Actor Gabriel Byrne has been announced as the Cultural Ambassador for Ireland.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen made the announcement in Washington this evening.

Making the announcement Mr Cowen said that ‘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 endeavours behind the scenes in supporting and promoting Irish artists’.

Speaking in Washington this evening the actor said he felt 'proud' to take on the role.

He added that he wanted it to be meaningful and a role which he hopes would eventually bring jobs to Ireland.

The Government decided to appoint a cultural ambassador because of the ‘worldwide importance of Ireland's culture and its profound connection to our economy’.

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.

The Arts Council congratulated Mr Byrne on his appointment saying that the actor had been carrying out the role 'on an informal basis for many years!'

Arts Council Chairman Pat Moylan said, ‘I look forward to continuing to work closely with Gabriel, and I know that he will fly the flag for Ireland, and for Irish arts, as only he can.'

She added: ‘I commend the Taoiseach for his foresight and vision’.