Tributes flooded in yesterday for “comic genius” Niall Tóibín who has died after a lengthy illness.
President Michael D Higgins said he had learned of the actor, comedian, raconteur and mimic’s passing “with great sadness” and said he had made a unique contribution to Irish theatre in both the English and Irish language.
“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,” he said.
On Twitter, the Abbey Theatre said it was mourning “a beloved colleague and friend”.
Niall Tóibín was a beloved colleague and friend – we will miss him. See Niall with Tom Hickey on a legendary Abbey tour to Russia in 1988, where Niall was performing as ‘The Bull McCabe’ in The Field by John B. Keane and Tom as ‘Maguire’ in The Great Hunger by Tom MacIntyre. pic.twitter.com/BAvM4izhb8— Abbey Theatre (@AbbeyTheatre) November 13, 2019
Fianna Fáil leader and fellow Cork man Micheál Martin also expressed his sadness on the passing of Tóibín.
“Niall was an extremely talented performer with that rare ability to move seamlessly from comedy to theatre. He had a natural flair for the stage and screen, whether he was performing in one of his own stand-up shows or taking on a role in a Hollywood film, his authenticity shone through.”
“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. 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,” he said.
Lord mayor of Cork, Councillor John Sheehan said there was “a palpable sense of sadness in Cork that one of our much loved sons, a proud Freeman of the City, has passed on”.
“Niall Tóibín was an unforgettable presence both on and off the stage. His love of Cork, Ireland and Irish language and culture was renowned; that rich, resonant voice beloved by generations on both sides of the Irish Sea and Atlantic Ocean.”
“A boy from the Northside of Cork City, Níall Tóibín grew to become an Irish cultural reference point starring in everything from Ryan’s Daughter to the Ballroom of Romance to Veronica Guerin, Father Ted and Ballykissangel,” he said.
Details of a Book of Condolence in Cork will be announced shortly.
Director-general of RTÉ Dee Forbes described Tóibín as a familiar face on RTÉ to generations of Irish people who was as “at home in film as on the stage, and an especially entertaining guest on many Late Late Shows over the years”.
RTÉ previously announced a new documentary on Niall Tóibín, which is due to air as part of the forthcoming Christmas schedule.