Wednesday 21st July 2021 

One of Ireland’s leading diaspora initiatives is today launching a new network of regional Irish partners to connect those of Irish heritage abroad with their places of origin. Ireland Reaching Out, which has more than 150,000 members worldwide, wants to team up with local organisations to help drive regional tourism as part of the economic recovery. One of the first organisations to join the network is the Tower Museum which will cover the counties of Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Down, Armagh and Antrim.

One of Ireland’s leading diaspora initiatives — Ireland Reaching Out — is today launching a new network of regional Irish partners to connect those of Irish heritage abroad with their places of origin. Pictured are Mick Baynes, Tourism Officer for Visit Castlebar, and Laura Colleran, Ireland Reaching Out Programme Manager, outside the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life. Photo: Alison Laredo

Ireland Reaching Out plans to build on the surge in people tracing their Irish roots during the lockdowns and who now wish to travel to Ireland as the country starts to reopen. To support this expected influx of Irish Diaspora tourists to Ireland, the Irish Partner Network of Ireland Reaching Out has been established. This new network of regionally-based partners aims to improve the service offered to diaspora as they visit Ireland – both north and south.​ Three key groups –  Tower Museum, Visit Castlebar and Ballyhoura Development CLG — have already joined and Ireland Reaching Out  is now seeking other interested regional heritage and tourism groups to join.

Established in 2010, Ireland Reaching Out is a volunteer-driven, non-profit organisation connecting people of Irish heritage with the local community in their place of origin in Ireland.  It is funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade and is based in County Galway. This unique charity offers anyone from anywhere in the world with Irish roots the chance to connect with the community they have descended from by engaging with locals on the ground and online through its online platform – IrelandXO.com   Members avail of free advice from a large team of volunteers, helping them to trace their roots and connect with their Irish place of origin.

Ireland Reaching Out has sought partners who are leaders in heritage and tourism in their regions.  Each Network Partner will provide support to Ireland Reaching Out volunteers in a number of surrounding counties in order to increase engagement with the diaspora in those areas. The first three partnerships established are:·     

Tower Museum  – which will cover the counties of Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Down, Armagh and Antrim

Visit Castlebar –  which will cover the counties of: Sligo, Roscommon, Mayo, Leitrim, and Donegal

Ballyhoura Development CLG – which will cover the counties of Cork, Kerry and Limerick.

Laura Colleran, Ireland Reaching Out Programme Manager, says:“Our network of regional partners will provide assistance and support to the many Ireland Reaching Out Volunteers across the island of Ireland. It will also ensure that those visiting Ireland for the first time to trace their roots in Ireland have a better chance to engage with the locals living in their communities of origin in Ireland.”With volunteer help, they may get to see the homestead of their Irish forebearers, walk the land their people farmed before leaving Ireland, see the graves of their ancestor and, if possible, get to meet living relatives in Ireland. As we emerge from COVID restrictions and look to develop creative solutions that re-ignite tourism, IrelandXO is an important diaspora engagement resource for the whole country.”

Bernadette Walsh, Archivist at Tower Museum, says:“The Tower Museum has a very similar outlook to Ireland Reaching Out. We are very much about sustainability, promoting our genealogy and archive collections to encourage people to access and engage with our programmes and to promote tourism to the local areas. We are unique in that we are the only local authority archive service in Northern Ireland outside of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast. We get a lot of people visiting that want to investigate their own family history as well as research students, academics and film companies. “As part of Derry City & Strabane District Council, the Tower Museum is strongly associated with the Council’s region, we will be working with partners and volunteers all across Northern Ireland to promote the wider region as part of this project with Ireland Reaching Out. Ideally, we will eventually have partners joining from all across the island of Ireland to build on the momentum.”    

If you are interested in volunteering, becoming (or supporting) a regional partner, please contact Ireland Reaching Out at info@irelandxo.com

A new YouTube channel has been launched to help young people whose education and career prospects have been affected by the pandemic.

North West Regional College students joined forces with Enterprise North West and Startacus to create Week Gen-C, to inform people about the skills and tools they will need within the post-Covid economy, and the opportunities that already exist.

The channel, funded through the David Cross Young People’s Fund, features panel discussions and interviews with businesses including Learning Pool, Alchemy Technology, FinTrU, Hypixel Studios, UV Arts, Storefront and Ferry Clever, as well as support organisations such as Young Enterprise NI, Extern, NWRC Careers Academy, Derry Credit Union, careers and employment services and mental health charity AWARE.

Brian O’Neill, Director of Development and Enterprise, Enterprise North West, commented:

“The overall Week Gen-C project has exceeded our expectations and this has been mainly achieved through the hard work and creativity of the steering group of young people involved in the series of events right from the beginning. These events have been designed, produced and delivered by young people and have taken into account the negative impact of Covid-19 and the pandemic on young people’s prospects. We firmly believe that these series of events could be upscaled or replicated across NI to inspire other young people”

Alastair Cameron, Co-founder of Startacus, added:

“We’ve all been affected by the pandemic, but it has been even more challenging for our young people so it’s vital that we all do our bit to help them to look forward and to inspire and encourage them to reach their true potential. We’ve been delighted to partner with Enterprise North West on the Week Gen-C project and we have been hugely impressed by the creativity, commitment and dedication shown by the students from NWRC in bringing the entire project to fruition”.

The Week Gen-C recording are available to view on the Week Gen-C YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqLRGRr1jo5LF56hDH6tN0Q )

Ulster University has landed a place in the top 50 universities for the first time in the Complete University Guide (CUG) 2022 League Table’s 15-year history.

