Video: James Nesbitt, our ‘National Treasure’

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Ulster University chancellor and acclaimed actor James Nesbitt and Derry’s historic Walls have been named as Northern Ireland’s ‘National Treasures,’ following an online poll to celebrate 20 years of the National Lottery.

The proud Coleraine man beat off world number one golfer Rory McIlroy in a public vote to be named NI’s favourite famous face.

Ulster University chancellor and acclaimed actor James Nesbitt, with his father James, on Derry's historic Walls.

Ulster University chancellor and acclaimed actor James Nesbitt, with his father James, on Derry's historic Walls.

The TV and film star was honoured for his role as Chancellor of the Ulster University and his patronage of charities Action Cancer and WAVE Trauma Centre which have all received National Lottery funding. He also starred in the National Lottery-funded film Bloody Sunday.

The Maiden City’s 400-year-old walls were named NI’s most iconic place ahead of the Giant’s Causeway and the Ulster Museum in Belfast in a survey which asked the general public to choose from a range of venues which had received National Lottery funding.

The National Treasures were announced ahead of the 20th anniversary of the first National Lottery draw, which took place on 19 November 1994. Since then players have raised £32 billion for 450,000 charities, arts, sports and heritage projects, and the National Lottery has created more than 3,600 millionaires and paid out £53 billion in prizes.

Both the actor and the walls were honoured at an event at the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry, where Nesbitt took time to meet students from the centre’s Journalism course and join in a session of the Reading Rooms – a literacy and literature project – with the local Rathmor 50+ community group.

James Nesbitt said: “To win any award voted for by the public is an honour. I am very proud of my roots and where I come from. But I am also very proud to be able to represent such a fantastic institution such as the Ulster University and my other charities Action Cancer and WAVE Trauma Centre, all of which have benefited from National Lottery funding.”

“Over the past few years I have been able to see the valuable work carried out by these organisations in each of their fields, helping to build a better and brighter future for Northern Ireland.

“I am also delighted to see the Walls of Derry recognised too. My affinity to the city grew when I played the role of Ivan Cooper in Bloody Sunday. It is fitting this landmark, which has played such an important role in the city’s past, has its heritage preserved and protected for future generations.”