Neeson named Co-Chair of major Irish group

Posted by Niall O'Dowd at 6/4/2009 12:05 AM EDT

Actor Liam Neeson has been named Co-Chairman of the American Irish Historical Society (AIHS) in New York, one of America's oldest Irish organizations.

The society is dedicated to furthering Irish-American culture and traditions and preserving historical records of Irish America .

Neeson, who recently lost his wife Natasha Richardson in a tragic ski accident, stated he hoped the AIHS would open itself up to many other ethnicities too, all of whom he said have played a part in helping create the history of the Irish in America.

He specifically quoted the example of former Black slave Frederick Douglas, a friend of Abraham Lincoln, who visited Ireland and spoke out passionately against the oppression there during the Irish famine.

He also spoke about the Choctaw Indians who had sent a donation to Ireland during the Famine to help the victims.

He said he looked forward to the day when their roles could be remembered in Irish American history also.

Neeson, a native of Ballymena in Northern Ireland, has long had a deep interest in his heritage.

He played the title role in "Michael Collins," the movie about the Irish revolutionary who was killed during the Irish civil war.

He has a long track record of helping causes in Ireland, including making a substantial donation to victims of the 1998 Omagh bombing, carried out by the Real IRA, one of the worst atrocities of The Troubles.

Recently he was awarded an honorary doctorate by his alma mater, Queens University Belfast.

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