Irish tourism officials have accused Gabriel Byrne of engaging in a "precious little rant" after he slammed the Gathering initiative as a money-making "scam".
Eamonn McKeon, chief executive of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation, advised Byrne to "stick to the acting," the Irish Independent reports.
"He's a wonderful actor and I greatly admire him but what a rant. Why do people immediately jump on any initiative and call it 'fleecing tourists'?" McKeon said.
Based on a similar tourism initiative in Scotland, The Gathering aims to increase tourist numbers with special events throughout 2013 throughout the country. During an interview with TodayFm earlier this week in New York, Gabriel Byrne was highly critical of Tourism Ireland’s efforts.
“I wish The Gathering the very best of luck but they have to understand that the bridge between the Diaspora and the people is broken and I tried to fix that for two years and it’s still broken,” Byrne said.
He added: “Most people don’t give a s**t about The Diaspora except to shake them down for a few quid.”
In his remarks, Byrne described Enda Kenny’s speech launching the initiative as "slightly offensive".
In rebuttal, Kenny described the tourism drive as a "very credible" proposal.
"I admire the work of Gabriel Byrne. He has been a fabulous ambassador for Ireland, but respectfully I disagree here," Kenny said.
Joe Byrne, Tourism Ireland Executive Vice President for North America, also came out in defence of The Gathering.
Speaking to IrishCentral he stated, “Respectfully I have to disagree with nearly everything Gabriel says: Visitors from the U.S. to Ireland do not feel "shaken down" - far from it, in fact Irish people don't laugh at U.S. visitors but welcome them sincerely and warmly.
“Irish Americans do not feel the Gathering is a scam, most have bought into it enthusiastically. I do agree with Gabriel that many in the Diaspora have a deep spiritual connection to the island of Ireland.”