After a third successive rise in these rankings, the university has risen 16 places from 60th (2021) to 44th (2022) out of 130 UK universities. This is the highest rank the University has achieved in the Guide’s 15-year history.

In allocated scores, Ulster University was ranked 13th for research intensity with a huge 84% and 73% for research quality.

Ulster University was given special recognition from CUG for a significant upward shift in the top 50 – climbing 16 places into 44th position. Along with one other UK university, Ulster University has achieved the biggest leap among those now ranked in the top 50, in this year’s league tables.

Professor Paul Seawright, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Ulster University commented: “The University’s significant uplift in these rankings reflects our continuous focus on the quality and impact of our teaching and research, across our unique campuses. The significant investment in the landmark Belfast campus, due to open from September, which will provide a progressive student experience in a state-of-the art city centre campus; the establishment of the School of Medicine at Magee which will produce 70 doctors per year to address sectoral workforce challenges; and over recent years the University has invested £27 million in facilities on Coleraine Campus including a £5m sports centre and a £6.5m media centre.

Ulster University – Magee campus. (Photo: Nigel McDowell/Ulster University)

Two future doctors at the new School of Medicine at Magee will have their degree costs covered by a construction and property development company.

Heron Bros has pledged to provide two local students with full scholarships for the entirety of their four-year degree programme at the school, which is due to open in August.

NI students applying for the Graduate Entry Medicine programme are eligible to apply for the scholarships where they meet widening access and participation criteria. Applications will open on 5th July and close two weeks later, on 16th July, for students starting the Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery programme this August.

Mr Damien O’Callaghan, Group Managing Director for Heron Bros Ltd said:

“Heron Bros are honoured to partner with Ulster University’s School of Medicine at the Magee Campus. In funding Scholarships to students, Heron Bros will build a better future for the local community, support upskilling of local talented people and provide health benefits for all of us. Heron Bros have been involved in various health, education and third sector education construction projects over the years and the Scholarships truly showcases our business values of passion, forward-thinking and relationships. As we progress from the Covid pandemic Heron Bros Medicine Scholarships will support our future Medicine Students provide a vital and enduring service in our community.”

The Foundation Dean of the School of Medicine, Professor Louise Dubras, has welcomed the scholarship announcement for prospective students:

“Ulster University and Heron Bros have enjoyed a longstanding partnership which has seen many of our students work with the team on a variety of Apprenticeship, Placement and Graduate programmes, enriching their learning experience and increasing employability. We are very proud to continue to strengthen this partnership through this scholarship announcement and we are delighted that Heron Bros will support two of our students through the brand new Graduate Entry Medicine programme, starting in August 2021.”

Louise added: “This presents opportunities for those who may face barriers to developing their vocation for a career in medicine – thanks to these scholarships they can now access and achieve the qualifications needed to become a doctor, joining the ambitious, capable healthcare hub here in the North West in four years’ time.”

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins has appeared alongside international politicians, academics and writers at a virtual conference broadcast from Ulster University’s Magee Campus.

The ‘Heritage, Healing and Home’ discussion took place earlier this month at the American Conference for Irish Studies 2021, which also featured contributions from US Congressman Brendan Boyle the UK and Irish Ambassadors to the US, filmmaker Maurice Fitzpatrick and local journalist Susan McKay.

Professor Malachy Ó Néill, Irish language scholar and Provost of the Ulster University Magee campus said: “Ulster University is delighted to host the ACIS 2021 conference and to welcome academics from 110 different institutions across the world to this global conversation. In partnership with Derry and Strabane District Council and Donegal County Council’s Colmcille 1500 initiative, this event is the academic highlight of the year-long commemoration of Colm Cille (Saint Columba), patron of the city of Derry and the wider North West and one of the most significant figures in early European Christianity. The overarching conference themes of ‘Heritage, Healing and Home’ act as a pathway for these times. Time for reflection, sense-making and collective restoration and healing is needed more than ever as we emerge from our homes after the challenging period during COVID-19.

City and region leaders got behind the international conference. Sportswear brand O’Neills designed a commemorative jersey featuring a beautiful digital artwork of Magee College by Carla Fulton, artist and recent Ulster University. Gavin Killeen and colleagues at NuPrint Technologies produced conference postcards to complement the O’Neills jerseys. Also, Visit Derry worked with Ulster University to bring this multi-faceted event online for the people of Derry.

A series of Fireside Conversations and speeches are still available to watch online.

Musicians with a link to Ulster University have been invited to submit their music to a new record label, with a debut release due this autumn.

Outworker Recordings will showcase original music created by students past and present and staff of the university, which has 200,000 alumni in 148 countries worldwide, 25,000 current students and 2,500 employees.

Inspired by Derry’s rich heritage of textile making ‘Outworker’ was a name given to people throughout the region who, in the 19th and early 20th century, made shirts in their own homes to help the thriving Derry shirt factories meet escalating demand. These Outworkers were the remote workers of their time.

Leah Bell, 3rd year Music student from Cookstown said: “As a young composer of music which doesn’t fall into the pop category, it’s really refreshing that my university is providing musicians with this opportunity to experiment and to showcase their music. I am excited to get involved. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.”

Dr Rob Casey, Lecturer in Music, at the School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Ulster University’s Magee campus said: “We are delighted to launch Outworker Recordings. We want to help build an edgy innovative music scene and to support musicians to be inventive, to push boundaries. We are excited about the contribution this new music label will make to musicians lives and the rich creative life of Northern Ireland today.”

To be part of the first release that will launch the label, composers and musicians can submit a high-quality recording for consideration before 5pm on Friday 16 July. Find out more here.