In a year where Me Too dominated the showbiz headlines, The Irish Film and Television Awards, led the way in celebrating some of the country’s leading women.
The incredible female talent started with the host, Deirdre O’ Kane, who, despite the lack of audience and the fact that the country was starring in the jaws of another lockdown, still managed to bring much needed levity to the proceedings.
Opening the Virgin Media ceremony from an empty studio Deirdre quipped: “In the year when Covid 19 changed our lives as we know them, we pulled the curtain, drank wine and watched loads of great TV and film.
“The reason we were willing to Nphet and chill, was because everything else was cancelled.
“Even the Bond film was cancelled because this is clearly not the right time to release a film called No Time To Die.
“We are back, in the thick of a Level 5 pandemic, with Brexit to the left and Trump to the right, what better time to shine a light on the most vulnerable in our society, film stars.”
And first of those vulnerable stars to shine was Mullingar’s rising star Niamh Algar.
One of the country’s most in demand actors Niamh spoke of her joy at winning her first ever acting gong for Calm With Horses at this year’s IFTAs.
The talented actor walked away with the award despite stiff International competition from Catriona Balfe, Seana Kerslake, Charlie Murphy, Emily Taffe and Catherine Walker.
The award was presented, via Zoom, from retired 007-star Pierce Brosnan, to the ecstatic midlands star.
“That’s amazing,” she said.
“I just want to thank everyone that was involved in making Calm WIth Horses.
“To all the fellow nominees. I got into acting because I wanted to bring representation to women on screen and every female actress here tonight is doing that.
“It makes me incredibly proud to be an Irish actress so thank you very much IFTA, and thanks to my mum Angela.”
Oscar nominee Ruth Nega then presented a rather shocked David Wilmot with the Best Supporting Actor nod for Ordinary Love.
When it came to dealing with the historically lower key awards, IFTA drafted in some big-name hosts to keep the show on the road.
In a quirky twist the awards for best TV shorts were announced by the couple who made O'Neill's a designer Brand; Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar Jones.
While a hoody wearing Robert Sheehan made a rather dramatic presentation of Best supporting Actress in a Drama to Chernobyl star Jessie Buckley.
“Thank you so much, this is completely unexpected,” she said in her Kerry lilt.
“This is all very overwhelming but thank you because it is such an honour.
“I also have to shout out to Adi Roche who was so generous and is one of the most generous and incredible women I have come across.
“She is still fighting the same fight that she was back when this tragedy occurred.”
Throughout the night the opposite sex was also honoured with moving tributes from Game of Thrones star Liam Cunningham and Barry Keoghan.
Mark O’Halloran won Best Supporting Actor in a Drama for his stunning performance in The Virtues alongside Stephen Graham.
While “Hot Priest” Andrew Scott won Best Actor in a Drama for his part in the obscure Netflix series Black Mirror.
Star Wars heroin Daisy Reily paid tribute to her family connection in Ennis in Co. Clare and recalled the “craic” the cast and crew had filming of the west coast of Ireland.
“The people were so welcoming and inviting and we had so much fun. The crew was amazing and the locations were amazing.
“I hope you all keeping safe and well and I can’t wait to come back as soon as I can.”
After a somewhat botched attempt at speaking Irish, Daisy announced Tom Vaughan Lawlor, as the winner of the Best Actor Award, for Rialto.
“I want to thank IFTA for all the work they have done during lockdown,” the Love Hate star said.
Tom was somewhat overshadowed by his proud son Freddie who photo-bombed the entire acceptance speech in a green camouflage onesie.
Niamh Algar won her second award on the night for her harrowing role in the Channel 4 shoe The Virtues.
And the pinnacle of the awards ceremony came when Liam Neeson awarded Jesseie Buckley with her second IFTA of the night for her role in Wild Rose.
“I don’t know what to do, this is all very odd,” she said.
“This is a complete honour and I feel completely shell-shocked.”
Beaming in via satellite from LA, mob movie maker Martin Scorsese gave an emotional pep talk to the Irish film industry.
“I am delighted to join all of you for this celebration of Irish film-making,” he said.
“ I have such fond memories of my visit to Dublin a few years ago.
“Myself and my family had such a good time, I only wish, I was there in person doing this, this evening.
“I really have fond memories of giving an IFTA masterclass in Dublin.
“It feels like it was last week and I remember at the end of that class telling them to go and tell their stories and to reinvent cinema.
“ Now we all know what strange times lay ahead.
“And it appears to me that we are all having to reinvent cinema, and that is a good thing.
“Now more than ever we need vision , creativity and storytelling that can take us on a journey.
“And there is something about Irish storytelling that is universal and that connects with everyone in the world.”