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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 June 2007, 10:38 GMT 11:38 UK
1m donation for Belfast theatre
Liam Neeson
Ballymena-born actor Liam Neeson got his big break at the Lyric
The Belfast theatre where Oscar-nominated actor Liam Neeson got his big break has received a 1m donation from a businessman.

The Lyric Theatre's donation from Dr Martin Naughton is thought to be the biggest personal gift made to an arts organisation in NI.

Work is due to begin on a new multi-million pound building.

Its chairman, BBC NI's Mark Carruthers, said: "We are overwhelmed by the Naughtons' support and encouragement."

It is hoped that the new look Lyric, which will contain two theatres, will be completed by 2010.

The fundraising campaign to have the revamped building constructed has benefited from the support of Liam Neeson.

The Ballymena-born actor turned international star is the Stranmillis-based theatre's patron.

Dr Martin Naughton, who is chairman of InterTradeIreland, began his business empire in Newry in 1973, founding an electrics company which employed just ten people.

The Glen Dimplex Group is now one of the world's biggest producer of electric heaters.

Arts Minister Edwin Poots said of Dr Naughton and his wife's donation: "I warmly welcome this generous donation from the Naughtons for the new building for the Lyric Theatre.

"I also congratulate the Lyric for the fundraising effort it has made to date."

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