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Daniel Day-Lewis’ love for Ireland born from his talented father’s affection

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Daniel Day-Lewis and Meryl Streep

Daniel Day-Lewis may have been born in Britain and attended public school there, but for the past 17 years he has been a proud Wicklow man, living in splendid isolation in a marvelous Georgian mansion on a 100 acre farm.

Like his father before him, Cecil Day-Lewis, who became Britain’s poet laureate, the soil of Ireland was always deep in his bones.

Cecil Day-Lewis was Anglo-Irish, born in Stradbally, Co. Laois, the son of the local vicar. He lost his mother at just four years of age and the family moved to London but returned to Wexford for family vacations.

Though he became Britain’s best-known poet, he never forgot his Irish heritage.

Cecil Day-Lewis wrote some of his best poetry about Ireland, especially the house where he was born and about his maiden aunt, Agnes Squire, who looked after him when his mother died.

Writing of her he said, “Of one who made no claims because that was her nature and loving so, asked no more than to be repaid in kind. If she was not a saint I do not know.”

The Irish genes and affection for Ireland clearly came down the generations to Daniel.

He has become the greatest actor of any era, winning an unprecedented third Oscar for Best Actor last Sunday night.

He still counts the Freedom of Wicklow which he received in 2010 as one of his greatest achievements.

At the time he said, "This is the place that sustains me, the place where I planted myself.

"When the work is done, it's to this place that I return to as a refuge.  It's a place where I feel the freedom to lie fallow if I need to for a period of time.

"Living in this place that I have now for 15 years I've always felt, more than any other place that I've been, that Wicklow is in harmony, complete harmony, with the demands that life has made," he said.

Locals in the tiny village of Annamoe fully expect to see him drop into the Roundwood Inn and have his usual pint of Guinness, though he keeps to himself when he does.

Daniel is his father’s son, spanning both the British and Irish identity and revealing a talent that is truly remarkable given his difficulties in adolescence.

Daniel was a difficult child who got thrown out of many schools for misbehavior. Indeed, he only found his groove when he reconnected to Ireland.

His first great breakthrough was when Dublin director Jim Sheridan and producer Noel Pearson signed him to play Christy Brown in My Left Foot.

I knew Pearson quite well at the time, and remember the almost fairytale atmosphere when the little movie they made beat the best in Hollywood, thanks to an incredible performance by “our Daniel,” as Pearson called him.

The celebration party that was held in Eamonn Doran’s on Second Avenue in New York, where Pearson was a regular, went on late into the night, and the birth of a great era in Irish filmmaking had begun.

Day-Lewis was at the center of all that. As Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four in the film In the Name of the Father, he delivered a performance of such power that I remember being in tears watching it.

He then linked up with Sheridan for The Boxer which never reached the heights of his other films, but was nonetheless was a great effort.

Day-Lewis was truly ferocious as Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York, a great but flawed film, and of course there were the two latest Oscar movies, There Will be Blood and now Lincoln.

Now he will step back into obscurity he says, back to his beloved Wicklow where he will recharge and replenish. Day-Lewis says it might be five years before he acts again, an extraordinary span.

Irrespective of the future, he has claimed the present like no actor ever. Ireland should be very proud of its adopted son.

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