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Martin Sheen poses next to a statue of legendary Irish writer James Joyce in Dublin Photo by: Niall Carson/PA

Martin Sheen would be 'ashamed' if he wasn't Irish

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Martin Sheen poses next to a statue of legendary Irish writer James Joyce in Dublin Photo by: Niall Carson/PA

Martin Sheen proudly recognized his Irish roots over the weekend while giving a speech to a graduating class in Oakland, California.

The "West Wing" and "Apocalypse Now" star was speaking to the 2009 graduating class of John F. Kennedy University, and made a frank statement about what it meant to him to be Irish.

"I was once asked what would I be if I wasn't Irish," said the famous actor. "I would be ashamed."

Sheen’s mother, Mary Ann Phelan, came to America from Borrisokane in County Tipperary and was a huge influence in his life.

“She was so feisty, so cocky, I learned all the Irish songs from her,” he told Irish America magazine in October 2000.

Sheen, who is an Irish citizen, is a regular visitor to the country and owns a home in Tipperary. In 2006, he spent a semester studying at the National University of Ireland in Galway.

The Irish-American actor, whose real name is Ramon Estevez, is the son of a factory worker from Spain.  The 68-year-old has three sons, actors Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez and Renee Estevez.

Sheen has often said he regrets changing his stage name, but he felt he had no choice but to do so when he was starting out as an actor in the 1950s, as Estevez was too hispanic a name at the time to land any roles.

Sheen hopes to return to his mother's native town to film a movie about the man who brought cinemas to Ireland in the 1950s.

"It a story about a guy who was a canon in my mother's home village of Borrisokane, who established the first cinema in the town," Sheen told Pat Kenny on the "Late Late Show" in May.

"He was an extraordinary man, He loved cinema, so this is his story and they want me to play him, so I'm delighted and there's talk of getting it done this summer."

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