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NY radio rant trip funded by The Gathering

ORGANISERS of The Gathering "co-funded" a visit to New York by the Today FM Last Word programme -- the same radio show on which actor Gabriel Byrne branded the initiative a "sham".

It's emerged that those behind the controversial project contributed to the travel costs of the show's presenter Matt Cooper and a producer.

The news will prove particularly embarrassing for the organisers who have been forced to staunchly defend the year-long 2013 event as a result of Mr Byrne's criticism.

Presenter Mr Cooper and a producer of the popular drive- time show travelled to New York and interviewed Mr Byrne, a former cultural ambassador for Ireland, live on Monday.


Part of the deal struck with Today FM involved an on air "sting" which promoted the event.

The station confirmed that the trip was "co-funded" by The Gathering.

Meanwhile, a number of well-known celebrities have expressed strong support for the initiative just days after it was lambasted by the Hollywood star.

TV presenters Terry Wogan and Kathryn Thomas, as well as musician Niall Breslin have rejected claims that the event is being used to milk the Irish Diaspora "for a few quid".

The Voice star Bressie said: "Cynicism seems to be a side-effect of the recession in some people. Can someone please point out the negative aspects of The Gathering?"

Meanwhile, Government figures too have expressed disbelief at Mr Byrne's strong criticism of the event.

Transport and Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar said that the arrival of 30,000 people for the Notre Dame American football game illustrated how successful the project could be.

"Mr Byrne is welcome to his views but I don't agree with him," he said.

And Tourism Minister Michael Ring said the actor's remarks were "not helpful".

"This is in everyone's interest to make a success and to get everyone into the country, and get necessary employment.

"We need everyone wearing the green jersey at this time in the country.

"Nobody can force anybody to come here but we are all working hard to make it a success... Just because Gabriel Byrne doesn't like it, doesn't mean its not going to happen."

In a report to Dublin City Council, Failte Ireland said it was not an event but a "movement" and that it was up to everyone in Ireland to "do their bit".

As part of the initiative, schoolchildren are being encouraged to send postcards to relatives abroad inviting them to visit, and every home in Ireland will be sent an information leaflet encouraging them to take part. It aims to bring an extra 325,000 visitors to Ireland.