herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Why Gabriel's the right man for this starring role in the US

The excellent appointment of His Excellency Gabriel Byrne as the new Cultural Ambassador to the US prompts the obvious observation: why didn't we think of this before?

The actor is equally well known on both sides of the pond and his impressive pedigree of 35 films, theatre work and a Golden Globe gives him the credibility to bring the wider Irish arts to America.

He has always claimed something of a fractured relationship with his birth country, finding his true home in New York. He suffered child abuse at a seminary, became an alcoholic and plays morose, maudlin characters in the main.

He has hit out regularly at our health system, child abuse scandals and drinking culture.

"In Dublin, I'm constantly defined by my past," he has said. "In New York, I have a clean slate."

But he's also fluent in Irish, passionate about culture and is determined that Irish film moves on from the leprechaun-loving, Quiet Man-coloured view that we have abroad.

Well, the Drimnagh- born star will now be calling on all those talents to change what he says is America's "very limited view of Irish art", claiming it's all about "Druid, Brian Friel, the Anglo-Irish stew of Yeats . . . and U2".

Delighted with themselves that they secured such a high-profile person for the job, which is completely unpaid, the head of Culture Ireland said he hopes the ambassador "will develop an inclusive vision that reaches out from the Irish arts community internationally". Sure, 'tis a long way from the hills of Bracken altogether.

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