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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 24, 2010 @ 1:03 pm

    With this Cultural Ambassador you are really spoiling us

    Fiona McCann

    So Gabriel Byrne is the new cultural ambassador. And we at Pursued by a Bear do love culture. Mr Byrne will be helping to raise the profile of Irish cultural exports on the international stage, and there’s no doubt the man knows people in places that most people don’t get to. But what do you think? Do we need a Cultural Ambassador? Should we celebrate his appointment, and if we do, what are we hoping it will achieve? At a time when the Government is cutting spending on the arts, does this mark a change in attitude and a new willingness to recognise our cultural currency? And no sooner was Mr Byrne in place than we found out Minister Mary Hanaffin will be taking over the renamed Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Your thoughts, culturatti?

    • mise says:

      I’m so pleased about this. In the area of culture more than any other, we need figureheads just as much as we do policy and administration. I’d like to see Stephen Rea in charge of the Ministry – he’d have the facial expressions for financially hard times. And did someone mention we’re to have a new opera company? I’m nearly feeling minor stirrings of being proud to be Irish.

    • Aoife says:

      Has it been overlooked or underestimated that in most media reporting of Gabriel Byrne’s appointment, ‘the United States of America’ and ‘the world’ are interchangeable terms? Should we be worried about Ireland’s cultural profile in, for example, Europe, Russia or China, if most of Mr Byrne’s access to ‘places that most people don’t get to’ is located in the US? I wonder what more Mr Byrne can achieve than Joyce or Beckett did when they relocated to Paris, or the theatre productions which travel to the world’s stages year round. Also, the formalization and labeling of things once considered natural and inspiring occurrences goes on for the procurement of money and ultimately results in an ignorance of the true reasons for and benefits of art.

    • Hal LaRoux says:

      Gabriel should have to ride Tir na nOg everywhere and have Tayto and Ossie as his sidekicks. The yanks would lap it up and it would be compensation of sorts for Papa Reilly who was innocent so he was.

    • joe o'sullivan says:

      I think Mary Hanafin will do a decent job in Arts & Tourism–she’s about the only one I’d have confidence in among the FF crowd. Gabriel Byrne is a smalltime showbiz personality–do you remember him not being recorgnized on the Oscar runway one year?–and his reach beyond New York will be modest. Very modest.

    • Lozzie says:

      Aoife – it’s worth bearing in mind that on many occasions in the past, Gabriel has commented on how American culture is so accessible by the rest of the world. If Irish culture can influence American culture – as indeed it has done, to a huge extent, in the last 200 years or so – then by default the Rest Of The World will gain a greater insight into what Ireland has to offer.

      Besides which, America currently presents the broadest scope and the widest market for Irish interests. It’s a good place to start …

    • eamon says:

      Well he does seem to have a lot of spare time of late.

    • Catherine says:

      Gabriel Byrne selling Irish culture (whatever that is these days) to the yanks — sounds a little desperate. Before someone is appointed as Ireland’s cultural ambassador, should the people not be made aware of the appointee’s agenda, if s/he has one? Personally, I find Mr Byrne to be incoherent — but perhaps that reflects well Ireland’s culture, as it is today.

    • Fergal says:

      Sure aren’t we all ambassadors for our country! The only difference, in my case, is that i would tend to hold court in less salubrious places than The White House or The Reichstag or wherever Mr. Byrne’s presence may be required.

    • HughMartin says:

      No disrespect to Gabrieal Byrne, who is a talented artist and is clearly committed to what he believes in, but this smacks of lazy tokenism by the government. The reality is that great art can only happen if talented artists are invested in properly. Cuts to arts funding will damage our prospects both home and abroad, no matter how many glmourous events Gabriel Byrne talks us up at.

    • Fred Johnston says:

      Personally, I think Gabriel Byrne is a fine cultural ambassador. And why not? He is directly involved with the arts in his capacity as an actor – which is more than can be said for the army of employees at the Arts Council, whose decisions on grants’ have so thoroughly wrecked the arts and the work of so many arts’ practitioners – cutting the grant to the venerable literary magazine, ‘Cyphers’ being only one of their more recent sins. So we need a lot of professional help if we are not to end up depicted as shamrock-wielding begorrah-merchants. We need Gabriel Byrne.

    • josephine says:

      Surely, all, or at least some, of “The Usual Suspects” that might represent Ireland’s culturatti should have been rounded up for identification purposes before one of them was found guilty of being the cultural ambassador. We could always make one up — a kind of Keyser Soze of Irish culture. Gabriel will probably do ok floggin’ the culture.

    • Quackser Fortune says:

      From a cultural point of view and as far as the rest of the world is concerned “Ireland’s Past” is it’s culture. People (tourists) from otherr parts of the world do not travel to Ireland to use the internet. Demoting and diminishing such cultural icons as “The Quiet Man” is counter-productive. The experience of experiencing “Reversed Rreality” in Ireland is what interests those not familier with our odd way of carrying on.

    • DS says:

      @12 Quackser. “The experience of experiencing “reversed Rreality”
      You sure you’re not talking about some kind of e-tourism?

    • DesJay says:

      Gabriel is a fine choice. From his brooding days at the Riordans and his effects on Maggie to his recent hit series on HBO, one that reached cult status, he has shown his real talent. He is not a publicity hound, but is well known in circles that matter in theatre.

      What can he do? In the tradition of FF, I suppose he might sell a few Irish-made films or attract investment to the industry in Ireland. And the Irish showing at the Oscars won’t harm his efforts.

      Given all the shamrocks and shillelaghs and may the road rise up to meet you at the top of the morning, no harm to keep telling the world that such gombeen constructs are only a small miserable part of Ireland. No matter how bizarre the government is.

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