Sunday 25 February 2018

Veteran actor and comedian Niall Toibin receives the Freedom of Cork

Niall Toibin Photo: Tony Gavin
Niall Toibin Photo: Tony Gavin
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

NIALL Tóibín (85) celebrated one of his proudest moments on stage as he received the Freedom of Cork.

The veteran actor and comedian admitted he was “overwhelmed” by the honour which Cork City Council bestowed on him in recognition of his lifetime of artistic achievement and his fearless championing of both his native city and the Irish language.

“The freedom of one’s native city is a high and very special honour. When that city is Cork, it is difficult to retain one’s humility,” Mr Tóibín joked.

“What I’m trying to explain, like, is that you are proud of your own city. It’s only natural you should be proud of your own city. But if you come from anywhere else (than Cork), if you’re proud of your own city then you are only boasting.”

Lord Mayor Councillor Mary Shields told a City Hall audience that Niall Tóibín ranks as “a national treasure.”

“It is only right and fitting that we honour here today one of our national greats, one of our very own and one of the finest actors of our time,” she said.

The freedom presentation comes five years after University College Cork (UCC) celebrated the actor with the award of an honorary doctorate.

The Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) granted him their lifetime achievement award in 2010.

Mr Tóibín was born at Bishop’s Field on Cork’s northside in 1929, attended the famous North Mon secondary school and then left Cork for work in 1947.

He had a part-time involvement in acting with the Gaelic League in Cork before working briefly in Dublin as a civil servant.

However, he quit his job to work as a full-time actor with the Radio Eireann Players in 1953.

He also began a long and successful working association with the Abbey Theatre.

Between the 1960s and 1990s, he appeared in some of the biggest films ever shot on location in Ireland and worked alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest stars including Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Robert Mitchum, John Mills and Pierce Brosnan.

While beloved in Ireland as a comedian, he became internationally respected as an actor and secured a prestigious Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor on Broadway in New York.

He also won a Tony Award for his acclaimed performance in Brendan Behan’s ‘Borstal Boy’.

Mr Tóibín has won virtually every single entertainment award in Ireland and still found time over the course of his career to serve as an ardent supporter of the Irish language.

He also boasts an impressive CV of television work including such popular series as ‘Ballykissangel’, ‘Bracken’, ‘Ballroom of Romance’, ‘Brideshead Revisited’ and ‘The Irish RM’.

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