President honours Liam Neeson’s special skills
Hollywood leading man Liam Neeson, from Ballymena, was presented with the Presidential Distinguished Service Award in Dublin last Friday by President Michael D Higgins in recognition of his contribution to Ireland from overseas and his humanitarian work.
President Higgins bestowed the honour on Neeson in Aras an Uachtarain, and described him 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”, President Higgins said.
“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.”
Mr Neeson, who comes from the same part of Ireland as the late Reverend Ian Paisley, was visibly moved by the award and said: “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,” Neeson said.
He said he was “”very humbled” and would continue to “fly the flag for Irish arts” and to continue his work as a goodwill ambassador with UNICEF.