Irish Oscar stars attend St Patrick’s Day event with President

Director Ross White and actor James Martin among attendees as Higgins says he was ‘so moved by the warmth conveyed in An Irish Goodbye’

Oscar was the guest of honour as Ireland’s Academy Award nominees gathered en masse at a St Patrick’s Day reception at Áras an Uachtaráin hosted by President Michael D Higgins.

Some of the biggest names in Irish film, including best supporting actor nominee Brendan Gleeson and Oscar-winning producer David Puttnam, were in attendance, but the star of the show was a gold-plated statuette measuring 35cm in height and weighing almost 4kg.

Director Ross White and actor James Martin have been on a triumphant homecoming tour since winning best live-action short film for An Irish Goodbye last week. They arrived into Dublin Airport on Wednesday night and went straight to Belfast, before accepting the invitation to attend the President’s reception.

Mr White clung to his Oscar like a barnacle to a rock and President Higgins was eager to get his own hands on the most recognisable prize in the world.


The President spoke of being “so moved by the warmth conveyed in An Irish Goodbye. The relationships presented with superb acting, pace and direction had a ring of authenticity.”

There was enthusiastic applause for Mr White and Mr Martin at the reception which was attended by 130 people from the Irish film industry.

They were the only domestically-based Oscar winners from a record 14 Irish nominations, but being nominated was a triumph in itself.

Also present at the reception was director Colm Bairéad, actors Catherine Clinch and Andrew Bennett, producer Cleona Ní Chrualaoí and director of photography Kate McCullough from best international feature film nominee An Cailín Ciúin.

Gleeson reprised his role as the disgruntled fiddler player in The Banshees of Inisherin by playing alongside musicians from the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland present at the Áras, but this time with all his fingers intact.

The President also congratulated Richard Baneham for winning a second Oscar for best visual effects. Baneham, who is originally from Tallaght, won an Oscar for Avatar: The Way of Water. He is based in Hollywood.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the re-establishment of Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board, now Screen Ireland, by President Higgins in 1993 when he was the minister for arts.

President Higgins said the re-establishment of the film board had led 30 years later to an industry in Ireland that is a world leader in film production. He cited Variety magazine which described Ireland as a “capital of filmmaking in recent years establishing itself as one of the world’s most attractive production environments”.

“This recent success of Irish film may be a surprise to some, but for those working in film, it is welcome recognition of what they have been building towards over recent decades with the aid of government policies and artist support,” he added.

“The present strength of a multi-skilled creative film community on the island of Ireland is the result of committed, loyal supporters of film and decades of work.

“It is a community that was sustained heroically and is being pushed ever forward creatively. More and more Irish films, including animated films, are receiving recognition and critical acclaim abroad.

“That Ireland is now correctly regarded as an important hub for film-making, including post-production activities, is a real achievement by all those in the different generations who have worked to bring it about.”

Screen Ireland chief executive Désirée Finnegan said all the Oscar nominees had made Irish people “extraordinarily proud”.

She said President Higgins’s vision 30 years ago of recognising what public funding could do to support a national cinema had been realised.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times