Come Gather ‘Round People Wherever You Roam


And admit that the waters around you have grown.

Gabriel Byrne (top) was on Today FM’s The Last Word with Matt Cooper broadcast from New York earlier this evening.

The actor, who is based in New York, spoke about The Gathering 2013.

“What I tried to do, as cultural ambassador, was to try to build a bridge between Ireland and America. And you ask, you know, you talk about The Gathering, well I, I’ve spoken to people about The Gathering and I’m afraid I don’t share the same optimism that people have about it. This is just my opinion. I have to say that I wish everybody connected with The Gathering the very, I really, really hope it works. But here it is from an Irish-American perspective.

‘I was talking the other day 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’s no jobs and they blame the incompetence and the, one of them said, the gangsterism of government for the fact that they were forced to emigrate.

And he said ‘now we’re being asked to come back? We’re being asked to come back to help the economy. We were forced out because we had no job’.

‘And then you talk to older people, Irish-American people here and they say ‘We are sick to death of this because the only time the diaspora, or the Irish-Americans are ever mentioned is as tourists and how can we get these people here to boost our tourism and how can we get people back here so that we can shake them down for a few quid.

“Well, one guy I know who’s a plumber in Philadelphia said to me ‘Do they not understand that there’s a huge recession here. I’m a plumber and I can’t afford to get on a plane and bring my family back to see a game of hurling in Belmullet or wherever it is’. He said ‘It is a huge ask to say to people ‘put your money aside, buy five plane tickets, come back, get involved in our local egg and spoon race and help our economy’.

“One guy said to me ‘I’m sick to death of being seen as a tourist’. And one of the problems that I found when I was Cultural Ambassador here was the diaspora have 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 we’d be saying ‘ah 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. If your grandfather left, great-grandfather left during the famine, that is a very sacred journey that you make back there. But we laughed at them.”
‘Now, the diaspora have that powerful connection to Ireland. Sometimes it’s a bit, you know, hokery-pokery, but there’s not the equivalent from there to here. Most people don’t give a shit about the diaspora over there except to shake them down for a few quid.

And when (Enda) Kenny was talking about in that, I found, slightly offensive speech, where he said (puts on fake Irish accent) ‘Yeah, we’ll all get together now and we’ll all have a great time and sure we’ll get them back here and yiz are all great and keep the flag flying and, you know, the economy and we’re all great now and that’s fantastic and I’m off now, off to something else’.

“Well that was not received well here because people are sick to death of being asked to help out in what they regard as a scam. One guy said to me ‘this is a scam’. And, he said ‘I don’t need an invitation to go back to visit my own country. How dare they say to me ‘oh, come back and visit’.

‘So, anyway, I wish The Gathering the very, very best of luck but they have to understand that the bridge between the diaspora and the people of Ireland is broken. And I tried to fix that for two years and it’s still broken. And unless you understand what it is that the diaspora feel about Ireland and the fact that, once your people have emigrated, you don’t really care where they’re gone to, unless they’re your kids, then emigration takes on a very, very different emotional sense for you.’

Listen here (part 3)

(Steve Carty) (The Gathering)

Thanks Eoin

89 thoughts on “Come Gather ‘Round People Wherever You Roam

    1. anvil

      I dunno.
      A British drinks company came up with an amazing wheeze for people all over the world to say ” To Arthur ” on a certain day thinking they were saluting an Irish drink.
      So there must be quite a few gullible tossers with Irish roots out there who’ll come home to Ireland and wet themselves because some barman pours a pint with a shamrock in the head.
      It’s no different from how Fáilte Ireland have been promoting this country for years.

      1. Jimbo

        It is a scam for sure, but a night on the sauce would cost an awful lot less than flights from the other side of the world, that and revelers get to live a much beloved stereotype at our behest. It has always been that way though

      2. Fredtheninja

        People like you calling the Irish diaspora ‘gullible tossers’ is exactly the type of embarrassing attitude he was talking about.

