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Irish festival aims to boost tourism

IRELAND, eager to boost its tourist industry in mid-recession, launched a homecoming festival yesterday to tempt back the 70 million people of Irish descent around the world.

Billed as the biggest gathering of international Irish, it is a joint initiative by tourist boards on both sides of the border. Fifty clan rallies are being staged throughout September to attract everyone from the Dohertys of New York to the Flynns of Sydney.

O'Connors, O'Sheas, O'Sullivans and McGillycuddys are being invited to meet their relations and 36 special computerised heritage centres have been set up to help them track down baptism, marriage and funeral records and details of emigration ships. 'Our principal targets are second-generation emigrants and beyond,' Ray Cawley, the festival director, said.

The organisers said they hoped to attract an extra 10,000 visitors in September in a concerted bid to extend the notoriously short summer tourist season in Ireland.

There are almost 150 events, from an Appalachian Blue Grass Music festival at the Ulster American Folk Park to the docking of an emigrant ship in Wexford.