Ifta pays tribute to Michael D's efforts
PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins will grace the red carpet at the Irish Film & Television Academy (Ifta) awards next week when he is honoured by a galaxy of Irish and Hollywood stars for his outstanding contribution to the film and television industry.
Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons, Saoirse Ronan, Fionnula Flanagan, Colm Meaney, Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham will join Neil Jordan and Jim Sheridan at the Irish showbiz bash of the year.
Rising Irish stars Tom Vaughan Lawlor, of Love/Hate, and Amy Huberman will also join in honouring the President when he is given an honorary award in recognition of his unwavering support of the Irish film and television industry over the past 20 years.
A spokesman for the President last night confirmed that he will attend Saturday's event at the former Burlington Hotel, now the Hilton Doubletree. The event will be broadcast live on RTE One at 9.35pm.
An Ifta spokesperson said: "It is in the midst of this unique gathering that Irish writers, actors, directors, producers and craftspeople will pay tribute to the incredible contribution that President Higgins has made to their lives and to the Irish industry.
"With his vision and immense commitment to the arts he transformed the industry through a range of initiatives – from tax incentives to training and the re-establishment of the Irish Film Board, ultimately encouraging investment and creating thousands of jobs."
President Higgins was Ireland's first Arts & Culture Minister between 1993 and 1997 and was instrumental in laying the foundation that allowed Ireland's indigenous film and TV industry to survive.
He is also credited with establishing Ireland's Irish language broadcaster, TG4, and introducing an amendment to the Broadcasting Act that ensures a portion of the RTE TV licence fee is allocated to Irish-commissioned and produced programmes.
President Higgins was credited with bringing in the Section 481 tax incentive which played a pivotal role in Hollywood star and director Mel Gibson's decision to film the 1994 blockbuster Braveheart here.
The Oscar-winning film – which used Irish crew and Army reservists as extras in battle scenes – paved the way for major studios to shoot in Ireland.
Other major blockbusters followed, including Saving Private Ryan, along with the filming of UK television series such as The Tudors and Ripper Street.