Gabriel Byrne slams The Gathering
The Irish actor Gabriel Byrne has dismissed the Gathering 2013 initiative as "a scam."
Byrne, who previously served as the cultural ambassador for Ireland in the US, said many who left Ireland for the US feel abandoned by the Government - and that the bridge between Ireland and its diaspora is broken.
He also said Irish-Americans are not receptive to being "shaken down" for money.
The Gathering is a tourism initiative to entice people with Irish connections to visit the country during 2013.
Speaking on The Last Word on Today FM today, which was broadcast from New York, Byrne said the Taoiseach’s speech launching The Gathering was "slightly offensive."
"People are sick to death of being asked to help out in what they regard as a scam," he said
"I wish The Gathering the very best of luck but they have to understand that the bridge between the diaspora and the people is broken and I tried to fix that for two years and it’s still broken.... Most people don’t give a shit about the diaspora [in Ireland] except to shake them down for a few quid."
"The diaspora has a very powerful spiritual connection to the island of Ireland. I remember when I was growing up in Dublin those buses would pull up and those people in Burberry coats would be laughed at because they’d say 'here come the Yanks looking for their roots.' Well, as far as I’m concerned one of the most sacred things you can do is look for your roots."
"The other day I was talking to a group of people. One of them was an illegal immigrant. His father died, he couldn’t get home. He feels abandoned by the Irish Government. He feels an alien. He can’t go back. Then I talked to two kids, a girl and a boy who were forced to emigrate because there are no jobs. And they blame the incompetence and the gangsterism of the Government for being forced to emigrate.‘
Byrne stepped down as Ireland’s cultural ambassador at the end of last year.
"It was a tremendous achievement what we did in two years. I was really disappointed the way all those contacts, all that hard work was just dropped and it really made me disillusioned and disappointed with this Government who go on about their love for culture for arts and actually really don’t give a toss about it."