        1. Bob

          He said “a few gullible tossers”, not that everyone is a gullible tosser. Try paying attention to what to the meaning of the words instead of picking a few of them to be insulted by.

          1. d4n

            You’re missing the point, it’s embarrassing that our culture, is held in such low regard as to be merely a tool to milk “a few gullible tossers”, and that the only interest in the diaspora is as a pool of potential marks.

      3. Ronald Spray gun

        In the end of Michael Ring’s reply to Gabriel Byrne he finishes with the words

        “and that’s what it’s all about”

        but sadly stops short of going on to say

        “Oh hokey cokey cokey”

        Never mind the Gathering how about a nationwide Hokey cokey……. now that’s what it’s all about.

    2. cluster

      The negativity on Broadsheet in the last few months is f***ing depressing.

      If the govt. doesn’t do anythign proactive, there is pi$$ign and moaning but if they do get up of their ar$e and try do something to provide a focus for activity (and yes economic activity included) there is further pi$$ing and moaning.

      Yes, people of Bryne’s generation and older made a royal f*** up by letting themselves be conned by a credit bubble and property boom. Should those of us who were in school at the time spend the rest of our lives crying about our woes and sniffing about how tough the Irish have it, stuck between mean international financiers and venal, incompetent polioticians.

      My workplace is inviting directors with some Irish roots or who spent time living in Ireland from around the company globally to Ireland. The idea is that both personal links and business links will be developed. The Gathering gives them a neat excuse to do this

  1. John Joe Brethren

    David McWilliams was writing about this years ago. If you want something from the Irish diaspora, give them something. Like Italy, who offer those who have Italian parents and grandparents Italian passports. Why couldn’t we have done the same? We could have availed of the Irish talent around the world in order to re-develop our country. Instead, we ask them to come over ‘home’ so that they can get ripped off in Temple Bar or wherever else. It’s really disappointing.

    1. Aram

      Not disagreeing with you, but I thought we did give passports to anyone with an Irish grandparent. Is that not what the Italians do as well?
      America isn’t all that keen on dual citizenship.

      1. Ellie

        If you have an Irish parent or grandparent you can get Irish citizenship. You just need to register on the foreign births registry.

        1. Sinabhfuil

          True – and not true; I know one person from Northern Ireland who was refused an Irish passport despite having a parent born in the Republic.

          1. halcyon days

            maybe he was a criminal?
            – just thought that while we’re pushing around vague information and anecdata here, I thought I might as well contribute

          2. KD

            Everyone born here (North or South) is eligible for an Irish passport, no matter where their parents are from.

    2. soundmigration

      David William tends to be full of shit. He also said this. “Given the storm clouds building in the global stock markets, financial distress on a major scale here in Ireland can’t be far away. Is it any wonder that this week Sean FitzPatrick, one of the savviest operators in town, announced Anglo Irish Bank’s purchase of a Swiss bank? The flight to quality begins.” Punk as f87k since 1990 is our David.

    3. clarkie

      When lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2003 I met so many Irish Argentinians who connected with their Irish heritage. With names like Juan Carlos McLaughlin and Santiago McCormack these people not only had a bond with a place they had never actually set foot in, but amazingly still had an Irish twang in their spoken english even though their families had left Westmeath and Wexford in the 1850s. The spoke about how they would love to come to Ireland and work but they couldn’t get a visa or a passport. They felt very bitter and rejected by the Irish governments abandonment of them at a time when we were importing foreign labour from Europe en masse. They blamed Michael McDowell who repeatedly rejected their request for a “special amnesty” for Irish Argentinians to have at least some route to returning to a place they still felt was a home of sorts. In my opinion these people would have been a massive asset to Ireland but the government at the time left them out in the cold.

      Interesting to see squee off to Argentina last month on a trade mission.. a bit hypocritical?

      1. cluster

        Responding to your ‘hypocritical?’ question. So if a government in the past didn’t do the right thing, no future Irish representative should even start to remedy that?

    4. artvandelay

      Agreed. The irish government should lobby very hard for an immigration amnesty. The people that could come back to visit after being unable to because they were illegal would dwarf the lameass gathering.

