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RIP President Michael D Higgins leads tributes to Riordan’s star Tom Hickey

Mr Hickey, born in 1944 in Kildare, was best known for his role as Benjy Riordan in the long-running RTÉ television series, The Riordans.

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Biddy Lennon White and Tom Hickey as Maggie and Benjy in The Riordans. Hickey passed away on Saturday.

Biddy Lennon White and Tom Hickey as Maggie and Benjy in The Riordans. Hickey passed away on Saturday.

Biddy Lennon White and Tom Hickey as Maggie and Benjy in The Riordans. Hickey passed away on Saturday.

President Michael D Higgins has led the tributes to the stage and screen star Tom Hickey after he died last night.

Mr Hickey, born in 1944 in Kildare, was best known for his role as Benjy Riordan in the long-running RTÉ television series, The Riordans.

In a joint statement today from the President and his wife, Sabina Higgins, they said that it was with great sadness they learned about Hickey’s death.

They described him as, “one of the greatest actors of his generation, giving over six decades to his profession.”

The late actor was one of the founding members of the innovative Dublin Focus Theatre, playing in a number of ground-breaking productions, including Miss Julie, Antigone, Uncle Vanya and The Night of the Iguana.

“Besides starring in Ireland’s major theatres, Tom will also be remembered for his role as Benjy in The Riordans and his other roles in television, in theatres in the UK and in many films, including Breakfast on Pluto, Inside I’m Dancing, Neil Jordan’s The Butcher Boy and Raining Stones,” the statement said.

“Among his colleagues in the acting community, he was regarded as an artist of total commitment to performance, to his art and to his community.

“He will be so missed. It was a privilege to know him as a friend.”

Mr Hickey first began his career in 1963 at Deirdre O'Connell's Stanislavski Studio in Dublin where he trained in Stanislavski's system of acting. He once said that he saw his choice of profession as a “vocation”, having decided to become an actor when he was five or six years old.

Hickey ventured out into television advertising in 2001, with his appearances in a series of commercials for Club Orange.

The first of these was directed by Declan Lowney, the director of Father Ted. Lowney also directed Moone Boy, a Sky television series, in which Hickey played Granddad Joe.

In 2013, Hickey was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and did a lot of work to highlight awareness of the condition. During an interview on The Marian Finucane Show in 2015, he spoke of his determination to continue acting despite the onset of this condition.

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Tributes have been pouring in for the late star on social media, with ‘Moone Boy’ creator Chris O’Dowd posting from his home in LA.

“We were lucky enough to have Tom Hickey join us on Moone Boy and he was wonderful, as always. Very few are capable of such divilment and empathy in a single look. Rest well Tom, thanks for sharing your talents with us all,” he said.

Actress Marion O’Dwyer wrote how “he was my Dad once, my husband at least twice; so many plays elevated by his presence.”

“The artist and the man; fine and noble and far too funny. His work for Parkinsons. All he was and did. Impossible to pay tribute properly; lucky to know you Tom. Rest easy,” she said.

Minister for Culture Catherine Martin said she was greatly saddened by the news of Hickey’s death. “Tom was a leading figure in Irish theatre for decades and was well known and much loved in homes across Ireland, ” she tweeted.

Amy Huberman described him as “such a wonderful actor and so kind and generous and full of so much fun. Go well Tom.”

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