MAKING PLANS Martina Hughes, Head of Communications, Mayo County Council.
MAYO people abroad are being asked to come ‘Home To Mayo’ the month of May in 2022.
Under an initiative launched by Mayo County Council, emigrants are being encouraged to return to their native county as part of next year’s Mayo Day celebrations.
The council are planning to fund festivals and events around the county in order to entice people to visit Mayo.
Martina Hughes of the council’s Communications Office said that the campaign would form a key part of their medium- to long-term diaspora strategy.
Councillors on the Cultural and Heritage Strategic Policy Committee were last week shown a 90-second promotional video which depicted a young woman being greeted after arriving in Knock Airport. The video then goes on to showcase various sights and landmarks around Mayo.
Ms Hughes said that this year’s Mayo Day campaign far exceeded the council’s expectations.
In excess of 36 million people engaged with the Mayo Day campaign, with 21.2 million of those engaging on May 1 alone.
Ms Hughes said that a record number of nearly 100,000 people had interacted with the Mayo Day programme of events, adding that ‘the overall sentiment was really positive’.
“The key objective, working with our colleagues in tourism, is to attract visitors into Mayo for the month,” said Ms Hughes.
“Engagement is under way with a number of the destination groups across the county. We do plan to do a further call-out to communities that might have missed out last year.
“We want to see a calendar of events that if someone decides to make the trip in the month of May, they have a lot of things to enjoy and take part in throughout the county,” she added.
Cllr Michael Burke was among the councillors who welcomed the initiative but commented that south Mayo was ‘almost forgotten about’ in the promotional video.
Castlebar-based councillor Donna Sheridan paid particular praise to the proposal to include a section on the Mayo.ie website for people who relocate to county Mayo.
Cllr Sheridan said the ‘Home To Mayo’ campaign would give a big boost to the hospitality industry, which has suffered badly as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.
‘Lack of respect’
SPC Cathaoirleach Cllr Gerry Coyle welcomed the ‘Home To Mayo’ campaign but took aim at what he called a ‘lack of respect’ shown towards the Irish diaspora.
The Erris-based councillor said the concerns of the diaspora and returning immigrants needed to be properly listened to in future.
“Did they ever get the recognition they deserve? No. Did we give them the respect they deserved when they came back? No. How did we greet them? ‘When did you come, how long are you staying and when are you going back?’” stated Cllr Coyle.
The former council Cathaoirleach criticised the need for returning emigrants to produce a utility bill in order to open a bank account. He also cited an example of a man who had been driving in America for many years needing driving lessons and a test in order to obtain an Irish driver’s license.
The Fine Gael councillor also said that Aer Lingus, who featured in the ‘Home To Mayo’ video, had ‘ripped off’ families that had to return home for funerals at short notice.
Cllr Michael Burke agreed with Cllr Coyle’s sentiments, saying that some returning immigrants had felt like they had returned to ‘a strange country’ in the past.
The Ballinrobe-based councillor added: “I never had more inquiries of people in Dublin, Cork and Limerick moving back to Mayo. I would like to see that our website would be as supportive to them with information about what they require.”