James Nesbitt has said receiving an OBE will “give credence” to the cause of those left searching for loved ones following the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
The ‘Missing’ star was awarded the honour in the New Year’s list for services to Northern Ireland and to acting, after years of work helping families affected by the conflict.
Born in Ballymena, Nesbitt’s family lived in Broughshane and he was a pupil at Lisnamurrican Primary School where his father James “Jim” Nesbitt, was the headmaster. When Nesbitt was 11 years old, the family moved to Coleraine, County Londonderry.
He is a patron of Wave Trauma Centre, which supports people bereaved, injured or traumatised during the years of violence.
The 50-year-old also appeared in several films about the unrest, including Bloody Sunday and Five Minutes of Heaven.
He told the Press Association: “I’ve been very blessed with my work and very blessed to come from Northern Ireland, and for those two things to be on the citation was really rather gratifying.
“To be associated with the Wave Trauma success story – a success story tarnished by the loss and the years of not having the remains – it really means an awful lot to me.”
After 30 years of violence, many were left searching for the resting places of friends and relatives who disappeared.
“They’re the people who have gone through the pain, the real hard work, the searching,” Nesbitt added.
“This gives credence to their cause, a cause which they have been fighting now for so long, to try and find the remains of loved ones so they can have some kind of closure.”
He added that appearing in films about Northern Ireland and the bloodiest chapter in its history came with a weight of responsibility.
“You cannot help the feeling the responsibility is a wee bit heavier,” he said.
“It’s where I come from and it’s affected so many lives and that has been a great privilege. That is what you go into the job for – the opportunity to exercise your craft, but also say something about where you come from, to maybe have an impact.”
He will next be seen playing killer dentist Colin Howell in three-part ITV drama The Secret, based on the true crime book by the Press Association’s former Ireland editor, Deric Henderson.