From fashion designers to actors and businesswomen to models, the next generation of young Irish people has thrown up some significant talent across a range of professions. These young people are among a pool of highly-accomplished achievers whose remarkable successes to date are bucking recessionary trends and putting their country back on the map.
By PJ Gibbons
In 2013, the names to watch include the second daughter of rock star Bono and his wife Ali Hewson, actress Eve Hewson, whose star has very much been on the rise in her own right for the past two years now, with numerous film projects on the cards for the year ahead.
Another high-profile name to keep an eye on over the coming months is fashion designer Heidi Higgins, whose design approach with her eponymous label is to start with basic shapes, introducing new elements of style, ensuring that shape and fit exude femininity, while adding a signature splash of colour in luxurious fabrics.
Meanwhile, Downton Abbey star Allen Leech is on the cusp of huge things in the film business as Hollywood producers have now picked up on the young Dubliner’s remarkable success on British television. Leech, who plays the role of rebellious Irish chauffeur Tom Branson, has been present in almost every episode of the latest series.
With dad fronting the world’s biggest rock band, Eve knows a thing or two about fame. Over the past couple of years, the 21-year-old has been quietly building a reputation in the acting world; without shouting from the rooftops that she’s Bono’s daughter.
Having attended St Andrew’s College in Dublin, she set off for New York University two years ago to study acting after her Leaving Certificate.
Her biggest role to-date, in which she starred alongside Academy Award-winners Sean Penn and Frances McDormand, has been in This Must be the Place.
Recently, the rock princess revealed how her parents were not exactly pleased when she decided to become an actress.
She said: “It didn’t go over so well with my dad that I wanted to go into the world of acting. I’ve been acting since I was 15 and my parents were just terrified. I think because they’ve been around and know what Hollywood is, especially for a woman.
“I think when I got into acting college they knew I was going to take it seriously.”
She also told how her celebrity parents did not spoil their children.
“My parents work really hard to make sure we don’t feel entitled,” she said. “They want us to work for things.”
To date, Ms Hewson has also previously been cast in the film The 27 Club and starred in the Script’s music video For The First Time.
And with two new films in the pipeline for 2013, we can expect to see a lot more of this pretty brunette.
Leaving Cert student Thalia Heffernan first started modelling two years ago, when she was just 15. Represented by Morgan the Agency in Ireland, the 17-year-old is now also presented in the UK by Premier Models — the same agency behind the likes of supermodels Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista.
Back home, the Dublin native is a regular model on the seasonal catwalk ramps of Brown Thomas, Arnotts and Harvey Nichols.
Heffernan made her modelling debut at the prestigious London Fashion Week last season when she took to the catwalk of leading Irish designer John Rocha.
She was also recently featured in the Peter Mark hair campaign.
With the pressure of the Leaving Certificate now looming for 2013, Heffernan will be taking a step back in the coming months to focus on her studies, but she insists she will continue to model on a part-time basis.
Most recently, she took to the catwalk as one of the opening models at Belfast Fashion Week at the end of October.
With Thalia being a huge success with her British agency, it could well be London calling for this pretty face in 2013.
And she isn’t the only Irish teenager to grab attention in the modelling world this year; 15-year-old Ciara McSweeney has been firmly in the spotlight since being discovered by agent Andrea Roche at a modelling boot camp. She is currently on the shortlist to be the new face of the high-profile fashion line Abercrombie & Fitch in the US, with boss Andrea telling a newspaper recently: “A casting agent for Abercrombie liked her look so we’re very hopeful.”
As Head of Production at British actor Stephen Fry’s Sprout Pictures in London, 28-year-old Zoë Rocha is responsible for the company’s overall business and production strategy across both film and television.
As well as her overall business role, the daughter of fashion designer John Rocha acts as executive producer on several of Sprout’s projects in development and production, liaising with talent, developing scripts and designing project-specific financial strategies.
Rocha has previous experience in casting, having worked at the family-run Hubbard casting agency, where she was involved in the production of such titles as Inkheart, Taggart and The Bourne Ultimatum. She has also independently produced two very successful short films.
Ms Rocha is currently executive-producing various projects, including actor Idris Elba’s directorial debut, which was commissioned by the television channel Sky Arts. And she has also worked as executive producer on the ITV film Doors Open.