      1. cluster

        Could greater interaction with diaspora groups not be parallel to the Gathering rather than a replacement?

  2. Jimmy no tummy

    No…we want the rich old ones. The rich ones. Like you Gabriel. Its a very odd campaign, it just seems so see through….just a cynical give us your money now feck off.

    It might improve though….get famous third or fourth generation Irish-Americans involved.

  3. Evenprime

    Totally agree, the whole thing is embarrassing, dreamed up by the kind of people the country could do well without. Thing is, what do we do with these people, how and why do they become the ones to interact on our behalf, to create our image abroad
    Going forward we’ll be open for business, a tacky euro store with everyone on minimum wage, where to own your own business is to be sucked dry, fiscally, physically and emotionally by vapid morons.
    There is a value to things, to life but these people wouldn’t be able to show you it no matter how much time you gave them… Where is the quality, the respect of human effort, the respect of a nation. They erode every worthwhile thing.

  4. Tombo

    Although this may be seen in a cynical light by US based Irish natives & I fully ‘get’ GB’s observations, I feel perhaps this isn’t being given a chance. ( I’m from Dublin but have lived near NYC for a decade.) Many Americans are deeply interested in their Irish heritage & the business connection is very strong- don’t let the pessimism dragging IRL down completely engulf a laudable project!

    1. Eithne

      It is seen in a cynical light by most people in Ireland. It’s basically begging. And the thing is that if we are (un)lucky enough to have relatives show up for this we will feel duty bound to wine them and dine them and put a good face on things. And, in my case, I’ll end up as I always do, stuck in the hell hole that is Shannon Airport at some unGodly hour buying them the shitey porridge and overcooked fry and paying vastly over the odds. I wish the bloody thing was over.

      1. Niall

        Who wouldn’t want to travel half way around the world to hear this kind of world-class whinging?

        And why does Gabriel Byrne feel the need to tell us a bunch of shyte we already know? It is yawnsome and arrogant.

      2. Jesus

        +1. Basically begging. We’re down on our luck, but Ireland is still a firmly first world country, and the very government that is daft enough to be paying out unsecured bondholders from bankrupt zombie companies is begging on our behalf to cover its ass.

        It’s disgusting.

  5. Atticus

    I heard it earlier and thought he was spot on. There’s a lot of talk about the diaspora, but what do they get in return, apart from a holiday? A holiday that they have to pay for themselves, and that they can take anytime. Once you leave you can’t even vote in elections unless you come back.

    1. Thomas H

      Postal votes would be great but the system won’t let it get through. No-one forced into emigration is going to vote for the lads who didn’t create the jobs, so no politician is going to let it happen.

      1. Formerly known as

        I am afraid you are right. I would be voting these feckers out.

        They could have given some Senate seats to the Diaspora. It would be a lot better than the NUI getting seats. I just hope the Senate is dissolved, so Ireland can stop wasting money on it.

        1. Continuity Jay-Z

          I would be vehemently opposed to a diaspora vote! Far, far too many of our more removed brethren still think we’re at war with the Brits! Their political astuteness would make the Derrylin Hoo-Has look like political science majors.

          Also the illegal immigrant commen is exceptionally disingenoust by the bould Gay; he could go home if he wished. He is in New York working tax free.

          1. D

            While some people with Irish heritage would think that, they wouldn’t need to have a vote. Other countries don’t give a vote to everyone with half a claim to being of that nationality but what most countries do is they do allow citizens to vote. If you’re a recent emigrant who grew up in Ireland you should be allowed vote for a TD who represents the overseas constituency or something like that.

            I work in London, the Americans I work with vote today for their President. The French I work with voted in their election earlier this year etc..

          2. cluster

            How do you think it is fair to get the same vote that those of us that live here and opay taxes here do?

            Americans who live abroad still have to pay a tax to maintain their citizenship.

          3. Kath

            Please let me clarify US citizens paying US taxes while living abroad.

