Wednesday 29 January 2020

President leads fond tributes to Niall Toibin

Niall Toibin
Niall Toibin
Niall Tobin with Tony Doyle in the hit TV show BallyKissangel
With a Lifetime Achievement Award

Legendary actor and comedian Niall Toibin, who died yesterday, has been remembered as a trailblazer who made a unique contribution to Irish theatre.

Tributes have been pouring in for the 89-year-old Cork native who was a veteran of stage and screen.

He appeared in a wide variety of roles, including the TV series Bracken and The Irish RM during his career which spanned decades.

Among his best known roles was as Fr Frank "Mack" MacAnally for six series in the BBC drama Ballykiss- angel.

His film career included appearing in Ryan's Daughter in 1970 and Veronica Guerin in 2003.


President Michael D Higgins said: "The depth of interpretation that he brought to a wide variety of characters showed a very deep intellectual understanding and, above all, sensitivity to the nuance of Irish life.

"The range of his work was vast and included unforgettable performances in all of the Irish theatres and some of the most important theatres in London and New York.

"While a huge audience will have adored his comic genius, his work included all the genres - stage, television, film and radio.

"To the latter he brought a distinctive voice which made him a much-loved interpreter of Irish life and its challenges," he said.

President Higgins said that Mr Toibin's contribution to Irish theatre was "a unique one, in both Irish and English".

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described him as an "acclaimed actor and comedian who blazed a trail".

He said he was a proud Corkman, was "loved across Ireland and further afield" and said his performance as Brendan Behan in Borstal Boy, as well as his radio, TV and film appearances will be long remembered.

Also paying tribute was Fianna Fail Leader Micheal Martin who said: "Niall was an extremely talented performer with that rare ability to move seamlessly from comedy to theatre.

"He had a natural flair for the stage and screen, whether he was performing in one of his own stand-up shows or taking on a role in a Hollywood film, his authenticity shone through.

"Quick-witted and sharp-tongued, he had audiences locally, nationally and internationally in the palm of his hand as he mixed confidence and humility with his own brand of humour.

"A proud Corkman, he was awarded the Freedom of Cork in 2015 for his work in film, television and on screen; an accolade that I know meant a lot to him."

Mr Toibin died in Dublin early yesterday after a long illness.

He was born in Cork city on November 21, 1929, and his career began in radio drama in the 1950s.

The actor was awarded an Irish Film and Television Academy Awards (IFTA) lifetime achievement award in 2011.

It posted a photo of the star accepting the award with President Michael D Higgins on its Twitter account yesterday, saying: "Farewell to our treasured friend Niall Toibin, forever loved and remembered by his IFTA peers and colleagues.

"A brilliant and gifted actor, bringing fun and laughter into our lives."

Among the highlights of his stage career was appearing in Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett at the National Theatre, London.

In a statement, Dee Forbes, director general of RTE, said: "Niall Toibin started acting in the 1950s and spent 14 great years with the Radio Eireann Players.

"He became, ultimately, a familiar face on RTE to generations of Irish people.

"A proud Corkman, he was as at home in film as on the stage, and an especially entertaining guest on many Late Late Shows over the years."

RTE previously announced a new documentary on Mr Toibin, which is due to air as part of its forthcoming Christmas schedule.

It will feature interviews with family members, as well as Hollywood actors Pierce Brosnan and Gabriel Byrne and director Jim Sheridan.

RTE presenter Joe Duffy said Niall Toibin was "an extraordinarily gifted actor, comedian and writer".


Also taking to social media to pay a heartfelt tribute was Lyric FM presenter Marty Whelan who said: "So sad to hear another great has passed."

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Gate Theatre said: "We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of legendary actor Niall Toibin.

"Niall originated the role of Andy in the Gate's production of Lovers by Brian Friel and performed in many of our productions over the years.

"Our thoughts go out to his family at this difficult time."

Comedian and actor Deirdre O'Kane said she played her first ever part with the actor, as a walk on in Borstal Boy at the Gaiety Theatre.

"I was in awe of his performance. He was a master storyteller. RIP Niall, you inspired me."

Culture Minister Josepha Madigan said: "Niall was a uniquely talented performer, light-hearted, funny, sharp-witted and intensely powerful both as an actor and comedian. He was hugely loved and respected by all who worked with him."

The actor was predeceased by his wife, Judy, and is survived by his five children Sean, Muireann, Aisling, Sighle and Fiana, and his seven grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements will be announced in the coming days.

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