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Byline: Fionnuala Bourke

MUSIC festivals, family reunions, sporting championships - and a celebration of a king goat.

These are just a few of the events being offered to lure Birmingham holidaymakers to Ireland next year to boost the country's tourism and the ailing economy.

Cut price offers on travel, accommodation, festivals, food and drink are being organised to help with The Gathering 2013 campaign, which is being supported by James Bond star Pierce Brosnan, fellow actor Liam Neeson, author Maeve Binchy and rugby player Paul O'Connell.

One of Ireland's oldest festivals, The Puck Fair in Kerry, in which a wild goat is crowned king and placed in a cage in the middle of town, is among the featured events.

But organisers are also hoping that Irish Brummies will come up with their own ideas for a festival, as well as visiting Ireland.

The Irish Tourist Minister Michael Ring travelled to Birmingham to urge its Irish community and friends to get involved.

Speaking at the Irish Centre, in Digbeth, on Wednesday he said: "This will be the biggest and most ambitious tourism-led event ever held in Ireland.

"The Gathering is all about families, neighbours, sports clubs, societies or business networks who will organise special events and gatherings.

"Now is the time to get your thinking caps on and start planning how you'll join in."

A local authority housing estate in one Irish town, in Co Mayo, has already set about contacting former residents who have moved away or emigrated across the globe to come back for a special get-togther.

Another fun event planned is a record attempt at the world's longest washing line, in which participants add an item of clothing as they visit Co Donegal.

Tourism Ireland, Irish Ferries, and National Express Coaches are among the organisations also supporting the campaign.

Vanessa Markey, Head of Great Britain for Tourism Ireland, said: "Bring home events, meetings, conferences and family reunions. "There's a website to pledge your donation in terms of who you are going to bring back.

For more information go to


The Gathering: Michael Ring, Irish Minister for Tourism, with Vanessa Markey.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Oct 12, 2012
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