CULTURE Minister Cáral Ní Chuilín has congratulated Liam Neeson on being awarded the Freedom of the Borough of Ballymena.
Describing Liam Neeson as “one of Ireland’s greatest cultural ambassadors”, the Ms Ní Chuilín said: “This honour from Liam’s hometown is not just recognition from the people of Ballymena, but is a symbolic gesture which allows everyone across Ireland to share and celebrate Liam’s achievements.
“This recognition is also for all the local supporters who helped him walk the path from Ballymena to Hollywood.
“This includes the Slemish Players with whom, as an amateur, Liam started his acting career, as well as the teachers and other mentors who encouraged and facilitated him on his way to fame.”
Mrs Ní Chuilín said Liam’s story is a tribute to his “determination, professionalism and talent”.
“Liam is from an wonderful family home in Ballymena where his mother Katherine, and his late father Bernard, gave him the strength and security to follow his dream,” Mrs Ní Chuilín said.
She added: “He was an enthusiastic and capable amateur boxer, was educated at St Patrick’s College, Ballymena Technical College and Queen’s University before setting his heart on acting as a career.
“He has been nominated for an Oscar, a BAFTA and three Golden Globe Awards. An internationally respected talent he can play any one from historical figures such as Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List, Rob Roy and Michael Collins to the voice of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia to Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars:The Phantom Menace.
“With all these accolades, it is commendable that Liam hasn’t forgotten his roots. As an avid supporter of the arts in the north, Liam is the worldwide patron for Cinemagic International Film and Television Festival and patron of the Lyric Theatre Belfast. His contribution to both these organisations is invaluable.
“Liam Neeson is one of Ireland’s most versatile actors who lights up the screen and engages us in stories that entertain and educate. Liam is a much loved local talent who is truly a world class act.”