The Straits Times
Published on Jan 29, 2013

Liam Neeson awarded freedom of N. Ireland home town


BELFAST, United Kingdom (AFP) - Hollywood star Liam Neeson went back to the stage where he first trod the boards as he was awarded the freedom of his home town of Ballymena in Northern Ireland on Monday.

The star of Schindler's List and Michael Collins started his acting career performing in pantomimes at the town's Braid Theatre.

Ballymena's mayor PJ McAvoy referred to his role in the later Star Wars as he told Neeson during the ceremony at the theatre: "May the force be with you." A delighted Neeson, 60, said that despite his globetrotting life he was still "99.9 per cent Ballymena".

He was offered the honour in 2000 but refused it because of a furore when he was quoted as saying he felt "second class" as a Catholic growing up in the mainly Protestant town.