Irish site launches for St. Patrick's Day

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern will celebrate St. Patrick's Day this Wednesday by presiding over the launch of a Web site devoted to Irish genealogy data.

The site, dubbed the Millennium Irish Family Register, will be part of the Local Ireland portal and is to go live today. Ahern, in a ceremony Tuesday in Washington, D.C., is scheduled to launch the site by making President Bill Clinton its first registrant.

That honour comes as thanks for the part-Irish Clinton's involvement in the peace process in Northern Ireland, Local Ireland officials said. Organisers of the site want to provide a global registry of Irish names, enabling the estimated 70 million people of Irish descent across the world to research their family histories and tell their stories, according to Gerry McGovern, chief executive officer of Local Ireland. "We're looking at the idea of community and asking what that really means," and bringing an existing community in the real world online, rather than attempting to create a "virtual community" from scratch, McGovern said.

The online register will be free for anyone of Irish descent to enter details of their family histories and will also be free for users to access, Local Ireland officials said. Ahern is scheduled to meet with Clinton in a St. Patrick's Day lunch at the White House Wednesday and will present him with a scroll of citizenship commemorating his status as the first "honorary virtual Irish citizen". At the same time, Local Ireland, a joint venture of Ireland's national telephone company, Telecom Eireann, and Web development firm Nua Ltd., is hosting a 24-hour online chat on Wednesday called the "Roots Marathon." The chat will feature a panel of Irish genealogy experts who will answer questions about participants' family name histories.

But Local Ireland's celebration of Irish genealogy isn't the only online St. Patrick's Day revelry. Europe Online's St. Patrick's Day special includes a guide to Irish folk music, everything you ever wanted to know about Guiness Stout, and a guide to St. Patrick's Day traditions. At St., Web users can brush up on their Irish toasts. Another site even lets users kiss a virtual Blarney Stone. And if you can't make it to New York City's legendary St. Patrick's Day parade, you can see images from the parade via Webcam. Dublin's parade festivities will also be webcast.


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