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Actor, lawyer and priest honoured by Ireland

The scene of devastation at the Berkeley Balcony collapse (AP Photo/Kristin Bender).

A Hollywood star, a human rights lawyer and a priest who supported victims and relatives of the Berkeley balcony tragedy have been honoured by the Irish state.

Actor Gabriel Byrne, solicitor Gareth Peirce – who helped clear the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four - and Fr Brendan McBride, head of the Irish Immigration and Pastoral Centre in San Francisco, are to receive the Presidential Distinguished Service Awards for the Irish Abroad.

Others among the 10 praised for their work were Mario Vargas Llosa, a Peruvian politician, writer and Nobel Prize winner, business figure Niall Fitzgerald, Concern chairman Tom Moran and Kenyan-based missionary nun Dr Miriam Duggan.

The list is made up by academic Maureen Murphy, management guru Charles Handy and Fr Donal Doyle, who has spent 50 years in Japan encouraging students to visit Ireland.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said Ireland owed a huge debt of gratitude to these remarkable individuals.

"During the very difficult years of conflict on this island, many people from beyond our shores made an important contribution to advancing peace, justice and reconciliation. This year's awards honour two such people: Tom Moran and Gareth Peirce," he said.

"Over the years, Tom has developed relationships with social, political and business leaders in Northern Ireland and continues to open doors to promote a positive future for this island.

"He has been a champion of reconciliation between the communities and I am delighted that his great work is being recognised.

"Gareth Peirce is a British solicitor who, in the darkest years of the Troubles and in very challenging circumstances, has campaigned for justice in a number of high-profile cases involving Irish citizens, including the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six."

The awards were established following the 2011 Global Irish Economic Forum.

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