Irish actor Gabriel ByrneCarlo Allegri

Ireland’s cultural ambassador to Ireland, Gabriel Byrne, has commented on the disconnect felt between the Irish living in Ireland and the diaspora abroad.

Today 80 million people throughout the world claim Irish ancestry. Over 36 million of these live in the United States alone.

At a seminar organized by the Gateway Ireland Project, Byrne explained that the word “diaspora” comes from a Greek words meaning scattering of seeds. He said that Ireland had “forgotten about the seeds that had gone away.”

“The seeds that have gone away have never forgotten about Ireland because Ireland is not just a place, it is a state of mind, it is part of your soul that you belong to,” said Byrne.

Byrne spoke about how those of Irish ancestry knew the culture and the history of Ireland but that they felt a “disconnect” between themselves and the country of Ireland.

He described Irish-Americans as having a “fractured sense of identity”. Byrne said that from personal experience he had realized that those of Irish ancestry defined their identity by the experiences of the generation of emigrants who went before them and not by their country of origin.

He said “We are survivors, we have survived for a great extent through the people who went away.” He asked that Ireland’s diaspora be embraced via business and creating online community links across the world.

Having been appointed Ireland’s cultural ambassador last March Byrne has been surprised by the number of doors which have been opened to him. He said “I have also had to learn a little bit of diplomacy.”

Also present at the seminar was Kingsley Aikins, of the Ireland Fund. He suggested that Ireland follow India’s lead by granting Overseas Citizen of Ireland Status to diaspora. India recently granted 500,000 people this status.