Liam Neeson has expressed fears the Covid-19 pandemic could kill off the arts in his home of Northern Ireland, calling recent government aid a "lifeline".

In a message to members of the Northern Ireland Executive, recorded in his capacity as a patron of the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, Neeson warned that many theatres in his homeland are on the brink of ruin.

According to the BBC, the Taken star welcomed a recent £33 million grant designed to help Northern Ireland's arts organisations through the coronavirus lockdown and socially distanced reopenings - but urged politicians to ensure the cash is spent helping the arts survive.

Speaking passionately about the art sector's fragility, he declared: "(The funding) is vital, it's a lifeline. It is vital for our economy, it is vital for our young people who are pursuing a career in our creative industries."

Neeson also argued that "a true society cannot be whole or fundamentally exist without the arts".

He closed by adding: "Culture is our society's compass, our north star. If we lose our compass we all lose our way."

During his message, Neeson also spoke about how acting had helped him escape the violence that blighted Northern Ireland during his formative years.

"I came up through the ranks, as it were, of the arts scene in Northern Ireland during the 1970s, beginning in 1976 to be exact at the Lyric theatre in Ridgeway Street in Belfast," the Gangs of New York star said.

He recalled: "I experienced first-hand, as many of you may have, the potential of physical danger as I practised and learned my craft in that theatre - which, by the way, never closed its doors once during the height of the Troubles."