Tuesday 11 December 2018

'I am very proud to be Irish' - Liam Neeson honoured for contribution to Ireland and humanity

Independent.ie Newsdesk and Agencies

An emotional Liam Neeson has received an award from President Michael D Higgins for his contribution to the country and humanity.

Receiving the honour, the Irish actor revealed that he was wary of giving public addresses.

"My fear, and it's a genuine fear, is public speaking.

"Everyone says 'oh, you're an actor, you should be good at that.' It's just not true," he said.

Neeson was presented with the Presidential Distinguished Service Award by President Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain.

The award highlights the outstanding work by Irish people living overseas across a range of areas, from sport to science, charity or community support.

The Taken star, who appeared slightly emotional as he received the award, said he was "honoured" and "very humbled".

He said he would continue to "fly the flag for Irish arts" and the charity Unicef, of which he is a goodwill ambassador.

President Higgins described the Ballymena native as a "splendid Irish man abroad" and a "worthy recipient" of the award.

"We started the awards in 2012 to give recognition to the contribution of Irish people living abroad who have made a distinguished contribution, not just to Ireland, but to humanity in general.

"And indeed, that is the case in the case of Liam Neeson", he said.

Mr Higgins added: "I think our reason for having the award is to be able to say the Irish family isn't defined by national borders or territories.

"It is defined by care, compassion, a shared culture and heritage, a common sense of responsibility, a consciousness of our historic experience and also the importance of Ireland contributing dynamically to a future that would be humane and more compassionate and just.

"Liam Neeson qualifies by all of this criteria".

The citation for Neeson's award reads: "As an extremely gifted and internationally renowned film actor, Liam Neeson has helped to raise Ireland's profile and awareness of Ireland and Irish artists around the world, especially in the United States where he is based."

The actor, who also starred in Steven Spielberg's highly acclaimed Schindler's List, is a strong supporter of the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, where he started his career, and the Irish Arts Centre in New York, where he currently lives.

He has given strong support in recent years for Irish cultural projects and has provided strong personal support for a variety of initiatives to promote tourism to Ireland.

He has also been supporting Unicef's Believe In Zero campaign in Ireland and the United States which highlights the plight of the eight million children who die before their fifth birthday every year.

While in Dublin the star is due to attend the gala screening of his new movie The Commuter on Friday evening.

Press Association

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