            I am a US citizen. I do not have to pay taxes to keep my US citizenship (because my earnings are underneath the current threshold of $95,100 per annum). The US govt, however, does like me to file a tax return every year. So I am currently paying no taxes to the US and I have the right to vote.

          4. Continuity Jay-Z

            Kath, you are filing a return. It just happens that you have a zero liability. It is not about sums of money, votes do not have a price label on them.

            To the others who gripe about a diaspora vote; many Irish want a say in how a country they left is run. There are many that are economic tourists who couldn’t bear the thought of giving up a night’s drinking to tighten the belt, many are gone decades still believing Ireland is at loggerheads with the Brits. Some more are gone and working illegally in foreign countires and the remainder are people who had to leave due to thier economic circumstances becoming incompatible with any decent standard of living. Now how in the name of jaysus is an already broke country expected to nominate a panel of people to run as ‘TDs’ for a diaspora literally scattered to the four corners of the earth? who will pay for this? Who will pay for the register of electors? Who will monitor the register of the diaspora electorate?

  6. Wayne.F

    Passionate, composed & sensible. I was bored by the interview until it came to this. Super bit of radio

  7. Downpatrick red & black

    Whatever about votes for the diaspora, there should be votes for the President of Ireland available for Irish citizens living in Ireland in An Dún. Mary McAleese was elected in 1997 without being able to vote in that election as she lived just outside Newry.

    I’m talking about the President now, not the Dail, so I don’t want to hear any ‘no representation without taxation’ stuff because the President already represents Irish citizens in N.I. though they’re never allowed vote for him/her.

  8. dylad

    On the button there Gabriel. Stinks of Ireland inc. The worst kind of tourism is promoted, and we ruin our country in the process.

  9. Potato Head

    Brilliant stuff from Gabe… but I take issue with the “puts on fake Irish accent” line. When has Gabriel Byrne ever NOT had an Irish accent? Amazing actor, and I love him in everything, but he’s the Sean Connery of accents.

  10. Johnny H

    Great observation Gay! This is more of the mentality that has plagued Ireland for well over a decade. A mentality of take, take, take, unashamed greed and selfishness coupled with arrogance and blind complacentcy. I find it offensive that the Irish government would ask people to come home, quite clearly, with the sole focus on them spending money that the majority of those people would never have been afforded the opportunity to earn in Ireland. Well those people, that you didn’t give a shite about when the going was good, havnt forgotten that.

    1. Rob

      Interesting to see that the people handling the PR for the Gathering are people who were very close to Bertie Ahern. The more things change, the more they stay the same…

  11. Herbert McFrugal

    “Sure come on back and bring your family to reboot the cycle of roots tourism so we can milk yis”. Give us expats an overseas vote and we’ll think about it. Fuck Dara O’Briain, sure he’s only a Ryanair away from going back to his parents address to vote.

  12. Miriam Cotton

    Who is going to disguise that god-awful discount store on Stephens Green before the rich relations come home? Mortifying.

  13. Gallant

    Well said by GB as everyone has said above.

    It seems negativity and p1ssing on an idea is the only thing that unites opinion, which is a bit depressing.

      1. Owen C

        Irish people, world class whingers and exporters of begrudgery since 1916…

        Has anyone come up with a better way of encouraging greater interaction with the diaspora (McWilliams has thrown out a few sensible ideas, not massively different to the idea of the Gathering)? The current government are the first to at least attempt it that i know of. Gabriel Byrne seems to have a general issue with Irish tourism policy, particularly how it is “undoing all the good work we did”. Is it possible that he personally just doesn’t like that someone is trying a different tack to what he wanted to do? His rant above seems quite bizarre, all very anecdotal and completely unverifable. All the other soundings on the Gathering seem to be generally positive (i’m following the Gathering’s twitter feed).

  14. Nikkeboentje

    I recently moved abroad and I have no vote anywhere. I need to be living here for two years to vote in EU elections and five years to vote in local elections. I must be living here seven years, pass a nationality test and language test in order to vote in national elections. Meanwhile all my French, Italian, American etc friends can vote in their national elections.
    Gabriel Byrne is correct The Gathering is a thinly veiled money grabbing exercise.

