Actor and comedian Niall Tóibín passes away after long illness

Actor and comedian Niall Tóibín passes away after long illness

Cork-born actor and comedian Niall Tóibín has passed away, his family has confirmed.

A statement by his daughter, Sighle, said he died in Dublin this morning after a long illness. He was 89.

He is survived by his children Sean, Muireann, Aisling, Sighle and Fiana and his seven grandchildren.

Niall's wife, Judy, passed away in 2002.

President Michael D Higgins, who is visiting Cork today, said he learned of Mr Tóibín's death with great sadness.

"His contribution to Irish theatre was a unique one, in both Irish and English," he said.

"The depth of interpretation that he brought to a wide variety of characters showed a very deep intellectual understanding and, above all, sensitivity to the nuance of Irish life.

"The range of his work was vast and included unforgettable performances in all of the Irish theatres and some of the most important theatres in London and New York.

"While a huge audience will have adored his comic genius, his work included all the genres – stage, television, film and radio.

"To the latter he brought a distinctive voice which made him a much-loved interpreter of Irish life and its challenges.

"Sabina and I send our deepest condolences to his children Sighle, Aisling, Fiana, Sean and Muireann and the other members of his family, and to all those who so loved his work.”

Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD also paid tribute to the "talented performer".

"Niall was a uniquely talented performer, light-hearted, funny, sharp-witted and intensely powerful both as an actor and comedian.

"Niall’s career included work on radio, stage, television and cinema, earning him recognition in Ireland and internationally. He was also hugely loved and respected by all who worked with him."

He was born in Cork city on November 21, 1929.

 Niall Tóibín, President Michael D Higgins & Gay Byrne where Niall received a Lifetime Achievement Award from IFTA in 2011 during a Life on Screen Tribute at the IFI, Dublin. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins
Niall Tóibín, President Michael D Higgins & Gay Byrne where Niall received a Lifetime Achievement Award from IFTA in 2011 during a Life on Screen Tribute at the IFI, Dublin. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins

His career began in radio drama in the 1950s, his most recent production for RTE Drama on One was 2020 by John Boorman in 2011.

He appeared in films and television shows such as Ryan's Daughter, Ballykissangel, Far and Away, and Veronica Guerin.

Niall starring as Andy in the original production of Lovers by Brian Friel at The Gate Theatre; Brendan Behan in the original adaptation of Borstal Boy at the Abbey Theatre and on Broadway; and Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett at the National Theatre, London.

In 2010, he was honoured with a Doctor of Arts degree from UCC. He was awarded an IFTA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 and in 2015, he was awarded the freedom of Cork city.

“Quick-witted and sharp-tongued, he had audiences locally, nationally and internationally in the palm of his hand as he mixed confidence and humility with his own brand of humour," said Micheál Martin.

“The Irish language played an important role in Niall’s life and his love for it shone through in the books that he published, and through his involvement in Poitín, which was the first Irish language feature film ever made.

“A proud Cork man, he was awarded the Freedom of Cork in 2015 for his work in film, television and on screen; an accolade that I know meant a lot to him.

RTE recently commissioned a documentary on his life from film maker Brian Reddin. It is due to air as part of RTÉ's forthcoming Christmas schedule.

"Niall Tóibín started acting in the 1950s and spent fourteen great years with the Radio Éireann Players. He became, ultimately, a familiar face on RTÉ to generations of Irish people," said Dee Forbes, Director-General of RTÉ

"A proud Corkman, he was as at home in film as on the stage, and an especially entertaining guest on many Late Late Shows over the years."

Niall Tóibín's funeral arrangements will be announced later.

- Additional reporting Eoin English.

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