EMIGRANTS UNWELCOME: Award-winning actor claims move home to Ireland was 'bureaucratic nightmare'

EMIGRANTS UNWELCOME: Award-winning actor claims move home to Ireland was 'bureaucratic nightmare'

IRISH actor Brían F. O’Byrne claims emigrants who intend to move back home to Ireland face a “bureaucratic nightmare”.

The Cavan native left Ireland after finishing school in the 1980s and spent a couple of years in London before making his way to the US.

He lived in New York for 20 years but saw out the final leg of his 30-year stint stateside in Los Angeles.

Over the years he carved out a successful career as a stage, film and television actor.

In 2004 he won the Tony award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance in the Broadway production of Frozen by Bryony Lavery.

His more recent television work includes roles in the likes of Hatton Garden, Mildred Pierce and Little Boy Blue - which won him a BAFTA in 2018.

Five years ago he decided it was time to go home.

O’Byrne - currently in London, starring as Torvald in the Donmar Warehouse’s prodcution of Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House, Part 2 - wanted a better pace of life for his family.

He wanted more space for he and his wife – a fellow actor - to raise their two, now teenage, daughters.

What he was not expecting was the “bureaucratic nightmare” they experienced when they got to Ireland.

It was “kind of terrible, actually”, he told The Irish Post.

“It’s not that you come back expecting it to be the same country,” he explained.

“I was used to coming back a lot to Ireland, so it wasn’t a shock like in the old days when people returned after a long time out of the country.

“I was completely aware of everything that was going on in Ireland.

“But to go back to Ireland to live is a bureaucratic nightmare.”

O’Byrne claims the red tape that faces emigrants returning from the US is nearly impossible to manoeuvre.

“Ireland does not welcome back its emigrants, at least it does not make it easy for its emigrants to return,” he said.

“There is no direct drivers licence swap for an American licence, for example,” he explained.

“You drive on your American licence for a year but after that you become a learner driver, so you can’t drive anywhere on your own.

“You have to have a fully licensed driver in the car at all times and they have to have an Irish driving licence - it can’t be an American driver. It’s a nightmare.”

He added: “My wife and I couldn’t get a mortgage either, or we couldn’t get insurance for the cars that we had bought.

“Apparently these insurance firms’ algorithms say actors are not good people to insure.”

It took time and much frustration for the O’Byrnes to wade through the red tape of resettling in Ireland, but the wounds are still raw for the Irishman.

“Those type of things have real effects,” he said.

“They are just horrible for anyone returning.”

It has also made him question whether the Irish Government really wants their emigrants to return.

“I'm not sure the Government wants anyone to come back really,” he says, “they talk about it, but it seems like it’s just lip service.

“The government does nothing to help people coming home, zero. They don’t care.”

The actor, who now lives in Sligo - which he admits his American family “loves”, also claims once you leave Ireland your citizenship becomes meaningless.

“As emigrants our citizenship doesn’t mean anything really, in that our country doesn’t allow us to vote while abroad,” he explains.

“That in itself tells you what we really think about our own citizens, if we say, ‘you are away now, so you can’t vote’.”

O’Byrne has dual citizenship, as he is now an American citizen, so he can still vote in US elections all the way from Sligo.

Ireland’s promised referendum on allowing its citizen’s abroad the right to vote in presidential elections is not good enough either, according to the actor.

“It is tokenism, it’s complete tokenism,” he says.

That said, there are many things that O’Byrne is enjoying about being back in his native land after so many years - not least the fact that it is “so much God damn fun”.

“Irish people can laugh, there is so much laughter,” he says.

“We’re all like, life is absurd let’s just laugh about everything, that is wonderful.

“Irish people really don’t take themselves too seriously.”


Catch Brían F. O’Byrne in A Doll’s House, Part 2 at the Donmar Warehouse until August 6. For tickets click here or call 0203 2823808.