Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Will Liam Neeson invite Robert De Niro to his Ballymena party?

Liam Neeson

Hollywood legend Robert De Niro has been invited to a lavish party to officially mark Liam Neeson’s freedom of his home town.

Ballymena mayor PJ McAvoy is hopeful Neeson will bring a few of his A-list pals, including De Niro, to the celebration which is expected to cost £25,000.

Last month Ballymena Borough Council unanimously agreed to bestow Ballymena-born Neeson with its highest honour in recognition of his stellar movie career.

Neeson, star of hits including Taken and Schindler's List, said he was proud to be given the prestigious civic honour.

A formal ceremony is being planned to mark the accolade which entitles the 60-year-old actor to drive a flock of sheep through the town if he so wishes.

Mayor McAvoy, who tabled the motion, joked: “He might not be that keen on the sheep but hopefully he will bring some of his Hollywood mates and drive them round the town.

“He's good friends with Robert De Niro so that would be good if he came to Ballymena with Liam.”

The first citizen said he felt the projected £25,000 cost of the event would be money well spent.

“Yes, it certainly is,” he said.

“It is bringing publicity to Ballymena and will enhance the whole town on a global stage.”

Neeson will receive the honour early next year. He will be the fourth freeman of the borough, after Ian Paisley, British Lions rugby hero Syd Millar and former mayor, the late Sandy Spence.

Speaking after the motion was passed, Neeson said: “Enormous strides have been made in my native Northern Ireland in the past decade, demonstrated by political, social and economic changes that came about through a combination of courage, generosity and persistence.”

The move came 12 years after DUP councillors objected to offering Neeson the freedom over controversial comments attributed to the star in an US magazine regarding his upbringing in Ballymena.

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