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Victoria Smurfit's special 'gIFTA' for young mums whose kids are fighting for better health

NewsBy Esther McCarthy
Victoria Smurfit's special 'gIFTA' for young mums whose kids are fighting for better health

She oozed glamour and rocked the red carpet at the IFTA Film and Drama Awards.

But just hours before, actress Victoria Smurfit spent time with other young mums whose kids are fighting for better health at Dublin’s Temple Street Hospital. 

The star  -  a mother of two girls and a boy herself  -  chatted with parents in the hospital, which becomes a temporary home to thousands of Irish children every year. 

Oscar-nominated movie Room and Irish language drama An Klondike were among the big winners last night, with Lenny Abrahamson’s hostage drama sweeping the top honours in six out of eight categories for which it was nominated. RTE’s rising drama Rebellion was largely squeezed out of the running, though actress Ruth Bradley did bring home an IFTA for her role in the series. 

Victoria, the star of current hit TV series Once Upon a Time as well as Ballykissangel and About A Boy, was on a whistlestop visit from her home in Los Angeles for the IFTAs. 

But that didn’t stop the kind-hearted actress from taking a trip to Temple Street to hear first-hand of the work being done there. And she was clearly moved by her experience, later tweeting: “What an honour to meet kids and parents of Temple Street. Wishing Luke, Michael, Tyler, Jack, Luna, Sebastian and Alan a speedy recovery.”

Ferdia Murphy and Ruth Bradley

Victoria agreed to the visit in the hope of boosting the hospital’s fundraising campaign, The Great Irish Bake, which starts next week. 

Just a couple of hours later, the Dublin-born actress switched from mam to glam as she joined fellow stars including Liam Neeson, Roma Downey, Andrew Scott, Bob Geldof, Amy Huberman and Chris O’Dowd at the awards, the glitziest event in Ireland’s movie social calendar. 

This year’s red carpet was particularly full of heavy hitters after what has been a hugely successful year for Irish cinema   -  with many of the same films that featured on the Oscars shortlist fighting it out for the top prizes last night. 

Bob Geldof chats with President Higgins and his wife Sabine at the pre-awards party at the Mansion House for the IFTA Film & Drama Awards 2016. 

Of those, Room, Lenny Abrahamson’s stirring account of a woman raising her son in captivity, was one of last night’s leading contenders and was up for Best Picture along with fellow Oscar nominee, emigration drama Brooklyn. That film’s star Saoirse Ronan (who won Best Actress) was unable to attend as she’s currently starring in The Crucible on Broadway. 

John Carney’s charming love letter to Dublin, Sing Street, the great Cuban-based drama Viva and My Name is Emily were among the other big contenders.

In fact, this year’s IFTAs are regarded as the most competitive in the organisation’s history and are a sound reflection of the current state of Irish cinema. 

But it was Room which emerged as the big victor on the night, getting nods for the coveted Best Picture prize as well as direction for Lenny Abrahamson, script for Emma Donoghue, actress for Brie Larson as well as sound editing and music. 

Sing Street, a huge crowd-pleaser since being released in cinemas a couple of weeks ago, had to content itself with a Best Supporting Actor nod for Jack Reynor even though in another year it would have swept the boards. 

Director Simon Fitzmaurice

Harry Potter star Evanna Lynch jetted in from her Los Angeles home for a reunion with director Simon Fitzmaurice and the My Name is Emily team  -  up for eight awards last night. Co Wicklow-based Fitzmaurice has become the first person in the world with Motor Neurone Disease to write and direct a feature solo. He communicated with his cast on set via computer software eye gaze technology, and by blinking for yes and staring for no. 

Other stars who attended last night’s shindig included Sarah Greene, nominated for both Rebellion and Penny Dreadful and winning for the latter, double nominee Ruth Bradley, and directors John Boorman and Neil Jordan. Guest presenters included actresses Natalie Dormer and Charlie Murphy. 

In the drama categories, RTE’s 1916 drama Rebellion took on the might of Game of Thrones and Vikings, both of which were shot in Ireland. Other multiple nominees in drama categories included Penny Dreadful, Ripper Street and the Galway-based Irish language drama An Klondike. 

An Klondike emerged as the big winner, winning Best Drama among others. 

Natalie Dormer

But some of the loudest applause of the night was for acting legend Liam Neeson, who was honoured by the Irish Academy for outstanding contribution to cinema. 

The star of such acclaimed films as Michael Collins, Schindler’s List and The Phantom Menace received numerous tributes, led by President Michael D Higgins. 

Roma Downey, who grew up on Derry’s Bogside before emigrating to America in search of stardom, was feted with the first Irish Diaspora Award. The Touched by an Angel star has become one of Hollywood’s savviest and wealthiest film and TV producers.