Belfast Telegraph

Friday 9 October 2015

Liam Neeson: A star so impressed by change in Northern Ireland

By Chris Kilpatrick

Published 29/01/2013

Liam Neeson has praised his home town and Northern Ireland for “coming out of the darkness”.

The decision to grant Neeson the Freedom of Ballymena was agreed unanimously by the council last November, 12 years after a previous attempt to award the film star the honour.

Back then he turned it down after DUP councillors objected to the proposal because of alleged derogatory remarks attributed to Neeson about his experiences growing up in the Co Antrim town. On Monday he said of that decision.

“They were different times, just different times, and luckily we have moved on,” he said.

“If it did not change I don't think I would be sitting here.”

Neeson said despite moving to America in the 1980s he has kept a close eye on developments both in Ballymena and Northern Ireland as a whole.

“I am aware of the work the borough has been doing the past few years, coming out of the darkness as we all have and hopefully left all that behind us — new days, new times — and I am just privileged to receive this,” the star said.

“While no longer living in Ballymena I am a frequent visitor and I have seen myself a positive change. I congratulate you. It is terrific, long may it continue.”

Neeson said he would continue to promote Northern Ireland around the world.

Those at the ceremony included former Police Ombudsman Dame Nuala O'Loan, Health Minister Edwin Poots, North Antrim MP Ian Paisley jnr, and Stormont ministers Alex Attwood and Caral Ni Chuilin.

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