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Delight at Cillian Murphy’s old schools after his ‘inspiring’ Oscar win

There was delight at Cillian Murphy’s old school communities after his Oscar success for his starring role in Oppenheimer.

The principal of Murphy’s old secondary school said he “absolutely” expects students to be inspired by the Corkman’s Oscar win, while the students at his former primary school were brimming with questions about the past pupil.

Senior Irish politicians and film sector organisations have congratulated Murphy on becoming the first Irish-born star to win an Oscar for best actor.

The 47-year-old, who is from Douglas, Cork, said he was “overwhelmed” by the win and is “a very proud Irishman”.

He dedicated the award for his performance as J Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, to “peacemakers everywhere” and thanked his “partner in life and art” Yvonne McGuinness and his two sons, Malachy and Aran.

Murphy’s Oscar win follows other successes on the awards circuit – with a Golden Globe, a Bafta and a Screen Actors Guild award bagged for his starring performance in Oppenheimer.

David Barry, the principal of Murphy’s former school, said they are “absolutely delighted”.

“Presentation Brothers College are delighted for Cillian and his family on his success in winning the Oscar. We’re so proud to have one of our past pupils so successful on the world stage,” Mr Barry told the PA news agency.

“The whole community is delighted and we want to congratulate Cillian on his fantastic success.

“Hopefully when he’s back in Cork he might be able to visit us.”

He added: “I suppose from his speech last night you can see that he was very supportive of everyone who helped him in his journey to winning the Oscar, he’s very clear and grounded in where he’s from as well and that comes from his own family background where he had supportive parents and a supportive family now.

“Your roots are really important and Cillian has worked abroad so often, but really never forgets his roots and visits his parents regularly.

“Because he has such a busy schedule getting back to Ireland and Cork brings him back to who he is really.”

Asked whether students would be inspired by his win, Mr Barry said: “Oh absolutely.

“The students here have always been big fans of him, even before Oppenheimer.

“We’ve a big piece of artwork from our senior arts students – we did a collage made out of aluminium tins in the character of Tommy Shelby (Murphy’s character in the hit TV show Peaky Blinders) and that’s up in the school corridor.

“He’s always about for us really in our thoughts as the kids walk through the corridors every day.”

Mr Barry added: “The harder you work, the luckier you get. So if you put in the efforts you will get the rewards eventually, no matter what field you’re in.”

The 96th Academy Awards
Principal David Barry said the school is delighted over the Cork star’s Oscar win (Handout/PA)

Murphy’s breakthrough role came in 2002 with the Danny Boyle film 28 Days Later, playing a bicycle courier who wakes from a coma to discover that the accidental release of a highly contagious, aggression-inducing virus has caused the breakdown of society.

He also had memorable roles in Breakfast On Pluto, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, and Sunshine, and stars in the 2024 adaptation of the Claire Keegan novel Small Things Like These.

The atmosphere at Murphy’s old primary school was palpable on Monday morning.

Sean Lyons, principal of St Anthony’s National School in Ballinlough, said that some of the younger students had arrived at school asking questions about Murphy.

“‘Mr Lyons, did you know that Cillian won the Oscar for best actor?’ ‘Did I sit in Cillian’s seat?’ ‘ Did he walk through this door?’. Just a real awe and a real celebration.

“Just to see him receive the Oscar, to be so humble, to be so respectful, to be so grounded at the highest point of his career was the testament to a remarkable role model for everyone,” Mr Lyons told RTE Radio.

96th Academy Awards – Show
Cillian Murphy’s wife, Yvonne McGuinness, congratulates him on winning the best actor Oscar (Chris Pizzello/AP)

Lyons, who spent a year as Murphy’s classmate, described him as “good humoured”, a fluent Irish speaker and “a very good illustrator” and Scrabble player.

Cork Lord Mayor Kieran McCarthy told PA that the county was very proud of their local man’s success.

“Cillian has a very normal life when he’s in Cork, people don’t go up and scream at him, it’s just very different in Cork. We’re proud of him, but we’re not going up to him and mauling him.

“He’s the type of man that would go to the local pub for a pint or go to the shop for a pint of milk. You’d regularly see his family around the area, they’re just normal people like all of us – except Cillian is a Hollywood actor, I suppose.”

Asked how they will hold a big celebration for a normal man, he said that’s the question they have been asking themselves: “Even I, as Lord Mayor of Cork, don’t know how we’re going to approach that.”

Irish politicians and creatives have lined up to congratulate Murphy on his Oscar win.

A post from the President of Ireland’s account on X, formerly Twitter, said that it was a “wonderful achievement” and the win was “so appropriately dedicated” to the peacemakers.

Ireland’s deputy premier Micheal Martin said that Murphy gave an “outstanding” performance in a film “that will stand the test of time”.

Oscars 2024: number of wins
(PA Graphics)

Mr Martin, who is also a Corkman, said: “At Lee side in Cork, (we’re) delighted for him and for his wonderful family and the nation as a whole all rejoice in a well-deserved Oscar award for Cillian Murphy.”

Culture Minister Catherine Martin said the award was “a fitting recognition” of Murphy’s “immense” talent.

“Long a favourite of Irish audiences on stage and screen, he has since shown himself to be a master of his craft and has secured his place among the world’s greatest actors,” she said.

“This Oscar success is no more than he deserves and I wish him every success in all his future films.”

She also congratulated the cast and crew of Poor Things, co-produced by Dublin-based Element Pictures, which secured 11 Oscar nominations and won four awards.

The minister said 2023 “was a hugely successful year for Irish film production and Irish talent”, and added: “I hope this Academy Award is a starting point for more success and acclaim for the large pool of talent existing in the Irish film industry.”

Desiree Finnegan, chief executive of Screen Ireland, said that Murphy has delivered many “outstanding” performances in Irish films such as Disco Pigs, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, and more recently in Small Things Like These.

“We hope that the next generation of Irish film-makers and artists watching Cillian bring his Oscar home will be inspired to continue the pursuit of their craft in the Irish film industry,” she said.

Ireland’s ambassador to the US, Geraldine Byrne Nason, congratulated all Irish Oscar winners, and said it was a “great night for the Irish”.