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CAMPFIRE INVITE: US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh with the author in Washington DC on 20 July

Time to dig out hiking boots for Big Irish Campfire (& passport for Belfast Homecoming)

It's been three years since the people of Belfast were in a position to invite their Irish American cousins back for the annual Homecoming but with Covid on the back foot, this would be a good time for Irish Americans who want to go the extra mile for Ireland to ensure their passports are current.

For on 29 September, Belfast will roll out the red carpet for the global Irish family.

'Come Home to Make a Difference' is the theme of the Belfast International Homecoming. The American Irish Legislators Society in the New York State Legislature in Albany will head a strong international delegation to the Homecoming.  At a gala banquet in the Titanic Hotel on 29 September, a new cohort of Belfast Ambassadors from around the globe will be inducted. 

Belfast has a lot to boast about since the city last convened the Homecoming - the $220m city centre Ulster University campus is nearing completion, a plan is well-advanced to create a new Belfast Stories visitor hub, and funds are now flowing into the Belfast Innovation District. West and East Belfast are also on the up with the EastSide Visitor Centre and Áras Uí Chonnghaile (James Connolly Centre) offering new experiences to the visitor.

Before Belfast we have the small matter of the Big Irish Campfire at Iona University in New Rochelle, NY, on 19 August. This is the biggest gathering of champions of Irish America from right across the US. Born at the height of the Covid storm, Campfire has stepped up this year to an in-person format (with livestream) and will feature representatives of America's greatest Irish institutions. 

It's an exceptional line-up. Irish American activists from San Francisco and St Paul, Cincinnati and Boston, and many other cities where the green is worn will gather around the Campfire. Gerry Adams will come in live from Ireland while Congressman Brendan Boyle will also join virtually. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh will kick off proceedings with a video message for the campers.