Thursday 5 December 2019

Lise Hand: Jedward have a rival -- Megaphone Ring calling the clans back home

Lise Hand

If over the next few months, alarmed seismologists begin to register sporadic outbursts of earthshaking activity in unexpected locations the length of England, they need not be alarmed.

For it will simply be the Mayo Megaphone, Michael Ring, calling home all our British diaspora (without the use of amplification).

Yesterday at the full bells-and-whistles launch in Dublin Castle of The Gathering, the junior minister for fun stole the show right from under the noses of the Taoiseach, the Tanaiste and the Minister for Sport.

The Gathering is a 12-month-long hooley planned for next year, whereby the green-tinted Bat Signal will light up the sky over Ireland, beaming an invitation to the 70 million or so diaspora to drop home for a visit during 2013 (not all of them at the same time, you understand, as we'd sink).

And there are all sorts of parties and festivities and shindigs planned, from clan get-togethers to music and football festivals, and local communities are being urged to get involved in organising activities to lure far-flung relatives back to the auld sod. It's hoped that an extra 325,000 visitors will be enticed to Ireland during the 12 months.

And so three ministers and a Taoiseach took what was probably a more-than welcome break from the tit-for-tat trench warfare of the fiscal treaty referendum to attend the Irish launch of The Gathering in front of a big hall full of shakers and movers, including John McColgan and Norah Casey.

Enda was first to take to the stage to put out the plea for a nation dig-out on this one. "We are calling now on every community, from city suburbs to rural villages, as well as clubs, associations and businesses to start thinking about how they might work together to develop events which celebrate their own unique stories and engage the interest of their networks and connections around the world," he proclaimed.

And he wasn't beneath using a big dollop of plamas to butter up the natives. "This taps in to the essence of who we are as the Irish people: proud, confident, artistic, passionate, compassionate, literary, dramatic, patriotic, independent and always intriguing," he declared.

(Which all sounds more like an advert for a fancy French perfume, really. The Irish are also argumentative, inclined to prolonged outbursts of fecklessness when left in charge of our own finances, prone to finger-pointing when things go wrong and begrudgery when things go right for other people. And we never shut up about the weather.)

As well as the speeches, there were also a series of short videos to promote The Gathering, many of which have already been screened overseas. Eamon Gilmore pointed out that over the prolonged St Paddy's Day celebrations abroad, "The Gathering was presented to a global audience through some 40 events in some 27 cities".

Facts and figures are all very well, but then Michael Ring stepped up to exhort the crowd and his enthusiasm for the project was at an uproarious decibel level usually associated with Jedward.

"We're going to have some community and town-hall meetings, and we're going to encourage people to come in and tell us their ideas," he explained, working himself up into a right lather of zeal.

"But I want to say this to the hurlers on the ditch -- we've plenty of work for you to do. If you want to play for Ireland on this one, we have a green shirt for you. Play for Ireland, we want no negativity.

"I'm wearing a green tie today," he happily added, pointing to the momentousness of the occasion.

And with a final bellow he issued a warning. "I'm going to motivate you all," he vowed with vigour, earning himself a mighty round of applause.

Closing the event, the Taoiseach acknowledged the zest of his fellow Mayoman. "Ring is all fired up for this -- he has a half a dozen green ties," Enda reckoned, revealing that as soon as Michael had taken his seat after his oration, Leo Varadkar told him that he was going to be dispatched "to Britain for a week -- every community hall from Leeds down as far as Cornwall is going to have interaction for Minister Ring".

Perhaps Minister Motivator should change his name from Michael to Gathe for the next year. You know, as in Gathe-Ring. . . oh never mind.

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