Ireland's Gabriel Byrne brainstorms art and economics

Fri Oct 7, 2011 10:12am EDT
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By Carmel Crimmins

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish actor Gabriel Byrne sees nothing wrong in harnessing art for Ireland's greater economic good.

A Dubliner living in New York, Byrne was appointed Ireland's cultural ambassador in 2009 with a remit to foster greater artistic relations between Ireland and the United States.

The role is a key part of an Irish government strategy to use the country's cultural heritage to help rebuild its battered economy.

"Culture and commerce have always been uneasy bedfellows. The purpose here today is to see what common ground there is between the world of economics and the world of art," the 61-year-old told Reuters during a two-day conference in Dublin.

Ireland's Global Economic Forum is a Davos-style meeting that brings together leading members of Ireland's diaspora to brainstorm on how to ramp up the country's fragile recovery after a financial crisis and EU-IMF bailout.

Byrne, with his dark glasses and silk scarf, stands out amongst the other delegates, drawn mainly from the suited-and-booted world of business.

But he believes Ireland's cultural riches -- its poets, writers, musicians and actors -- are an important calling card for companies seeking a foot in the door overseas.

"I think artists lay out the carpet before businessmen, whether businessmen like to admit it or not," he said, speaking in the courtyard of Dublin Castle.   Continued...