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Tuesday 28 January 2020

Comic genius Tóibín was living with dementia

Family portrait: Niall Tóibín and daughter Sighle pictured during rehearsals for a production of ‘Behan Himself’ in Dublin in 2001. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
Family portrait: Niall Tóibín and daughter Sighle pictured during rehearsals for a production of ‘Behan Himself’ in Dublin in 2001. Photo: Colin O’Riordan

Lynne Kelleher

The family of Niall Tóibín has revealed he had been living with dementia in the years before he died.

RTÉ was making the touching documentary on his remarkable life both on-screen and off-screen to celebrate his landmark 90th birthday when he passed away just eight days short of the milestone.

From starring alongside Tom Cruise in 'Far and Away' to making a lifelong friend of Richard Burton and appearing with 007 star Pierce Brosnan in his first TV role, the Cork man had one of the most illustrious careers in Irish acting.

In the intimate and often hilarious documentary on the father of Irish comedy, his children delve into the huge collection of movie and theatrical memorabilia from his career on stage and on screen. They are joined by a star-studded list of co-stars and friends including Brosnan, Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Rea, Victoria Smurfit and Deirdre O'Kane.

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They touch on his reputation for being temperamental, his deep love for his wife and his remarkable on-screen presence.

In the years before he died, his children tell how the comic genius was diagnosed with a form of dementia called mild cognitive impairment but he had plenty of lucid moments. In the documentary filmed in the months before his death, his daughter, Sighle, said: "He's wandering in the mist but he knows he's safe."

She recalls how he was never afraid to push the envelope with his comedy during his storied career.

"At one stage he couldn't get work in Ireland because he was just seen to be too edgy, too out there, too dangerous," she remembers.

Irish Independent

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