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Just pull that green jersey on over your head… November 13, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
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Gabriel Byrne might not have expected the pushback he received for his comments recently about the Gathering.

Byrne has – to my mind not entirely incorrectly – pointed to the artificial nature of the project. Indeed for those with long memories, longer than mine I have to admit, it smacks of An Tóstal, the tourist ‘festival’ introduced for a period in the 1950s by Irish governments in order to attract tourists to the state. It failed because of one basic problem. A two or three week period [IIRC] wasn’t enough to sustain a modern tourist industry. And while the Gathering eschews that time limitation, or more accurately extends it by many months, it still has something of that feeling about it.

Byrne’s main criticism was that:

…it was designed to “shake down” the Diaspora for a few quid. He described Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s speech at the launch of project in the US as “slightly offensive”.

Shake down is strong, but perhaps not entirely incorrect. The primary purpose of the exercise is to increase tourist revenues.

And Kenny’s speech is… well… an interesting speech. Because between all the usual rhetorical stuff about community and so on (which reads fairly oddly given the expenditure cuts that are being felt in communities) it is remarkably blunt… for example:

With The Gathering, we will showcase our tourism product that is at the heart of our future success and the envy of many small countries…and not so small…..nations across the globe.

We estimate this project alone, can bring in an extra 325,000 visitors to Ireland in 2013. With all the attendant revenue.

And there’s this which has an odd phrasing:

This initiative was first presented at the recent Global Irish Economic Forum.

We looked at what is, by any objective measure, the downright dazzling potential of the Diaspora.

And we sought ways not to exploit…. this altruism and affection of Ireland………. because to ‘exploit’ is too superficial for the project in which we are engaging.

And so on… in fairness as a cultural ambassador Byrne might be reasonably well placed to decode the nuances of such stuff and how it might be received elsewhere.

And personally I find the concept problematic not least because those I know elsewhere are going through tough times as much as those of us in this state and the idea of putting any pressure at all on them to return ‘home’ is a step I wouldn’t take.

Meanwhile on to Leo Varadkar:

Later on Today FM Mr Varadkar described Mr Byrne as popular with “women of a certain age”.

In a grown up discussion a puerile (and sexist) comment like that shouldn’t even enter the picture. If Varadkar has substantive criticism it should be levelled at Byrne’s argument. But that complacent and glib condescension is something that FG might want to watch. Leo Vardakar or Gabriel Byrne? It would be interesting to see the results of that popularity contest.

But hold on a moment. Note the aforementioned pushback. The SBP this weekend had a piece which noting Byrne’s credentials also noted that:

[Byrne] worked with the government and Culture Ireland to help develop Irish arts, culture and the creative industries, particularly in the United States. Byrne did not receive a salary as honorary cultural ambassador, but his expenses were covered.

And those expenses?

… he racked up expenses of almost €16,000 last year on luxury hotels, chauffeur services and premier flights between New York and Dublin during his stint as an Irish cultural ambassador.

And yet, and yet.

Doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

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Comments»

1. Eagle - November 13, 2012

I have issues with The Gathering too, but I don’t share Byrne’s concerns. It might attract attention of potential tourists, but they’ll want to see what they’re going to get before they buy.

They’re not being shaken-down, but they are being sold. It’s a marketing campaign. It could have, should have been a lot more.

But even evaluating it as a marketing campaign, does it work? What is it we’re selling? Is it a “gathering of the clans” or whatever? That’s what I thought it was supposed to be, but the web site is very unclear. It seems to be about just about anything. In fact, I can’t see how The Gathering is different than any other Visit Ireland campaign.

It seems to me that The Gathering is so big and unfocused that it fails to make the sale.

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RosencrantzisDead - November 13, 2012

I agree. With no central theme or event, it is difficult to discern why returning in 2013 should be any more special than returning in 2014 or any other year.

They could have used an opportunity like this to, say, extend the vote (in certain limited elections) to diaspora or linked to celebrations of Irish independence.

The paradox of the tourism industry is that, in order for it to be successful, it must avoid the appearance of being an industry altogether. The Gathering fails on this part and this is, in part, why Byrne is so affronted. On top of that, he also points out that it is poor value for money.

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WorldbyStorm - November 13, 2012

Those are very interesting points from both of you and I hadn’t quite thought of it in those terms, but yes, without a central focus, and in a way how could there be one given the nature of the exercise (otherwise we’re back in An Tóstal territory) it really does make it seem a bit meh.

V.true also about the paradox of tourism.

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2. Ed - November 13, 2012

“Leo Vardakar or Gabriel Byrne? It would be interesting to see the results of that popularity contest.”

I’ve a decent sample of opinion here. My mam went to college with Byrne, she was in his Irish class in UCD; always says he was a lovely bloke, almost painfully shy back then; when he bumped into one of their classmates years later, long established as a Hollywood star, he recognised her straight away and ushered her into a quiet corner for a chat away from the star-struck people hanging around him.

Varadkar, on the other hand, she has to encounter from time to time for work reasons, and she reckons that on a purely non-political level, he is an odious, slimy little twerp. I would be surprised if this was a wildly eccentric opinion.

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Ed - November 13, 2012

In fact if anyone has time, I’d suggest splicing a few clips of Varadkar into old episodes of Bracken; you can picture him as Niall Toibin’s brattish little son who’s never worked a day in his life, and ends up with a box to the face for his trouble: ‘I’ll show you, Pat! My father could buy and sell your poxy little farm!’

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sonofstan - November 13, 2012

An entirely unfair, puerile and equally sexist response would be to brand Varadkar as obviously unattractive to women or men of any age, as the poignant scenes in RTE’s pre-election programme following a few candidates around on the hustings, and eavesdropping on poor Leo return home to his lonely bachelor abode illustrated. But that would be beneath us.

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WorldbyStorm - November 13, 2012

And we’ll never do it. Never I tell you.

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3. CL - November 14, 2012

The hot new trend in travel is disaster tourism. So why not bus tours of ghost estates and visits to zombie banks, concluding perhaps with a seminar at Trinity on voodoo economics.

http://www.fodors.com/news/travel-trend-disaster-tourism-5938.html

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4. Cedar Creek Vineyard Blog - November 14, 2012

Artificial Cedar Group…

[...] ts in order to attract tourists to the state. It failed because of one basic pro [...]…

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