Writer Brian Friel is in good company as he is the recipient of the SAOI award for continued and sustained distinction in the arts. The SAOI award is one of the highest honours of distinction in the Irish Arts.

President Mary McAleese presided over the ceremony which took place the Arts Council headquarters in Merrion Square, Dublin. President McAleese, who is a big fan of Friel, presents her fellow northerner with a gold torc, the symbol of the office of SAOI, meaning wise man. 

No more than five artists can hold this award at any one time, so Friel is in good company. Other recipients of the prestigious award include Benedict Kiely, Louis Le Brocqui, Seamus Heaney and Anthony Cronin. 

Teresa Mannion speaks to Anthony Cronin, Michael Colgan and Alan Stanford who all pay tribute to Friel's work. 

Also in attendance at the event is star of 'The Faith Healer' currently running at The Gate Theatre, is Ralph Fiennes. 

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 22 February 2006.