Back in October 2010 the ‘South East Galway Diaspora Pilot Project’ appeared on the radar. It was the seed of a great idea involving 30 local parishes who sought to make contact with Irish descendents abroad who had a family link to the Loughrea electoral area. The target was to reach out to 44,000 of the diaspora and attempt to attract a small number to visit their ancestral parishes and townlands in 2011. The project has now developed into a much bigger entity, with a new name – ‘Ireland Reaching Out’.
The inaugural ‘week of welcomes’, which ran from 26th June to 2nd July 2011, was both a learning exercise and a brilliant success. Many of those who visited did so for the first time and by all accounts it turned out to be an exciting and emotional experience.
Since then the momentum and support behind the project has grown significantly and, having won the top prize for “Best Community Project” in the country at the prestigious LAMA (Local Authority Members Awards) in February this year, is now set to expand nationally across 2,500 parishes around the country.
If it delivers on its promise, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t given the goodwill and the army of enthusiastic community volunteers behind it, this still looks on track to be the most meaningful diaspora project on the horizon.