Kevin Doyle Blog

Writing and activism

Ambassador Gabriel Byrne and ‘Brand Ireland’ … No thanks

with 6 comments

I woke up this morning to a sweetly sick interview on Morning Ireland with the actor Gabriel Byrne.  I don’t know if this is official or not but Gabriel is Ireland’s new cultural ambassador.  Maybe that’s just for the day that’s in it – St Patrick’s Day – but my impression is is that it is for much longer and is part of an initiative to ‘sell’ Ireland abroad particularly using its artistic and cultural achievements.   In the interview, such terms were bandied around like ‘selling Ireland’, and ‘Brand Ireland’ and so on and so on.  As is befitting of Ireland’s RTE news and TV service, the interviewer asked NO penetrating questions nor were any of these loaded terms either discussed, elaborated on or contended in any way.  No, the way it is is that this is all a good thing.  No dissention, no dissection of what is at stake – no anything really.  Both interviewer and interviewee were in agreement that the commodification of culture and ideas for some bottom line benefit to Ireland in the area of ‘jobs’ could only be a good thing.  Well sorry there, but I happen to work in this area and I don’t think it is a good idea at all.

Byrne explained his interest in all of this in terms of that age old fairy tale.  In his own family, his brothers and sisters have lost jobs and been thrown on the dole. What can he do?  Well, of course, he must use his position to go to the great King and ask for any crumbs from the table since Gabriel has been the jester in his day and he knows the lighter side of the King’s manner (Hollywood) and has benefitted from his largesse.  Nice Gabriel!  I was impressed at how all of what he was proposing to do as Ireland’s cultural ambassador was NOT being done for Ireland’s business class.  Oh no, Gabriel is doing all this for Irish workers and the working class so they can get some jobs and have ‘a deysant future’.  Oh come on now, Gabriel.

So much was glossed over.  Like the following.  Only a certain projection of Irish culture will be used in any situation where our culture is used to ‘sell’ who and what we are.  Of course this is true.  The projection that will be used will centre on values in Irish culture and art that don’t threaten capitalism.  Anti-capitalism, anti-authoritarianism – the spirit of defiance and autonomy in what we do – will be ignored and downgraded.  You don’t have to be a genius to figure out why.  In any commercial transaction not being offensive to the client is crucial.

This selling of a ‘cleansed image’ of Irish art and cultural production as part of Gabriel’s efforts will have an negative impact right now.   It will add impetus to the current trend that homogenises and streamlines cultural production in this country.  Is is already hard for those outside the ‘official’ and ‘accepted’ art production areas to make a living; this will worsen our situation.

Since the United States was mentioned in the interview, I have to address it.  Clearly Ireland and the US have a longstanding relationship.  It is many faceted.  But here again a certain aspect was promoted. Byrne was clear in the interview that Ireland (ie our art and cultural force) has something to say to the corporations.  We, he argued, could help the corporations.  I kid you not.  So nothing here about the structure, role and self-serving nature of ‘corporations’.   I mean it wouldn’t be stretching things to say corporations are very dangerous and self- interested entities whose principal aim is exploitation for profit.   Their role in creating poverty and inequality right throughout the world is fairly damning.   Are we going to be critical of these multinationals?  Hell no, Gabriel is going to have us out there helping them!

One last thing.  Right now, where has all this come from – this little initiative from Gabriel?  Well if you have been following events in the last few years then you will know about the ‘economic crisis’.  And of course even the dogs in the street know that that crisis is intimately linked in terms of its causes to that big disastrous idea that so many in the world have have to deal with day in, day out … Yes, you have it in one: capitalism.   So is it really a good idea that (Ireland’s) ‘art’ and ‘culture’ is to be hived off into this nebulous and offensive concept of ‘Brand Ireland’ to rescue capitalism?

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6 Responses

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  1. […] Doyle, from his blog: “Ambassador Gabriel Byrne and ‘Brand Ireland’…No Thanks” “This selling of a ‘cleansed image’ of Irish art and cultural production as part […]

  2. The tone of your writing fills me with sadness. For too many decades now the Irish have been branded abroad as maudlin, reactionary and cynical (and Gabriel Byrne himself will attest to this, having himself often been called “brooding”). You also end up sounding jealous of the guy and the attention his appointment has attracted – but at least he is making some kind of effort to do something about the ailing Irish economy, and not just blogging about how totally useless and unwanted everyone else’s efforts are.

    Laura

    March 22, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    • Sorry you feel sad over this. Personally I think it is good that there is discussion about this initiative – so I hope you take these comments in the spirit of healthy debate. The bottom line is that culture (in this case Ireland’s) is being used by an unscrupulous people for dubious ends … I don’t know a whole lot about GB’s politics but I heard him on Irish radio and he is either very naive or just very naive; and that is being kind to him.

      The central idea of “Brand Ireland” which he supports is damaging to Irish art – it may promote ‘certain’ mainstream acts but it will marginalise those who put forward so-called ‘politically incorrect’ views.
      Imagine a theatre production focusing on Ireland’s provision of Shannon Airport to the US for the purposes of the torture rendition programme that was engaged in by Bush and the CIA … will that be acceptable to ‘Brand Ireland’? I think not.

      There are very important reasons to say no to this process of ‘Brand Ireland’ IMHO. Free speech in central among those, it seems to me.

      kfdoyle

      March 24, 2010 at 5:01 pm

  3. […] I woke up this morning to a sweetly sick interview on Morning Ireland with the actor Gabriel Byrne.  I don't know if this is official or not but Gabriel is Ireland's new cultural ambassador.  Maybe that's just for the day that's in it – St Patrick's Day – but my impression is is that it is for much longer and is part of an initiative to 'sell' Ireland abroad particularly using its artistic and cultural achievements.   In the interview, such terms … Read More […]

  4. Hey there just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading correctly.
    I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same outcome.

    Galen

    March 20, 2014 at 4:25 pm


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