Liam Neeson to narrate TV series to mark centenary of Easter Rising
He may be a Freeman of a town regarded as a unionist stronghold, but Ballymena actor Liam Neeson is set to lend his voice to a major new documentary series to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising.
The Hollywood action hero, who also played Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins on the big screen in 1996, will narrate the three-part TV series entitled 1916: The Irish Rebellion.
The soft brogue of the 62-year-old actor will lead viewers through the programmes which will air on BBC, RTE and other channels across the globe next year. A 70-minute film version will also be screened at Irish embassies.
In 1996 Neeson was nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Collins in Neil Jordan's historical biopic about the patriot and revolutionary who died in the Irish Civil War.
Neeson - no stranger to voiceover work - has appeared in countless films including Schindler's List, for which he received an Oscar nomination, Taken and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
In 2013, Neeson received a hero's welcome when the Freedom of the Borough was conferred on him by Ballymena Borough Council - its highest accolade. But in 2000, the DUP had objected to Neeson getting the award when it was first proposed, after he made what the party believed were derogatory remarks about the town.
He had been quoted in an American magazine saying that he felt like a 'second-class' citizen as a Catholic growing up in the mainly Protestant town. He also recalled how he felt he had to stay inside on the Twelfth of July as loyalists celebrated the 1690 Battle of the Boyne victory of King William III.
However, Neeson also noted how things had changed in Northern Ireland.
"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," he said.
"I will always remain very proud of my upbringing in, and association with, the town and my country of birth, which I will continue to promote at every opportunity." He once admitted that as a boy he used to creep into Ian Paisley's gospel hall in Ballymena to hear him preach - an experience he described as electrifying, and one that inspired him to get on the stage himself.