IS THERE any way we can cash in on the Gathering, the year- long fest for 2013 launched by the Dublin government? Sorry for being so vulgar but these are tough times and any opportunity to turn a pound or two should not be ignored.
For those who remain ignorant about the Gathering, it's a fairly shameless attempt to persuade the great Irish diaspora to come to Ireland and give a much-needed boost to the tourist industry. Derived from the notion of the clan gathering, the promotion attempts to combine an appeal to heritage and tradition with a reminder of all that modern Ireland has to offer, which of course includes not just scenery, music and craic but also and very importantly a positive business environment.
But the immediate answer to my opening question is that people are already listing events north of the border in the Gathering calendar. To date there are 28 different get-togethers here across the six counties of Northern Ireland. But to put that into perspective, there are four times as many Gathering events in Co Donegal as there are in the whole of Northern Ireland.
Let's face facts: our involvement so far is minimal relative to the Republic. And in my view that's the way it's likely to stay. The Gathering is a southern gig at which we could not seriously hope to have a major presence particularly at this late stage. In any case even if we wanted a bigger role in the entire affair, politics here would make that problematic.
Of course if you don't fancy the party on offer, there's nothing to stop you holding your own. Northern Ireland could stage its own hooley to attract in the visitors. Or could it? Actually I don't think that's a realistic possibility either but for more complex reasons.
If the south's government had simply said we need you to come to Ireland and spend your money to get us out of recession, it wouldn't have been much of a marketing ploy. So it invents the Gathering, using history as means of validating the exercise. It's hocus pocus of course. What's going to happen this year has as many parallels with a clan gathering as the film Darby O'Gill has with a documentary on 19th century Irish country life.
The Gathering is not a gathering, at least not in any way that an anthropologist or an historian would recognise. The term is not an accurate description of what is about to take place. While it does encompass gettogethers of people who all share the same surname the modern day version of the clan gathering - it aims to cast its net far wider and is much more ambitious. You could argue the Gathering is not intended to be understood in a literal sense. It is being applied metaphorically but even used in that context it doesn't ring true. Whatever drove members of a clan to come together, at a fundamental level those impulses haven't a proper parallel with the emotions that will bring the diaspora to Ireland.
If they had called it the Wake - an invitation to turn up on this island to mourn the death of Gombeen capitalism - then it would have had a more genuine character. But I don't suppose that would have got past the marketing men and women.
But its bogus nature doesn't stop the Gathering having enormous appeal. The suggestion there's a homecoming you can be part of even if you're fifth generation Irish living in Des Moines is very seductive.
Who doesn't want to come home, especially if that's where all your fellow countrymen are headed?
To work, the Gathering doesn't require the stamp of approval of academics.
It does however require an association with something in the historical consciousness which is vaguely connected with positivity. And it's clearly meets that essential criterion.
For what it is worth I think the Gathering will be very effective especially because, since it is not constricted by tradition, it can be whatever you want it to be. Even if you have nothing in common with people here apart from a surname inherited from your great grandfather in Mayo, in 2013 you're authentically Irish and due a warm welcome. And while you're at it why not come here and celebrate your Irishness in a truly modern way by starting a business.
But it is simply not open to us to replicate the Gathering here in Northern Ireland. It is not a problem of authenticity.
That deficiency is not hindering the development of the southern shindig. It is that given our divided history, noone, however ingenious, could produce a confection that anyone could sell abroad with a straight face. A search through our history would not yield experiences in which our ancestors all participated in together. Except for battles of course. But I don't think that would be a good selling point.
You need some sort of historical event that you can claim you are recreating or marking even if the exercise relies on more than a large dose of imagination and a blurring of the facts.
We might have better luck promoting the Gurning. A general invitation to anyone with a Northern Ireland heritage to come home to complain about how awful everything is here. There would be prizes for the longest and most detailed lists of what is wrong. Who wouldn't want to take part in that?
■ Jamie Delargy is business correspondent at UTV.
■ Next week: Claire Aiken. ■ DUBLIN LAUNCH: Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the launch of the Gathering in Dublin Castle PICTURE: Niall Carson/PA