Award-winning national community programme set to expand in the Shannon region

The Ireland Reaching Out programme is stepping up a gear and rolling out into the whole of the Shannon Region in the coming months. Following a successful pilot in East Galway, the Shannon region will be the first region in Ireland to be mobilised under the initiative. With the support of Shannon Development, there is the potential for over 376 parishes to participate in the pro-gramme. In the last two months, Shannon Develop-ment has facilitated numerous meetings to put structures in place to enable community involve-ment. Working with the LEADER groups across the Shannon region, the Ireland XO programme will engage with all interested parishes. In the coming weeks, John Joe Conwell, Parish Liaison Officer, Henry Healy, Community Activation Leader and members of the Ireland Reaching Out team will be holding information sessions in the Clare, Limerick, Offaly and Tipperary county areas.

In late June, West Limerick Resources held an initial information evening in Rathkeale House Hotel to provide an introduction to the concept of Ireland Reaching Out and help those present explore how West Limerick can get involved. Led by John Joe Conwell and other members of the Ireland XO team, including Henry Healy, the evening explored the pilot initiative that was run in South-East Galway in 2010/11 and the benefits that has since accrued to the local econ-omy as well as its local history and heritage. West Limerick Resources now hopes to hold follow-on training, beginning this autumn, in topics such genealogy, local history and biodiversity for those communities who wish to become actively involved.

Paul Ryan, Shannon Development’s Tourism Marketing Manager, said: “The expansion of Ireland XO into the Shannon Region is the beginning of a new chapter in heritage tourism with the potential to deliver additional international visitors to the Shannon Region in 2013 and beyond. It will gen-erate a renewed sense of community among the Shannon Region diaspora abroad and complements the work we are doing on ‘the Gathering’ which will bring over 325,000 addi-tional visitors to Ireland in 2013.”

Anyone with an interest in their community, its history, tourism, business or genealogy, is encour-aged to get involved and learn more about the project. While Ireland XO parish volunteers are reaching out around the world, the website provides a landing point in Ireland for people abroad who have some detail about where their emigrant ancestors hail from in Ireland.