Work has started on a new Irish World Heritage Centre which will tell the global story of the Emerald Isle from the heart of a 25-acre complex in Manchester.
Visitors will cross a waterway representing the oceanic pilgrimages Irish people have made through the centuries, reaching a walled enclosure in the shape of an Irish ring fort at the Cheetham Hill development.
A "name walk" will feature every Irish surname, and the first part of the scheme will also include a multi-purpose hall, bar and restaurant, shop, travel agent and business centre. A hotel, education spaces, leisure facilities and football pitches are planned for the second phase.
"A much-improved Irish Centre has been a long-standing aspiration of the council," said Manchester City Council's Sue Murphy, calling the centre an "internationally-significant" attraction.
"It's great news that it's underway, especially as part of a wider scheme which will create new jobs, facilities and business opportunities.
"The new centre will celebrate the contribution of the Irish community to Manchester and beyond, and allow other communities to learn about their experience."
The small existing heritage centre on the site, which is a popular facility for the most ethnically diverse council ward in the city, will remain open during building work.
"The new centre will be unlike anything else anywhere in the world," said Michael Forde, the Irish World Heritage Centre Chairman.
"Since we have been working on the plans for more than ten years, it is really exciting to start telling people about it.
"Each element of the design has been chosen to represent an element of the unique Irish heritage – from the ancient ring fort outdoor space to the 'name walk' – and we hope it will become a place of reflection and remembrance for the millions of Irish people visiting from around the world."
- The Irish World Heritage Centre is scheduled to open in summer 2012. Follow the progress of the site online.