“My fear, and it’s a genuine fear, is public speaking. Everybody says: ‘Oh, you’re an actor, you should be good at that.’ It’s just not true,” he said. He was speaking at Áras an Uachtaráin, yesterday, where he received a special award for Irish people doing outstanding work abroad in sport, science, and the arts.
“I’m very, very humbled and I’m very, very proud to be Irish, especially today. I shall continue to fly the flag for Irish drama,” he said, on receiving the Presidential Distinguished Service Award, from President Michael D Higgins.
President Higgins said the actor had not only contributed to the arts, but also to humanity, through his 20 years as a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador.
“Last November, when I was presenting the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for contribution for the Irish abroad, Liam wasn’t able to be with us, but he more than deserves a special occasion himself.
“We started the awards in 2012, to give recognition to the Irish people living abroad who had made a distinguished contribution, not just to Ireland, but to humanity in general and, indeed, that is the case with Liam Neeson,” Mr Higgins said.
The President also spoke of the “Irish family” and how it is not defined by political or geographic borders, but instead shared values.
“I think our reason for having the awards was to say that the Irish family isn’t defined by national borders or territories. It’s defined by care, compassion, a shared culture and heritage, a common sense of responsibility, a consciousness of our historical experience, and also the importance of Ireland contributing dynamically to a future that would be more humane and more compassionate and more just.”
“It is very, very clear, to absolutely everybody in this room, how Liam Neeson qualifies by all of those criteria”.
The President also referred to the actor’s contribution to the Irish film industry in the 1990s, when it was going through a difficult period.
“I want to say that, in that period between 1993 and 1997, when the Irish film industry was getting its second wind and going on to the strong internationally-recognised position it now is [in], Liam Neeson, and those like him, were outstanding in helping promote the Irish film industry,” said President Higgins.
He also thanked the actor for his Unicef work. “Now is the time, more than any other, when, in fact, children of the world are more vulnerable and deserve all our support.”