Being Irish, Zoë is always keen to work on Irish content and was delighted to have worked with the actor Chris O’Dowd on the film A Little Cracker two years ago. Following transmission, it was commissioned as a series called Moone Boy, which is currently filming its second series in Roscommon.
Next year is looking busier than ever at Sprout as Rocha is producing a further two Playhouse documentaries for Sky Arts in January, directed by Matt Smith, of Dr Who fame, and Marc Warren, of Mad Dogs and Hustle.
In 2013, she will also executive-produce a factual documentary series presented by Stephen Fry himself for BBC One television.
As well as working at Sprout, Rocha has also started developing her own slate of feature projects and is hoping to move forward with one of them next year as she admits her passion has always been in feature films.
Downton Abbey star Allen Leech recently revealed he is revelling in the role of rebellious Irish chauffeur Tom Branson in the successful TV period drama.
The 31-year-old Dubliner’s character has been present in almost every episode of the latest series.
The actor most recently jetted in to Dublin to help unveil the Christmas windows at Brown Thomas.
Born in 1981 in Killiney, he is also well known for his starring role as Marcus Agrippa in the 2007 HBO television series Rome.
A graduate of St Michael’s College in Dublin’s leafy Ballsbridge, he studied drama and theatre at Trinity College Dublin.
While a first-year Trinity student, he secured a plum role in Foresight’s powerful production of Conor McPherson’s This Lime Tree Bower.
This student production propelled him out into professional theatre and helped get him his first agent.
He also appeared in The Queen and Peacock at the Garter Lane Arts Centre.
Leech’s breakthrough film performance was in Cowboys and Angels.
He played Vincent, a gay fashion student, followed in 2004 by the Irish cross-country caper film Man About Dog, in which he played Mo-Chara, one of three Belfast scallies who get in way above their heads.
In 2005, the actor was voted Ireland’s Sexiest Man by U magazine, beating off stiff competition from fellow thespians Colin Farrell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
Later came film success with the role of Shane Kirwan in the RTÉ series Love is the Drug, for which he received a Best Actor IFTA nomination.
He also received a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the IFTAs for his role in Legend.
Most recently, he appeared on the small screen in both The Tudors, as the doomed Francis Dereham, former lover of Catherine Howard, and then last year he played the role of Officer Sam Leonard in the hit television series Primeval.
Earlier this year he gave a stellar performance in the film The Sweeney.
He is currently being considered for a number of major Hollywood roles in 2013.
Fashion designer Heidi Higgins graduated from the National College of Art and Design in 2008, and just under a year later she introduced her own fashion label in Ireland.
The Laois native’s work was well received as she ushered in a confident, contemporary label that is sensitive to emerging trends and featuring canny detailing that gives a sage nod to the catwalk while remaining fearless in pursuit of its unique aesthetic.
Her design approach is to start with basic shapes, introducing new elements of style, ensuring that shape and fit exude femininity while adding a signature splash of colour in luxurious fabrics.
With her most recent collection, for autumn-winter 2012, she took to the rails of several exclusive boutiques across the country, as well as supplying her flagship boutique in Portlaoise, Co Laois.
“I always thought that someday I might like to have my own label but wasn’t sure how I was going to make that happen until I decided to give up my job and just give it a go,” said the designer.
“After graduating from college I worked with Irish designer Louise Kennedy, which was a fantastic experience for me as a young designer. But ultimately I wanted to have my own label. I made the leap and I’m fortunate that my business has been growing every season.”
But she’s not just a designer; she’s also a savvy businesswoman, effortlessly managing to juggle both the creative and business sides of her company.
“It’s a big challenge to keep both sides going as one is as important as the other,” she said. “I need to be very organised with my time and as a creative person that is not always the case. Designing is the easy part but there is much more involved in creating a collection and getting it to the shop floor. I enjoy the challenge and try to keep everything running smoothly and on schedule as best I can — we are still a small team but we are very passionate about what we do and we give every task our best.”
The grandmother of a toddler with Down's syndrome has been waiting a year for a response from the Taoiseach and three government ministers to correspondence about disability cuts referred to them on her behalf by the troika.