Louise McBride, reports in the Independent on Sunday, 26 August 2012 that the hit TV show Who Do You Think You Are? in which the US actor Martin Sheen recently traced his roots to Dublin's Kilmainham Gaol, has helped to boost the number of tourists coming to Ireland, according to the state tourism body, Failte Ireland.
Almost 90,000 overseas visitors came to Ireland last year to trace their Irish roots, spending as much as €61m in doing so, according to Failte Ireland. More than half of those visiting the country to trace their Irish heritage are from North America.
"The proliferation of programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are? has sparked renewed interest in genealogy," said a spokesman for Failte Ireland. "Programmes like that can have as much an influence on roots tourism here as the likes of the visit of President Obama to Moneygall last year."
RTE is currently showing 'Who Do You Think You Are? (USA). Among those who have traced their roots on the show are Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall and The Sopranos star Steve Buscemi.
Failte Ireland expects that more overseas visitors will come to the country to trace their Irish roots next year once 'The Gathering' kicks off. 'The Gathering' is a series of events and festivals where people can trace their heritage.
Meanwhile Irish people and tourists could soon be able to visit a centre similar to Ellis Island in New York -- albeit one where you can trace your Irish roots rather than where you immigrated to.
Failte Ireland is examining how and where a National DiasporaCentre could be built in Ireland, after being requested to do so by the Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar.