Ireland Reaching Out (Ireland XO) has achieved a significant milestone: it is now offering its volunteer 'reverse genealogy' service in all 32 counties of the island of Ireland.
The national programme was launched a year go (by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, on 14 March 2012, to be precise) and recently signed up its 2000th volunteer. Spread across the Republic and Northern Ireland, there are now more than 800 parishes involved.
Ireland XO is based on a simple idea: instead of waiting for Irish-Americans and their global counterparts to come back to Ireland to trace their roots, the community programme works in the opposite direction. Volunteers trained in local history and heritage identify those who left the area, trace them and their descendants worldwide and invite living descendants to become part of an extended “virtual” parish community with their place of origin. They also welcome returning members of the local parish Diaspora to their area, showing them where their people came from, and introducing them, where possible, to living relatives.
Commenting on the group's achievement, An Taoiseach said: "The expansion of the programme is evidence that it is offering the Irish Diaspora a chance to engage in a way that is really valuable to them. Like the Gathering 2013 initiative, Ireland XO is a great opportunity to reach out to the Irish Diaspora around the world, allow them to reconnect with their heritage and tap into the potential it represents for local communities around Ireland."
Any parishes across Ireland who are not yet involved in Ireland XO or the Gathering 2013 initiative are encouraged to contact the Ireland XO HQ in Loughrea, Co Galway. Anyone with an interest in their community, its history, tourism, business or genealogy, is encouraged to get involved and learn more about the programme.