President pays tribute to Oscar winners

President Mary McAleese led tributes today to Ireland’s Oscar winners, saying the country had been blessed with an endless supply of talent.

President Mary McAleese led tributes today to Ireland’s Oscar winners, saying the country had been blessed with an endless supply of talent.

Wicklow resident Daniel Day-Lewis won the best actor award for 'There Will be Blood' while stars of low budget movie 'Once', Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, won for best original song.

The singers, backed by the Academy orchestra, played live during the ceremony with a moving version of their hit 'Falling Slowly'.

President McAleese said it was a tremendously successful year for Irish cinema.

“I am delighted to congratulate Daniel Day-Lewis on winning the Oscar for best actor in a leading role, and Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova on winning the Oscar for music,” she said.

“2008 has been a tremendously successful year for Irish cinema, as witnessed by the many international nominations and awards already garnered.

“Last night’s achievements at the Oscars are a further sign of the inexhaustible supply of creativity and talent with which this country has been blessed.”

Describing the Oscar as amazing, a surprised Hansard said he felt a little bit out of place.

“We made it for a hundred grand. We never thought we would come into a room like this and be in front of you people. It’s been an amazing thing. Thanks for taking this film seriously, all of you,” he said.

Later Hansard described exactly how out of place he felt as he partied in Los Angeles: “I feel a bit like a plumber at a flower show,” he told RTE Radio.

And he said he had received a good luck text from U2 star Bono just before the ceremony.

“He was just saying like we are all rooting for you. For me it was just like getting a text off the king of the tribe … that’s just brilliant.”

The singer turned actor and his co-star Irglova ran out of time during their acceptance speech and were hurried off the stage, but in a moment of generosity compere Jon Stewart ensured a departure from the tight schedule and Irglova was later allowed back on to say thanks.

“This is such a big deal, not only for us, but for all other independent musicians and artists that spend most of their time struggling. Fair play to those who dare to dream and don’t give up,” she said.

“This song was written from a perspective of hope, and hope at the end of the day connects us all, no matter how different we are.”

Carlow teenager Saoirse Ronan, who achieved widespread acclaim for her role in 'Atonement', missed out on the best supporting actress award with the honour going to British star Tilda Swinton for her portrayal of a ruthless corporate lawyer in the movie 'Michael Clayton'.

Simon Perry, chief executive of Bord Scannan na hEireann/the Irish Film Board, said the success of 'Once' was astounding.

“But for 'Once' to actually win is a mark of recognition like no other - particularly for a film made with no pretensions,” Mr Perry said.

“Both this award and the fitting Independent Spirit award finish what has been an astounding year for a small Irish film.”

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