Veteran Irish actor and comedian Niall Tóibín received the IFTA Lifetime Achievement Award at the Irish Film & Television Academy’s annual ‘Life on Screen’ IFTA Tribute, tonight, Thursday, 3rd November, 2011 at Dublin’s IFI. This very special IFTA event celebrated and acknowledged the 81 year-old Irish actor’s lifetime contribution to the screen arts.

Irish broadcaster and IFTA Lifetime Member Gay Byrne hosted an intimate ‘In Conversation With…’ Niall in front of a live audience comprised of Irish Film & Television Academy Members; a host of familiar faces from the world of Irish film and television; and Niall’s family, friends and former colleagues from the stage and screen. Leading the audience tributes to the Irish actor was Michael D. Higgins (Ireland’s President elect) who attended the event to pay homage to his long-time friend Tóibín.

Speaking about the event, IFTA Chief Executive Áine Moriarty said: ‘The Academy is delighted to honour and celebrate the unique and extraordinary talent of Niall Tóibín who is one of the finest actors and comedians of his generation.’

Speaking about receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award from IFTA, true to form the actor joked ‘What kept ye?!’ adding with that familiar twinkle in his eye, ‘I am delighted that my colleagues and the many talented people within this industry have finally come to their senses and realised it was time to recognise my genius!’

Niall Tóibín is now an honourary Lifetime Member of IFTA and joins prominent industry talents such as Maureen O’Hara, Pierce Brosnan, Gay Byrne, George Morrison and John Boorman in becoming Lifetime Members of the Irish Academy. In 2010, the IFTA Tribute Award was presented to the late Cathal O’Shannon.

Invited guests of the Academy who attended the IFTA celebrations ‘tipping the hat’ to the legendary Tóibín included: Irish actors Stephen Rea, Gerard McSorley; Brenda Fricker, who worked with Niall on Ballroom of Romance (1982); Fair City star Eamon Morrissey; his Ballykissangel co-star Don Wycherley; and long-time friend Frank Kelly reminisced about his time working with Niall during the 1980’s at the Abbey Theatre saying ‘I have always considered Niall to be one of the greatest all round talents in Irish entertainment of his generation, and many others for that matter. We are lucky to have him.’

Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh posed a question to the master of accents and multi-lingual Tóibín as-gaeilge and she was joined by fellow Irish broadcasters Bosco Hogan, Anna Daly, and Lorraine Keane in paying tribute to the actor.

Other guests included a range of Members of the Irish Film & Television Academy; musician Brendan Balfe, Cork’s Deputy Lord Mayor Cllr. Tony Fitzgerald and filmmakers Noel Pearson, John McColgan, Louis Marcus, Bill Hughes, who described Niall as ‘the Master of his craft’, Éamon de Buitléar, Joan Bergin and writer Ulick O’Connor.

In addition, ahead of Niall’s ‘Life on Screen’ IFTA Tribute, warm congratulatory messages have poured in from the Irish film and television industry wishing him well and paying tribute to his outstanding contribution to Ireland’s film and television industry.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan said:

‘As Minister with responsibility for the Arts, I want to congratulate Niall on receiving this plaudit from IFTA. Whether it was on stage, TV or indeed on the airways Niall Tóibín has always entertained his audiences both at home and abroad. It is particularly fitting that he be recognised by his peers in this way. On a personal note, I know that Niall Tóibín was a very good friend of the late John B. Keane and to hear them in conversation together was a unique experience of which I have very fond memories. Guím gach rath ar Niall agus a chlann don todhchaí.’

Irish actor Colin Farrell, who first encountered Tóibín on the set of TV drama Ballykissangel said:

‘Niall is a tower house of talent and wit having met him first at a script read through for Ballykissangel. He’s done a lot to promote our cultural sense of selves through his creative output.’

Irish actress Victoria Smurfit, talking about their very first scene together in Ballykissangel said:

“’Hello Sir”, I said. “Morning” he grunted. My head went down. “I’m dead” I thought.

‘The rain got heavier. Niall pulled me under his umbrella and said something about being professional enough not to soak your costume. I looked at him, he was twinkling. Not so much as to let everyone know he was a delight. He’s not going to give that sparkle away for free. Just enough grin, so once in his proximity you knew you were with a large hearted gent. He guided us through the scene effortlessly. Talent, charisma, knowledge and a reputation to make all around him tow that line. He is too young to be a legend but that is what Niall Tóibín is.’

Irish actor John Kavanagh said:

‘My first encounter with Niall was in Borstal Boy at the Abbey Theatre in 1968. What an amazing actor, I and the rest of the young actors were spellbound by his stunning performance as Brendan Behan. It was a privilege and honour to share a stage with him. He is a storyteller second to none, funny, sharp and a truly nice and decent man.’

Actor and star of Ballykissangel Stephen Tompkinson said:

‘As a relative stranger to Ireland at the time we filmed Ballykissangel, I could not have wished for a better guide than Niall; whose remarkable talent for accents and encyclopaedic memory for jokes and stories gave me a one man tour of the country and made me feel more than welcome. A wonderful actor – with a perfect economy of truth and instinct for comedy second to none. I treasure our time together as a real privilege.’

Irish broadcaster and Corkman John Creedon said:

”You can always tell a Corkman… but you can’t tell him much… and Niall Tóibín is living proof.’

‘I grew up amongst the talkers of Cork’s north inner city in the shadow of two steeples… Shandon and Niall Tobin. We played his live in concert LP so much the needle wore out, but not before I had memorised every brilliant sketch. He was fearless in his commentary and never stooped to false flattery. Years later we were introduced at a time when I was starting out with my comic character ‘Terence’, Tóibín turned to me, looked out menacingly from under an eyebrow like a corner-boy and said ‘You’re doin good kid … doin’ good.’ Those words from my hero have sustained me on many a bad day since, so twenty five years later I’d just like to take this opportunity to say “Thanks kid … you’ve done pretty good yourself.’”



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