Roma Downey has been selected as the inaugural recipient of the “Irish Diaspora Award,” presented by the Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA) in association with the Office of the Minister for Diaspora Affairs.
The award was created to recognize the important role of Irish artists and business people abroad in the film and television industry. According to a statement released by IFTA, the award will “acknowledge the important role of so many Irish people who have emigrated through the decades, and who have made an enormous contribution to societies worldwide; An Irish man or woman who has excelled in their field, has made their mark on the world and remained true to their heritage, supporting the Irish community and who has been an extraordinary ambassador for Ireland.”
Downey was born in Derry City, Northern Ireland and moved to London to train at the Drama Studio. She joined Dublin’s Abbey Players and toured the U.S. in a production of “Playboy of the Western World.” Her breakthrough performance came when she played Jackie Kennedy Onassis in NBC’s 1991 Emmy-winning miniseries “A Woman Named Jackie.” Downey’s most notable role, however, was the Irish angel Monica on CBS’s long-lived series “Touched by an Angel,” for which she earned multiple Golden Globe and Emmy Award nominations.
Downey is also an accomplished producer, having co-produced the 10-hour docudrama “The Bible” and its followup, “A.D. The Bible Continues” for The History Channel along with her husband, producer Mark Burnett. She is also an executive producer on the upcoming remake of “Ben Hur,” starring Jack Huston (“Boardwalk Empire”). Downey works with Operation Smile, a charity that helps people born with cleft palates, as well as other charities.
The IFTA will recognize all of Downey’s achievements as an actress, producer and humanitarian during a ceremony on April 9.
“I am so grateful to IFTA and the Irish Government for honoring me with the inaugural Irish Diaspora Award.” Downey said in a released statement. “While I’m blessed to have had a successful career in the United States, that success has been built on all that I learned growing up in Derry: Integrity, character, tenacity, the value of working hard, daring to dream big, and of course to always have a sense of humor and not take myself too seriously! I just love Ireland and the Irish people and I am so thankful to come back and celebrate in Dublin, which makes it even more special and fun.”
[via Press materials]