US teenagers of Irish descent will be given a taste of modern and historic Ireland next summer as part of a Government initiative to strengthen diaspora links.
It is planned that around 20 high-school students, aged 15 to 17 will spend two or three weeks in the country.
The itinerary will include visits to Dublin and to rural Ireland, with history and culture being demonstrated through a mix of courses and excursions.
However, meetings with prominent multinational companies here may also be used to expose the visitors to modern Ireland.
The idea behind the Fréamhacha initiative is to allow young people of Irish descent to strengthen links with the country. Children or other descendants of Irish emigrants will be eligible to apply through the Irish Embassy in Washington or the network of consulates in the US.
The participants will have to cover travel costs, but the programme will cover all expenses here such as accommodation, trips, food, transport, and classes.
The initiative has been designed for young people who have never visited Ireland, and aims to encourage greater connectivity. A commitment to develop a pilot scheme was included in the Government’s diaspora policy, ‘Global Irish’, launched last March. It originated from suggestions Ireland should follow the example of countries like Israel, India, Armenia, and Greece, which have introduced such initiatives to reconnect with members of their diaspora.
The educational visits might be extended in 2017, and possibly to children of Irish descent in other countries, if next year’s programme is a success.
It is to be advertised in the US, with participants to be picked in the spring, according to a Department of Foreign Affairs brief for service providers tendering to design and deliver the programme. They will be expected to include plans for students to have some interaction with Irish society, perhaps through a volunteering activity, and with third-level colleges.
The participants may also get to visit Leinster House and meet a minister as part of the expectation that they be given a chance to interact with the Government.
The long-term impact will be delivered through a network to be set up to retain connections with and between participants.
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