ALL eyes will be on Ballymena tomorrow as one of Northern Ireland’s biggest stars returns home to receive the highest honour ever granted by the town Council to one of its citizens.
Actor Liam Neeson, family and friends, councillors, the press and members of the public will attend a special day-long affair at The Braids Art Centre and Town Hall.
During the event the actor will be awarded the Honorary Freedom of the Borough Status.
The conferring of the title which was has been awarded to just three people previously - Dr Ian Paisley, rugby legend Syd Millar and former mayor of Ballymena Sandy Spence - will see Neeson, 60, sign The Book of Burgesses during a special ceremony after which he will be joined by around 200 esteemed guests at a dinner.
Local musicians will provide entertainment at the event while Ballymena students will offer up their own cinematic tribute to Liam’s life and work.
Local food producers will also be on hand to provide an authentic Co Antrim flavour to the proceedings.
Speaking about the ceremony, Mayor, Alderman PJ McAvoy said: “This is a significant civic occasion but we have been at pains to keep the formalities to a minimum, in keeping with Liam’s relaxed style and recognising that this is, above all, a gathering of friends.”
In previous years Freemen of the Borough earned unique benefits including the privilege of herding sheep through the town centre, a reward that the town Mayor says Liam will not experience today.
“He will certainly gain an insight into the esteem in which he is held in Ballymena,” continued Alderman McAvoy.
Road closures and disruption to traffic are expected from as early as 7.30am in and around Ballymena in preparation for the Schindler’s List star’s arrival at approximately 1.30pm when he will be met by Mayor, Alderman PJ McAvoy.
After greeting the public and holding a special press conference it is anticipated that Mr Neeson who has more than 90 acting roles under his belt will be presented with the accolade, a scroll and the Book of Burgess in the Town Hall Chamber. At around 3pm esteemed guests, councillors and Mr Neeson will then be seated for a special dinner.