Irish President Michael D Higgins awards the last of the 2017 Presidential Distinguished Service Awards.
Famed Irish actor Liam Neeson has been honored by Irish President Michael D Higgins with a special award for his massive contributions to Ireland, recognizing the actor's dedication to promoting Irish arts and his humanitarian work.
Neeson was honored with the Presidential Distinguished Service Award in a ceremony in Áras an Uachtaráin (the Irish President’s Dublin residence) on Friday morning in which President Higgins celebrated the “Taken” star as "a splendid Irish man abroad" and a "worthy recipient" of the award.
"We started the awards in 2012 to give recognition to the contribution of Irish people living abroad who have made a distinguished contribution, not just to Ireland, but to humanity in general. And indeed, that is the case in the case of Liam Neeson", President Higgins said.
"It is defined by care, compassion, a shared culture and heritage, a common sense of responsibility, a consciousness of our historic experience and also the importance of Ireland contributing dynamically to a future that would be humane and more compassionate and just.
"Liam Neeson qualifies by all of this criteria."
Irish Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan also congratulated the Ballymena actor calling him an “incredibly gifted and internationally renowned film actor who has never lost touch with his Irish roots.”
“He has helped to raise awareness of Ireland, Irish film, and Irish artists around the world, especially in the United States where he is based. His award today is richly deserved,” Minister Madigan added.
Neeson, 65, was said to be emotional as he picked up the award, speaking on his fear of public speaking, despite his dazzling acting career.
"My fear, and it's a genuine fear, is public speaking. Everyone says 'oh, you're an actor, you should be good at that.' It's just not true," Neeson said.
The actor also pledged to continue to "fly the flag for Irish arts" as well as his humanitarian work for UNICEF.
The Presidential awards were formally awarded in a ceremony on November 30 but Neeson was unable to attend that day. He is known for his strong support of the Irish Arts Center in New York, in particular, as well as the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, where he started his career.
The list of 2017 honorees included Patricia Harty, Co-Founder of Irish America Magazine, our sister publication; artist Bernard Canavan; business woman Jacqueline O’Donovan; and historian Marianne Elliot.
Neeson is also scheduled to appear on Irish chat show The Late Late Show on Friday night in a lineup that controversially includes Trump’s former Press Secretary Seán Spicer.
Who would you like to see receive the Presidential Distinguished Service Award in 2018? Let us know in the comments section, below.