      1. Michael

        0%, people who emigrated may well be on the dole doing JobBridge taking money from the coffers without contributing, while also availing of the services of Ireland. The most they’d pay is VAT.

        Those abroad are not a drain on the economy and may come back with more experience and skills to help the country in the future.

        1. cluster

          They may or may not. I was offered a couple of jobs abroad for much more than I am on in Ireland but I chose to stay. I lvie here and I pay taxes here.

          Should my vote have the same weight as those living in NY or Perth?

      2. HolyMadness

        Good point. If you’re American and living abroad you can vote in Federal Election but you also pay taxes if you make over a certain amount. Of course if you’re really rich you don’t pay any or little taxes.

        I was talking with an American couple this summer and they were delighted by the kindness of the Irish. That’s the way to get tourists to come back and tell their friends. Not the hokey shit, just genuine human kindness. That and stop charging so much for awful food and staying at decaying, NAMA’d hotels.

          1. Continuity Jay-Z

            You still have to submit returns. You are still subject to audit should the IRS choose. I’d love to see the craic in NYC and Boston if many of our fair citizens had to legitimize and pay a few bob!

      3. Nikkeboentje

        If that is you’re position, then you obviously think that people in Ireland on the dole, retired or not earning an income (e.g. full time carer or stay at home mum/dad) should not have a vote.
        I still own a house in Ireland which is rented out. I have to pay tax on the rental income even though my mortgage is twice the amount of the rent. Also I employ a managing agent, so I am paying VAT on their fees.

  15. frillykeane

    I’m pretty sure t’was here on a Navy v Fighting Oirish thread, or thereabouts, that I came across “The Gouging”

    That’s more like it

    Rural towns and parishes were doing great local stuff for years via t’internet with Yanks looking for their ancestors. Providing local knowledge and volunteering visits to graveyards/ abandoned homesteads /record ledgers to confirm their story and or fill in gaps.
    It’s a pity that the promotion didn’t include these groups and networks

  16. Micki

    87,000 people (mainly young people) left our shores in the year up to April gone by and god know how many more over the Summer when they finished college. Not even gone a full year and the Government wants them to come back for a visit? Scam is right friend of Gabriel, there’s absolutely no Irish Government initiative that’s not a money making project for the coffers. Start checking hotel prices now and keep watching as they sail skywards as we close in on 2013 – thieves.

    1. Mani

      I think he ruined it by his ‘Killing the Yank’ stance. Hard to milk them for money when you’ve beaten them to death.

  17. Trish

    Is there a reason for the gathering? Is there a historical anniversary of some sort? Or is it just an idea a government lackey in some grey squat office came up with to avoid redundancy? A make-work project perhaps?
    The gathering is also the name given to the rave in New Zealand that happens every year for a few days around New Years. That would be a better idea.

  18. Blind Warrior

    Fark the arshluchts who came up with this idea. I was born and raised in Ireland but now could not even open a bank account in the country to fund my mother’s hospice care. I could not purchase a motorcycle and legally insure it when I wanted to use Ireland as a base for a European holiday. Bollocks to coming back so a bunch of gombeen men can try to sell me plastic leprechauns. I will travel to Ireland when family affairs dictate, but not for some commercial event designed to solely relieve of my hard earned cash.

  19. Elly

    I work in heritage and have always thought this was a farce. The €5million allocated to The Gathering could go so far on other projects.

  20. colmahhh

    He’s dead right. Just a con to try and get a bit of cash into the country. At the end of the day, he did say that he wishes them well and seems genuinely hurt by the withdraw of funding for his ambassador role.
    The best bit was after the interview, Matt went to the news and then had to announce a competition in conjunction with The Gathering where you could win a grand towards a gathering party/homecoming. The sense of awkwardness from Matt was brilliant :-)

  21. John Duffy

    There was no mention of an initiative like The Gathering in the Fine Gael manefesto or the programme for government.

