Actor Tom Hickey, star of The Riordans, has died

President Michael D Higgins leads tributes to ‘an artist of total commitment’

President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Micheál Martin have paid tribute to actor Tom Hickey, who died at the weekend.

From Kildare and born in 1944, Hickey was a founding member of Dublin's Focus Theatre, where he appeared in a number of ground-breaking productions including Miss Julie, Antigone, Uncle Vanya and The Night of the Iguana.

He also acted at the Project Arts Centre in Dublin but is remembered in particular for his performances at the Abbey and Peacock Theatres, where he worked closely with playwright Tom MacIntrye and director Patrick Mason.

His performances in Tom Murphy's The Gigli Concert, MacIntyre's adaptation of Patrick Kavanagh's The Great Hunger and The Gallant John Jo were acclaimed as outstanding.


Hickey will also be remembered for his role as Benjy in the RTÉ series The Riordans, which ended in 1978. He had been ill in recent years having been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2013.

“It is with great sadness that Sabina and I learned of the death of Tom Hickey, one of the greatest actors of his generation, giving over six decades to his profession. He leaves an indelible imprint on Irish theatre,” Mr Higgins said in a statement.

“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 Martin described Hickey as “one of Ireland’s greatest actors” whose contribution “to stage and and screen over six decades was immense and an inspiration”.

Hickey gathered new fans among younger generations for his performance in Moone Boy as Grandad Joe. Chris O'Dowd, who created, wrote and acted in Moone Boy, paid tribute to Hickey.

“Very few are capable of such divelment and empathy in a single look. Rest well Tom, thanks for sharing your talents with us all,” he said in a Twitter post.

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.

The Abbey Theatre, Gate Theatre, Project Arts Centre all paid tribute to the late actor while the Arts Council said "his extraordinary range of work has left a lasting impression on people from several generations".

Theatre director and Druid co-founder Garry Hynes was "so sad to hear of Tom Hickey's death. He was a great talent, an absorbing person." Actor Laurence Kinlan was "heartbroken to hear of Tom Hickey's passing. My first play with Tom was Defender of the Faith at the Abbey Theatre, we became friends instantly." In a tweet, he said "he was so good to me, he had so much time for me and I'll never forget [it and] our friendship. He was beyond brilliant and kind."

Marion O’Dwyer recalled how, as an actor, Hickey “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 . . . lucky to know you Tom. Rest easy.”

*Article was amended on May 3rd

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times