I am proud and humbled to receive freedom of Belfast, says Sir Kenneth Branagh
Sir Kenneth Branagh said he was humbled and proud after being awarded the freedom of his home city of Belfast.
City councillors unanimously voted last night to bestow the honour on the acclaimed actor and director.
"Belfast has always given me more than I could ever repay," he said.
"It took great care of me till the age of nine.
"It gave me a profound sense of family, a magnificent landscape to play in, and a Belfast sense of humour that is a constant boisterous reminder to never take yourself too seriously.
"It gave me my first professional job, in Graham Reid's Billy plays.
"It gave me the sharpest and most generous of audiences at the Opera House and at the Lyric Theatre, and at cinemas across the years, who welcomed and supported my films.
"I'm proud to say that you can take the boy out of Belfast, but you can't take Belfast out of the boy."
Sir Kenneth (56) will be the 82nd recipient of the honour.
Other recent recipients include poet Michael Longley, singer Sir Van Morrison and Olympic gold medallist Dame Mary Peters.
Details of the official Freedom of the City ceremony for Sir Kenneth will be announced later.
He added: "This is an incredible honour from my home town and I am humbled to be included in a roll call that includes artists like Van Morrison and Michael Longley, and the nurses of the city who were recognised last year.
"I used to run home for my lunch when I was at the Grove Primary School in north Belfast.
"My granny looked after me while my folks were at work.
"Granny lived in a very small but spotlessly clean house which I particularly remember for the eccentric and temperamental outside loo.
"If she and my parents from those humble beginnings had been told that the Freedom of the City could ever come my way, they would have expired with pride. They loved this place and these people, as do I.
"I thank Belfast City Council for their generosity, and please know that I will continue to shout aloud to the world at large about the many amazing developments happening in the place I am proud to call home."
Belfast Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister said: "The granting of the Freedom of the City is the greatest honour Belfast City Council can bestow, and Sir Kenneth Branagh is a most worthy recipient.
"As someone who has reached the very pinnacle of his career in acting and film, he has never forgotten his Belfast roots and is a fantastic ambassador."