By Ed Forry
Ireland has launched a program of events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. “The Centenary Programme” is described as ”a call to action for the people of Ireland, our Diaspora and friends of Ireland all around the world - to remember 1916 and that pivotal period in our history, to reflect on the past 100 years, and to re-imagine our future.”
There’s an array of events planned over the next year, with five intersecting themes – “Remembering the past; reconciling and respecting all traditions; presenting Ireland to the world; imagining our future; and celebrating our achievements - drawing inspiration from the ideals of 1916 and the events of that time.”
Even as tourism officials speak glowingly about the growth in overseas visitors to the island so far this year, they expect that the numbers in 2016 will reach record heights, helped, to be sure, by an American college football game scheduled in Dublin next September.
Ireland has long been an attractive and easy-to-reach destination for visitors from Boston for several reasons: First is our city’s relative proximity to the island, where Boston is known as “the next parish over, just across the pond.” Ever since those pioneering travel agents from Columbus Travel in Uphams Corner built a business on group travel for escorted tours of Ireland more than 50 years ago, Logan Airport has served as a gateway for passengers to and from the Emerald Isle. Since the advent of transatlantic jet travel, the airport in Boston Harbor has been our own version of Ellis Island for scores of Irish immigrants.
Most Irish Bostonians have stories about chance meetings with neighbors at Logan’s Terminal E as they share a “flight home,” and since 2011 the return has been streamlined, as the US Customs and Border Protection now does pre-flight customs clearance in Ireland so that that Boston arrivals are treated as domestic passengers, avoiding any customs hall delays at Logan.
This summer, Ireland’s national airline operates daily round trips from Boston. Recently purchased by the parent company of British Air, Aer Lingus has contracted with an Irish company, ASL Airlines Ireland, to add Boeing 757 aircraft to the transatlantic route, with more flights on routes from Boston to Shannon and Dublin.
On a recent visit to terminal E, I found that a new low-cost Iceland airline, WOW Air, now offers an alternative way to fly to Ireland. The airline flies direct to Reykjavik, and with that one stop, Ireland-bound travelers can connect for a flight to Dublin. “WOW flies out of Boston to Iceland 6 days a week,” airline spokesman Phil Yerby told me. “And travel from Boston to Dublin (via Iceland) is available two days a week, year ‘round.”
These flights are limited to Sunday and Thursday evenings, leaving Boston just before 6 p.m. and, with a four-hour time difference, arriving in Reykjavik at 4:05 in the morning. There’s a two hour and fifteen minute layover, and the connecting flight arrives in Dublin at 8:40 a.m., Irish time. I checked online for November fares, and found a round trip to and from Dublin for as low as $376.25.
While the Iceland stopover adds three hours to total travel time from Boston, and the same economy fares are not available on all flights, the lower cost offers an attractive alternative for passengers who have flexible dates.
And that might be good news for local college football fans:
Boston College has announced that its team will open the football season next year on Labor Day weekend with a game in Dublin against Georgia Tech. Irish officials expect the event will only add to what it hopes will be a banner tourism year in Ireland.