Just pull that green jersey on over your head… November 13, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
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.