The Irish government announced this week that actor Gabriel Byrne will be the first ever cultural ambassador for Ireland, tasked with creating new opportunities for Irish culture abroad and spearheading an ambitious 2011 “invasion” of Irish culture to America.

The program in 2011 will include clusters of events in a range of key cities including New York, Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, among others. The program will run through 2011, with major festivals, venues and cultural organizations as presenting partners.

“Gabriel Byrne is an internationally renowned, award-winning actor and is already well established as one of Ireland’s great ambassadors through his work in film and theatre, as well as his endeavors behind the scenes in supporting and promoting Irish artists,” said Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

“The appointment recognizes the worldwide importance of Ireland's culture and its profound connection to our economy, one of the major conclusions of the Global Irish Economic Forum at Farmleigh. The cultural ambassador will work closely with the Irish government, Culture Ireland and artistic bodies to develop an artistic vision that is inclusive of the Irish Diaspora throughout the world.”

Cowen added that Byrne has played a key role in developing the concept for this season, and as cultural ambassador he will be advising Culture Ireland and Ireland’s embassy and consulates in the U.S. in creating a dynamic program of art, ideas, debate and reflection which helps to foster a renewed, forward-looking cultural relationship between Ireland and America.