Sheen‘s Irish studies ‘an extraordinary adventure’

Ireland's most famous mature student, Martin Sheen, said today his college experience had been an extraordinary adventure.

The star, who is an Irish citizen and whose mother hails from Tipperary, said he had lived his dream of returning to his mother's homeland to study after spending four months at university in Galway.

"I've been coming here pretty regularly over the years since 1973," the actor, known for his role in as fictional President Josiah Bartlet in The West Wing TV series and the iconic film Apocalypse Now, said.

"I have always had this romantic image of studying in Ireland. I never went to college and I couldn't erase it from my imagination and when The West Wing was drawing to a close and I knew I would have that window, I said it is now or never."

Sheen, who was talking about his latest film Bobby - about Robert F Kennedy, written and directed by his son Emilio Estevez - said he was made feel at home by students at the National University of Ireland in Galway where he studied several subjects, including earth and ocean science, for the past four months.

"This country has maintained its humanity and it is reflected in the feeling of community everywhere, people don't say hello to you here, they bless you. It is wonderful I have had the most extraordinary adventure the last four months," said Sheen, who travels back to the US in a week.

Tears welled up in Sheen's eyes as he spoke of fellow student Donna Ferguson, 24, who died in a horrific road crash last week.

The actor had met the post-graduate journalism student as she attempted to seek an interview with him.

"As a father I have kids and grandkids her age, you just can't imagine what that is like for a parent and it is Christmas. She was so bubbly and enthusiastic," he said.

"The parents, I thought about going up to them. I didn't want to make it about me because I didn't know them. So we had a Mass said and I wrote them a letter, and I just try to remember her."

Sheen, who is interested in making documentaries on the environment, said he had never used a computer before starting his course at the college and was now the proud owner of a certificate in computers.

"I have never felt more at home. Ireland to me is the safest place on Earth," he said.

But he admitted during his visits over the last 33 years he had witnessed changes amid growing crime rates.

"I see some of these changes which are I think reflective of drugs and alcohol, and now you have guys carrying guns and shooting each other. This is very very sad, but you know compared to what is out there you are still in the infant stage of this, I hope that you can get it in hand," he said.

"Overall the view that we have of you is very much community."

The star, who does not drink alcohol, abstained from the college party scene but went out to one movie table quiz during his time there.

The slightly embarrassed actor revealed he answered just two questions correctly, leaving his side second last out of 26 teams.

"I had no interest in partying - they are kids, I am 66," he said.

Sheen, who took a minor part as a stockbroker in the movie Bobby, said when Robert F Kennedy was killed in 1968 after taking the California Primary in the elections many people felt that was the last great hope for America.

He said his son was working to reawaken the echo of Bobby Kennedy's voice at a time when many young people in America have become discouraged with the movement towards paranoia since 9/11.

"That is where we have been this last five years and this administration has taken full advantage of it. Anyone speaking out against the war or this administrations policies had their patriotism questioned. It has been a very difficult time," he said, ahead of the film opening in Ireland and the UK in January.

"This is a very powerful, very arrogant man. And I have always believed that arrogance is ignorance matured and I can't think of a better example than George Bush but we shall see.

"[Emilio] felt the time had come when we needed to be reminded of a charismatic, idealistic passionate committed public servant. Not another politician. And Bobby Kennedy was one of the last of the real deals."

Sheen said many of Emilio's friends had taken roles in the film ensuring a big-name cast of Laurence Fishburne, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt and Demi Moore.


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