bring some of them back for the Fitzgerald reunion next year. Already, 19 events have been registered, the co-ordinator for Co Limerick, Mary Killeen-Fitzgerald told the Limerick Leader.
But the expectation is that this will double and treble over the coming weeks and months – and a calendar of all the events will be posted on www.limerick.ie.
Donal Fitzgibbon has urged communities not represented at Tuesday’s meeting to get involved.