Comment: The Gathering has merit

Gabriel Byrne’s volley of criticism of the The Gathering last week has put the focus firmly on the objectives of the initiative, and more importantly our relationship with the disapora and issues relating to the plight of emigrants.

Gabriel Byrne’s volley of criticism of the The Gathering last week has put the focus firmly on the objectives of the initiative, and more importantly our relationship with the disapora and issues relating to the plight of emigrants.

The last few years has seen a renewed wave of emigration, in the wake of the financial and economic crisis that has engulfed the country.

The Gathering has a social and economic objective - namely to invite people back to the country next year, and in so doing reap the benefits of the wealth and employment this will bring.

Its success or otherwise is dependent largely on the voluntary effort of local groups and individuals, with the idea of personal invitiations been issued to friends and family members who are abroad. At local level it is hoped to have clan reunions, festivals and a host of other events.

The buy in from the public, and from expats, remains to be seen.

However, already in this area local groups are making tentative plans for the event, and have embraced it willingly.

The objective of the Gathering, to create a renewed sense of community together with those who are abroad, is laudable. At a time of so much negativity, the idea of celebrating everything that is best about our society has real merit.

That said, Gabriel Byrne’s comments should certainly not be dismissed out of hand.

The disconnect and sense of abandonment that he points to among those who have emigrated is very real. Recent emigrants feel abandoned and let down by a State that has largely failed them. There is a chasm that exists for those who have been forced to leave.

Bridging this, and reaching out to the diaspora needs to be a long term project with tangible aims and results.

The Gathering is but one plank in this. It should not be a once off, but should be followed through with long term policies that addresses the needs of those who have left, and gives them some sense of input into their native country.