WHAT A wonderful idea The Gathering is- an initiative designed at encouraging all those around the world with connections to Ireland to make a visit to our little country. They get to bask in our Irishness and we get to boost our troubled economy in the process.
The concept is really a very good one and we have so much to offer as a nation in terms of hospitality, culture, heritage... the possibilities are endless.
The fact that many of said visitors will have Irish roots and ancestry means that they will hopefully feel an affinity with the country and people once they arrive and spread the word about what a wonderful time they had.
Why is it, however that when we have so, so many amazing things to offer visitors we revert to the twee and cliché image that much of the world believes to be Ireland.
The Gathering should be an opportunity to showcase the country as it is not to ridicule ourselves for the purpose of giving tourists an unrealistic snapshot.
I was disgusted to see images of a cow being paraded through Templebar for the occasion.
There was talk of chickens in cages on the streets and all manner of animals brought out onto the city centre streets on the same weekend that the yearlong event was launched.
Why is it when the eyes of the world are on us we don't stick to our guns and show them the real Ireland?
I don't mean the doom and gloom or the financial woes. After all these people are spending thousands to holiday here but chickens and hens on the streets of Dublin are not the real Ireland of today.
There are plenty of rural retreats and amenities, working farms and museums that will properly showcase our agricultural traditions which are belittled by the over the top and phoney image created by some of the launch weekend's activities.
Almost every bit of Irishness we see on US television makes us cringe from the badly mimicked accents to the ' top o' the mornin' nonsense. It is a universal irritant when other countries misunderstand us as a nation no matter how small the core issue.
The Gathering is an opportunity for us to steer the ship in how we are portrayed and promoted all over the world, the likes of which we have never seen before. If done well it will hopefully leave a wonderful legacy for tourism in this country but if not we might as well throw in our leprechaun-patterned towels now.