IRISH stars were out in force in London last night as the Irish Post Awards returned to the capital.
The glitzy event, which honours Irish excellence and achievement, drew more than 1,000 people to the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane for a night unlike any other.
Seven awards were handed out over the course of the evening, which was hosted by broadcasting legend Eamonn Holmes and Country music star Lisa McHugh.
It all kicked off with a high-energy performance from singing sensation Nathan Carter, who set the tone for a night full of stars, sparkle and surprises.
The Outstanding Achievement in Sport award was the first to be handed out.
It went to the Irish Senior Women’s Football Team, in honour of the “enormous strides they have made in the last few years”.
Former Arsenal Vice-Chairman David Dein – who was one of the founders of the Premier League – was on hand to present the award.
Delighted footballers Grace Moloney and Ruesha Littlejohn collected the gong on behalf of the team.
The Inspiration in the Community Award went to William ‘Billy’ McAllister,
The Belfast native, who went blind overnight in 2009, fought against all the odds to become one of the world’s greatest blind golfers.
His award was presented by the actor Tamer Hassan – who starred in the films such as The Football Factory and Batman Begins, and featured in the epic HBO series Game of Thrones.
Gallagher Group were announced as the winners of the Building Britain Award 2023, with company founder and Chairman Pat Gallagher and his daughter, Lyndsey Gallagher, who is Chief Operating Officer at the firm, taking to the stage to collect it.
There was a standing ovation when Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons collected the Outstanding Contribution to Film & Television award.
His wife, the Irish actor Sinead Cusack, joined him for the awards ceremony.
The iconic actor has starred in the likes of Brideshead Revisited, Elizabeth I, House of Gucci and The Flash over his lengthy career in the industry.
Collecting his award, which was presented by the Irish Ambassador to the UK, Martin Fraser, he thanked the Irish Post “for the honour of being here with you” after revealing he had traced his own family roots to Skibereen in Co. Cork.
Remarking on the huge audience in attendance for the Awards evening - many representing Irish firms leading the construction industry in Britain - Irons, who has spent years renovating an historic Irish castle, joked: “Why is it when you need a builder you can never find one, and then you have a night like this, with a room full of them.”
Similarly iconic in the film industry is the winner of the Irish Post Lifetime Achievement Award 2023, Neil Jordan.
The Oscar-winning filmmaker, who has etched his name in the annals of film history as a director, screenwriter and producer, was presented with his award by Cavan-based writer Pat McCabe.
Jordan has adapted two of McCabe’s best-known books The Butcher Boy and Breakfast on Pluto.
The Lifetime Achievement in Music Award went to the legendary musician Finbar Furey.
Presented by fellow star Imelda May, Furey entertained the crowd with anecdotes of his early days playing music in London’s Camden Town.
He told the room that he was in awe of the generation of Irish people who had come before him and blazed a trail for the community that exists in Britain today.
“If it wasn’t for them, none of us would be here today,” he added.
The star, who has led the traditional Irish music scene for decades with his family band The Fureys, delighted the audience further when he gave a surprise rendition of The Galway Shawl.
The performance, accompanied by May, was one of the standout moments of the event.
And there were plenty more spine-tingling performances too, with Carter belting out a number of chart-topping tunes in between award presentations, Ladyva impressing the audience with her boogie-woogie style piano playing, and Kiera Dignam, daughter of the late Aslan frontman Christy Dignam, wowing the crowds with her powerful voice and stage presence.
Presenter McHugh also performed during the event, which drew as many stars among the audience as it did on stage.
Top Boy star Lisa Dwan, Harry Potter actor Evanna Lynch and The Saturdays singer Una Healy were all in attendance among the crowd.
The final award of the night was another musical one, with Derry native Nadine Coyle receiving the Outstanding Contribution to Music gong.
A member of the chart-storming group Girls Aloud, and a solo performer too, Coyle was presented with her award by former Late Late Show presenter Ryan Tubridy.
She told the crowd that her family and friends had come along to support her, and she was planning on enjoying a drink or two with them on the night to celebrate.
"After this, I'm going to be 'cheers-ing' with all my family and friends who came here,” she said.
“Thank you so much to everyone at the Irish Post for giving me this award and letting me have this moment with all of you.
“I am thrilled and honoured to receive this.”
Last held in 2019, the annual Irish Post Awards returned last night after a brief hiatus due to the pandemic.
Welcoming those that gathered for the event’s much-anticipated return, Irish Post Publisher Elgin Loane said: “We are delighted to bring you a night celebrating Irish excellence and achievements, where we pay tribute to Irish success stories across every sector of life in Britain and beyond.”
He added: “Ours is a unique event, one that is entirely dedicated to championing the best of the Irish community abroad, and there is so much to celebrate.
“Congratulations to all our Irish Post Award winners of 2023.”