Irish actor Gabriel Byrne has accepted the Irish Arts Minister's invitation to chair a working group to establish a permanent Irish Cultural Centre in New York.

The working group will be made up of representatives of the Irish/Irish-American business community who will also advise the Irish Government on the enhancement of the promotion of Irish culture in New York.

The primary focus of the working group will be to develop the project from an infrastructural perspective.

A consultative forum comprising artists and those engaged in the arts world in New York and Ireland will be established in the coming months to work alongside the group and to feed into the overall process of developing the cultural centre.

Arts Minister John O'Donoghue has specifically requested that the group also examine the potential of the proposed facility to contribute to Ireland's economic prosperity given his expectation that it will become the focal point for Irish culture in New York.

"Ireland and generations of its people have made a significant contribution to American culture not just in the arts but in business and politics," said Minister O'Donoghue.

"Gabriel Byrne has shown unstinting enthusiasm for this project and I am delighted that he has accepted the invitation to chair the working group. The fact that Gabriel has cleared his schedule to work on this project for the next six months and that he is volunteering his time underlines his commendable commitment to making it a reality," he added.

Commenting on his appointment as chairman of the working group Gabriel Byrne said, "As an Irish person who has lived in New York for a long number of years I have always felt that there should be a focal point in the city to promote Irish culture and to celebrate the heavy fingerprints and footprints that Irish people have left on American culture.

"I am excited about the possibilities that this project presents and to accept the task of chairing a working group which will include individuals who will be equally committed and enthusiastic about realising those possibilities."