President Michael D Higgins visited Liverpool today to meet members of the Irish community, at a special Tourism Ireland event on board the L.E. Eithne to highlight The Gathering Ireland 2013.
The President, who is making an official visit to Liverpool and Manchester this week, was undertaking his first official ‘Gathering’ engagement since becoming its Patron. It was also the first time that a ‘Gathering’ event has taken place on board the L.E. Eithne, the flagship of the Irish Naval Service. The President urged the Irish community in Liverpool to come home next year and to encourage their extensive networks of family, friends and business colleagues to organise their own ‘Gatherings’ here in Ireland during 2013.
Mark Henry, Tourism Ireland’s central marketing director, said: “Millions of people in Britain have family links with Ireland, particularly in Liverpool and the North West, and we are delighted that President Michael D Higgins, in his new role as Patron of The Gathering Ireland, is helping us to reach out to those people, to encourage them to come home in 2013 for what promises to be a truly special year. Tourism Ireland is undertaking an extensive programme of promotional activity across Britain, North America, Australia and New Zealand and elsewhere around the world, to highlight The Gathering and appeal to the tens of millions everywhere who claim Irish ancestry, as well as to all the others who feel linked to Ireland by friendship, business, education, interest or affinity.”
Brian Fitzgerald, captain of the L.E. Eithne, said: "The Irish Naval Service, while visiting Liverpool, is honoured to host a reception for the President of Ireland and Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces Michael D. Higgins, in association with The Gathering Ireland 2013. In doing so, the L.E. EITHNE poignantly retraced the steps of many thousands of the Irish Diaspora who departed Ireland from Dublin to enter a new life at Liverpool. As Ireland's principle seagoing agency, the Naval Service frequently travels abroad in support of Irish diplomacy and trade. The uniqueness of a state ship providing a little piece of Irish soil upon which to host such overseas activity stimulates attendance, enhances Ireland’s profile and presents an efficient use of a flexible and adaptable state asset. This is but one part of an overall Naval Service vision: to be the smartest, most innovative and responsive naval service provider in the world by 2016.”