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Liam Neeson hailed a hero after saving New York's Central Park horses

By Claire McNeilly

Liam Neeson appears to have won his long-running battle with New York's Mayor over the proposed banning of Manhattan's famous carriage horses.

The Ballymena-born Hollywood star has been a fierce opponent of Bill de Blasio's election pledge to rid the Central Park area of the animals.

Now the civic leader has backed down and Neeson has claimed victory over what he believes was always a "misguided" proposal.

The actor's strong stance against the proposal increased speculation that he was preparing to leave the acting profession for a career in politics.

Earlier this week de Blasio acknowledged for the first time that the Bill to ban the carriage industry was going nowhere, prompting 63-year-old Neeson to suggest that the Mayor was finally seeing the light.

"Poll after poll shows broad opposition to the misguided horse carriage ban, and our voices are finally being heard," said Neeson, who lives in Manhattan and has befriended many of the carriage drivers.

"The Mayor needs to own up to the fact that he put this idea on the table and will now abandon the ban for good.

"That's the only way that the drivers and carriage owners will feel their livelihood is not in jeopardy. Let the carriage drivers have some peace and comfort that their jobs and their families are safe and secure."

De Blasio insisted he still wanted a ban, but he suggested his hands were tied and said it was now up to the advocates who lobby the city council.

Last year animal welfare activists protested outside Neeson's Upper West Side apartment over his support for the Central Park horses, claiming the animals were being overworked.

Fans of the veteran action man actor are now, however, hailing Neeson as a real-life hero.

It is not the first time the Ulsterman has veered off the beaten track of Hollywood to voice strong political opinions.

Father-of-two Neeson angered the American gun lobby recently after he slammed the proliferation of firearms in the country.

His stance brought him into conflict with PARA USA, the gun manufacturer that provided the weapons for his action sequel Taken 3.

The organisation said it was severing all ties with the actor and urged all other weapons manufacturers to follow suit.

Neeson announced recently that he would be quitting action roles within the next two years, sparking rumours that he could be preparing a move onto the political stage.

Commentators in the US have suggested that Neeson could have agreed to star in multiple films in order to finance his alleged political ambitions.

Last month the former Lyric Theatre thespian was spotted in New York with wispy grey hair and a very gaunt-looking frame, prompting a slew of comments on social media suggesting that he was unwell.

But Neeson's spokesman hit back with a strongly worded statement saying his client had never been healthier and had numerous films in the pipeline for the next couple of years.

Belfast Telegraph


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