The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Neeson heaps honours on hero

Clonakilty (Ireland), Aug. 23 (Reuters): Irish film actor Liam Neeson was confined to a supporting role yesterday when he unveiled a statue to Irish freedom fighter Michael Collins on the 80th anniversary of his assassination.

Thousands of people crowded into the tiny village of Clonakilty, Collins’ hometown on the southwest Irish coast, to see the Oscar-nominated actor unveil the seven-foot bronze statue of the man regarded as one of the main architects of Irish independence from Britain.

“He is my hero,” said Neeson, who played Collins in Neil Jordan’s 1996 epic of the same name. “He is still inspiring me. Two years ago when I was recovering from a near-fatal motorbike accident in a New York hospital I often asked myself what would ‘Mick’ do,” Neeson said. Collins, regarded as the founder of modern guerrilla warfare, was only 32 when he was shot dead in an ambush by rival Republicans near his west Cork hometown during the Irish civil war which erupted after the signing of a treaty with Britain.

Neeson, who has played a wealth of roles ranging from Oscar Schindler in Schindler’s List to a Jedi knight in the recent Star Wars episode, was undoubtedly a star attraction.

But most of the 4,000-strong crowd who thronged Collins’ hometown were there to honour the man who was known as “the Big Fella”.

“I’ve such a huge admiration for the man I had to come and see this,” said 87-year-old Dan Holland, who remembered the day Collins was shot dead in 1922.

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