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Monday, 4 December, 2000, 08:44 GMT
Irish actor wins top award
Tina Kellegher and Donna Traynor
Tina Kellegher was given her award by BBC Northern Ireland's Donna Traynor
Irish actor Peter McDonald beat off competition from two of Scotland's biggest stars to win Best Actor at the Irish Film and Television Awards in Belfast on Sunday.

McDonald won the award for his performance in the Irish film Saltwater - a film that has only been released in Ireland - beating Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle.

McGregor, nominated for his performance as James Joyce in the movie Nora, attended the awards' second ceremony at Belfast's Waterfront Hall.

Victoria Smurfit, Ewan McGregor and Lorcan Cranitch
Stars at the bash included Victoria Smurfit, Ewan McGregor and Lorcan Cranitch
Fellow Scot Robert Carlyle was nominated for his role as an alcoholic father in Alan Parker's movie Angela's Ashes, which scooped the Best Film award.

McDonald said he was "very honoured" to receive the Best Actor accolade.

He paid tribute to fellow cast members, including Brian Cox and Brendan Gleeson, and to the film's director and writer Conor McPherson, whom he described as "an inspirational writer".

Saltwater also won the Best Screenplay category.

Best Actress went to Northern Ireland-born actress Susan Lynch for her performance as James Joyce's lover Nora Barnacle in the film Nora.

Animated winner

McGregor received the award on her behalf and said: "I know I am very proud of her right now and so should you just be. She is one of the finest actresses in the world."

There was a surprise in the television category when an animated character on the Irish language station TG4 won a viewers' vote for the Best Television Personality.

The character called Hiudai beat established Irish television celebrities such as comedian Patrick Kielty and Northern Ireland chatshow host Gerry Kelly.

In his acceptance speech, the computer-generated leprechaun said it was great to beat "one-dimensional opposition".

'Pay rise'

He also hoped his bosses at the Irish language television station TG4 would give him "a pay rise".

The BBC Nortrhern Ireland television drama Eureka Street took the Best Drama award, while Ballykissangel star Tina Kellegher won Best Leading Performance in a drama.

Actress Brenda Fricker
Actress Brenda Fricker was in the audience
The awards ceremony was attended by Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson, Stormont Culture Arts and Leisure Minister Michael McGimpsey and Irish Arts Minister Sile de Valera.

Joining Ewan McGregor in the audience were acclaimed Irish film director Neil Jordan, and actors Brendan Gleeson, Adrian Dunbar and Lorcan Cranitch from Ballykissangel.

Belfast-born playwright Marie Jones, who presented the awards, said it was important for the industry to "recognise the work of many hugely talented and creative people".

"You only have to look at the nomination list to see that the Irish film and television industry is really alive and is going from strength to strength," she said.

See also:

19 Oct 00 | Entertainment
McGregor to play Billy Fury
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