Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar launch the Gathering Ireland 2013

NEW YORK, Oct. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Throughout 2013, Ireland will open its arms to hundreds of thousands of friends and family from all over the world, calling them home to gatherings in villages, towns and cities.

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There will be clan gatherings, festivals, special sporting events and concerts taking place all across the country and whether you are Irish born, Irish bred or Irish in spirit you are invited to join in this unique celebration.

At the last census 44 million Americans claimed Irish heritage and the Tanaiste (Irish Deputy Prime Minister) Eamon Gilmore and the Irish Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar have come to New York to call on our great Diaspora and its friends, to visit Ireland in 2013 and be part of "the Gathering."

Irish Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar T.D, "I am delighted to be here in New York along with the Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and we carry with us a very special message from the government of Ireland. We want to invite anyone with a connection to Ireland to come and visit and be part of our unique celebration, 'The Gathering.' The Gathering will provide a wonderful opportunity for people from New York to reconnect with family and friends, to make new friends and to join in a modern celebration of what it means to be Irish."

Minister Varadkar continued, "The Gathering is a people's project. It's all about you, your family, your neighbors, your sports club, your college, your company or your business organization – in fact, whatever community or group you belong to – planning special events in Ireland that will highlight what is great about our shared history and Ireland as a whole."

Minister Varadkar will also attend Gathering launch events this week in Boston, Chicago and Toronto where he will meet with airline representatives, business organizations and key trade and media contacts. He will also perform a ribbon cutting ceremony to open the new "Ireland's Great Hunger Museum" at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.

Joe Byrne, Executive Vice President, Tourism Ireland US and Canada said, "We are delighted to welcome the Tanaiste and Minister Varadkar here to the US. We, at Tourism Ireland, look forward to working with all of our great friends in this city and across the US as we prepare for a very special year in 2013. 'The Gathering' is a wonderful opportunity for us all to celebrate what it means to be Irish and what better place to do that than on the island itself."

Joe Byrne continued, "Over one million people made the trip from North America to Ireland last year and we look forward to building on that great figure as we look to the gathering in 2013. With great air access and attractive on-the-ground offers, our travel partners are ready and waiting to help you plan your gathering and to ensure that we deliver the experience of a lifetime."

For information on how to become part of the Gathering please visit www.thegatheringireland.com

For information on traveling to Ireland please check out www.discoverireland.com

SOURCE Tourism Ireland