Colum McCann, the critically acclaimed Irish author, has said Ireland lost its way in recent years through materialism and he spoke about the importance of the arts in re-establishing Ireland’s image.

Speaking to IrishCentral on Friday, at the launch of the Imagine Ireland initiative, the Dubliner discussed the re-establishment of an Irish identity.

“Our (Ireland’s) voice has been there for a long time, but then for a few years all anyone ever talked about in relation to Ireland was mortgages and traffic, tax-relief and all that sort of thing,” McCann told IrishCentral.

“I think for a while we were a little bit blinded and we lost sight of absolutely who we were and what sort of voice we had and this is sort of a re-establishment of the voice.

“We play good music, we make good films, we tell interesting stories and so, for a while I think that we did actually forget that. Or that it became twee in a certain way.

The new Imagine Ireland campaign was launched by Culture Ireland last Friday, and plans to showcase Irish creative talent. The campaign is comprised of over 400 Irish arts events which will take place across 40 states.

The author, who won the 2009 Nation Book Award for his novel, Let the Great World Spin, spoke about the Irish diaspora spread throughout the world.

“There are lots of Ireland everywhere and to be Irish you don’t have to be within that physical boundary, you can be in new York, you can be in Buenos Aires, you can be in Sydney.

“So you have this arts program which comes together, really from throughout the world, first in New York and all around the world eventually.

“It’s part of belonging by being somewhere else at the same time. In a certain way it justifies and helps those of us who have left, to feel that we didn’t really leave in the first place.”

Colum McCann