Gabriel Byrne calls for new leader to 'fill vacuum'
HOSPITAL staff and patients hung on Hollywood star Gabriel Byrne's every word yesterday as he called for a new leader to "fill the vacuum" in Ireland.
Everywhere, he said, people are struggling with feelings of "fear, hopelessness and despair". Cryptically, he spoke of a new leader emerging to fill the void, but did not say if he felt Fine Gael's Enda Kenny or Labour's Eamon Gilmore would fit the bill.
"In this situation you could see a new leader emerge from the right wing or left sphere . . . there is a vacuum to be filled by a leader," he said. "I have a feeling somebody is going to emerge who will lead."
The actor was speaking in Dublin's Mater Hospital after flying in from New York to launch a new drive to encourage hospitals to allow more people to die with dignity.
Mr Byrne said there is an appalling sense of anger and a sense of betrayal among people.
"The two pillars of the church and politics who people look to for leadership are collapsing," he added.
Byrne became a strong advocate for respect for the dying in public hospitals after he witnessed a friend die in an Irish hospital -- with little privacy and dignity in his final hours.
Speaking at the event, organised by the Irish Hospice Foundation, he welcomed the contribution of €250,000 from the National Lottery and another €500,000 from the Health Service Executive to create more homely rooms for patients in their final hours as family and friends say goodbye.
"We don't need to invest millions to improve care for the dying -- a minimum can help change awareness of how the ritual is made as peaceful and dignified as possible," he added.