It's been three years since we were in a position to invite our Irish American cousins to Belfast for the annual Homecoming but with Covid on the back foot, this would be a good time for our Stateside friends 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 and we invite our diaspora to do just that. Our buddies in the American Irish Legislators Society in the New York State Legislature in Albany will head a strong international delegation and at a gala banquet in the Titanic Hotel on 29 September, we'll induct a new cohort of Belfast Ambassadors from around the globe. 

Belfast has a lot to boast about since we 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.

As always, Irish America will be well-represented at the Homecoming but 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. There is always the exception that proves the rule  about every speaker being on the Iona campus for the Campfire. Gerry Adams will come in live from Ireland while, if he can fit it in to his frenetic schedule, the US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh told me last week when we met in D.C. that he would love to be represented virtually. 

I can't guarantee the rest of 2022, but for August and September we've pretty much got your covered — and all you need is a backpack and a passport.