A major conference held last weekend heard that all future outward trade and tourism events from Donegal are set to have a Diaspora aspect to them, as the county works to maximise the potential of untapped connections around the globe.

Speaking in Lough Eske Castle at the Donegal Diaspora conference on ‘Culture and the importance of belonging to place,” Garry Martin, Director of Economic Development and Global Engagement with Donegal County council said the importance of communication with the Diaspora could not be underestimated.

“No matter where people find themselves in the world, to feel part of their home county, home town or townland means so much to people,” he said.

Garry Martin explained that a driving principle of the Donegal Diaspora project is that all Diaspora, young and old, distant and near, rich or poor, influential or not, are all equally important and precious as part of the global Donegal family.

“We want to reach out to all of our Diaspora, want to engage with them all, hear from them all and we are working to develop ways to do that.”

“From football clubs, musical groups and all sorts of other networks that remain untapped, the Donegal Diaspora project will work towards strengthening our Diaspora and all the outward trade and tourism events going forward will have a Diaspora aspect to them,” he added.

Among those present at the very well-attended conference was former international goalkeeper Packie Bonner and delegates were treated to a mix of lively and interesting presentations covering everything from Donegal literature and song to its influence in politics in Boston.

Packie Bonner attending the Donegal Diaspora Conference on Friday last in Lough Eske Castle Donegal Town

Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Cllr Gerry McMonagle who welcomed the delegates and opened the conference suggested that it is not only where people are born and where they grow up that has a huge bearing in their sense of identity, it is also where they live and where they feel they belong.

“That is the wonderful thing about Diaspora. You can belong to more than one place, you can be a part of and feel part of more than one community.”

He added “Whether or not we like it, our lives are more often than not, shaped to a large degree by lines drawn on a map. But with ease of travel these days, geography alone no longer dictates our identity.

“That is why it is so important for us in Donegal to continue to maintain the sense of community, the sense of belonging, that in turn makes our physical surroundings and infrastructure worth caring about.”

Cllr McMonagle maintained that over the years Donegal has managed to do that through its music, art, culture and sport.

“In continuing to do so, I believe we can grow and strengthen our Diaspora community and help everyone who feels part of Donegal or chooses to live here, to truly develop a special connection with the place they live,” he concluded.

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