ACTOR Gabriel Byrne racked up expenses of almost €16,000 on flights, luxury hotel stays and chauffeur-driven cars during his stint as Irish cultural ambassador, figures have revealed.
The Hollywood star, who last week dismissed The Gathering as a "scam", was appointed cultural ambassador in March 2010 to help develop Irish arts and culture, particularly in the US.
While he received no salary for the honorary role, his expenses were covered.
Figures from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht show Byrne's expenses for hotels, flights and chauffeurs totalled €15,845 last year.
He ran up a bill of €1,980 at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin and €1,870 at the nearby Westbury.
Other expenses included two premier return flights from New York to Dublin at a cost of more than €3,000 and two single flights costing €1,779 and €1,564.
There were also VIP and Club Travel services of €983 and €975 in chauffeur services.
Byrne was criticised last week for describing The Gathering, the Government's flagship tourism programme next year, as a "scam" and saying Irish-Americans were not receptive to being "shaken down" for money.
The Gathering's project director, Jim Miley, said Byrne's comments were "just one man's opinion".
"The diaspora and The Gathering are bigger than any one man, be it Gabriel Byrne or otherwise," he said.
In a radio interview last week Byrne said most people "don't give a s**t about the diaspora except to shake them down for a few quid".
Mr Miley said he would be seeking €5m and possibly even more in funding for the year-long Gathering from the Government on top of the €5m already allocated.