    Comment I’ve seen has been passively supportive at best but typically outright disapproval. Michael D Higgins hasn’t been seen to be behind it. It’s clearly a FG motivated solo run and a soap-box opportunity for the ever prolific Leo Varadkar.

    We could probably petition for the government to drop it, especially given there are aspects in the 5 Point Plan that deserve greater attention – like public service/deficit reform and political reform.

    Better idea. How about we commerate the 100 year anniversary of The Lockout? Have a year when all political parties are locked out of the system and replaced by a better informed and unbiased caretaker government. That would be a better basis for “The Gathering”…when people here have hope of real change/reform, hence something to celebrate.

  22. fairyqueen

    One guy said to me ‘I’m sick to death of being seen as a tourist’.

    But if you’re not living there and you’re only going back for visits, what on earth should you be seen as? I’m living in London; probably home more regularly than that guy; but duh, I’m a tourist in Ireland. The attitude of Ireland owing you something just cos you have roots is weird.

    1. Kevin

      Ireland does owe you something. Ireland should’ve been, had you wanted it to be, a good place to live and work. Once you’re gone, the government whose mismanagement forced you to leave is no longer obliged to consider you; they just silently thank you for reducing the number on the live register. They should be made to consider you; they shouldn’t be able to rely on emigration as a way of dumping excess citizens. This is why I think emigrants should be allowed to vote.

      (For the record, I’m still here, and will be for the foreseeable future.)

  23. Buzz

    Well said, a scam indeed. Give emigrants the vote – not indefinitely but for a fixed period of time – so they have a stake in the country they were forced to leave. Had to laugh at his comments about Enda Kenny. Go Gabriel!

    1. Continuity Jay-Z

      Yeah give emigrants the vote! Have all our TDs fly out to what ever beach in Australia you’re drunk on canvassing you at Irish taxpayers expense. Give me a break.

      Half our emigrants are merely riding our the Irish recession on a boozathon in Australia and such like. The near daily news reports of the Irish behaviour in Australia lends credence to this posit.

  24. Grammarcop

    Would that be the front half or the back half?
    No, you’re right. I wouldn’t imagine ANYONE left here because they’d no income, no jobs, cost of living, quality of life, crime or just the mediocre choice of RTE’s homemade output.

  25. flingletuff

    I have to say that I have great time for Gabriel Byrne. I have always found him articulate and informed – he never regurgitates run-of-the-mill answers heard daily in the media but always gives a well thought out reply to any question. Because he was a cultural ambassador I don’t think he was trying to harm “The Gathering” but was speaking honestly how he sees things from over yonder. What would he have to gain from complaining about it for no reason?

  26. Jonathan

    Well said that man. Finally somebody in a position of note who’s willing to say it for what it is. Nobody thinks for one second why the majority of emigrants are emigrants. Very few have little more than a brief sliver of happiness from Ireland, the rest were forced out by Fianna Fail, decade after decade through failed policies and cronyism that caused nearly all but Dublin to crumble and fall. Emigration is not a new phenomenon, it has been there for a long time and when you are forced from your country in the same way that your ancestors may have been because of famine, you hold little regard for the place beyond romanticism of the underlying concept of being Irish in a world that generally likes that nationality…

  27. Jo Nesbo

    I am an emigrant, and find the attitude that we are all here “drunk on the beach” astounding. Sure, there are people here who have obviously never seen a decent wage before, and they are drinking it before paying their rent. However, I will be returning in 6 months, and would have liked to have had a say in any elections while I was away. Remember, some of these things, like referendums, affect the law well into the future. Any money I have left is in an Irish bank account. I intend to return and actually have the promise of a job to retunr to (lucky me, I know, not everyone has this option). But the idea that, ah well, you left us cos the going was tough, be off with you. Seriously??

  28. Procrasto

    It’s an absolute joke. We are a total shambles and a complete laughing stock worlwide, most likely an irredeemable reputation at this stage.This is a money making racket and while I’ll support it cos the country is in dire straits, it shouldnt be trying to drive myself and the rest of the forgotten generation back for its pathetic self-sufficient goal

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