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11 individuals to be honoured at Presidential Distinguished Service Awards for Irish Abroad ceremony

Ireland, Irish abroad, Minister Charles Flanagan, MoS Joe McHugh, Press Releases, Ireland, 2016

 

11 individuals to be honoured at Presidential Distinguished Service Awards for the Irish Abroad ceremony

- The late Sir Terry Wogan, Angela Brady, Brendan Fay and Sr Mary Sweeney among the awardees

The Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad Ceremony will take place this evening (Thursday) at a ceremony at Áras an Uachtaráin. The Awards honour the work of exceptional members of the Global Irish diaspora who contribute to Ireland and to Irish communities abroad. The awards are organised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with nominations made by Irish communities abroad through Ireland’s embassy network.

President Higgins will this evening present Awards for 2016 to Angela Brady, Sir Terry Wogan (presented posthumously), Robert Kearns, Gerald Lawless, Norman McClelland, Nora Higgins, Brendan Fay, Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, Martin Von Hildebrand Mulcahy, Sr. Mary Sweeney and Garret FitzGerald.

The ceremony will be attended by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, TD, and Minister for the Diaspora and International Development, Joe McHugh, TD.

Speaking ahead of the event, Minister Flanagan said:

“I am delighted that once again we have the opportunity to recognise the significant contributions of these members of our diaspora to Ireland, the Irish community abroad and Ireland’s reputation. In today’s ever changing world, this remarkable group of individuals have been constant in demonstrating the best values of Ireland.

“This year, for the first time, Awards will be presented in the category of Science, Technology and Innovation, reflecting both the important place of this sector in our dynamic economy and Ireland’s track record of achievement in this area. Receiving an Award in this category is Garret FitzGerald who, in his role as a globally recognised research physician and scientist, has continued to be an active member of our diaspora and is closely engaged in facilitating scientific endeavour in Ireland.

“This year’s recipients also include the late Sir Terry Wogan who will receive a posthumous award. Through his long and universally acclaimed broadcasting career, he always reflected all that is good about Ireland and the Irish community in Britain.”

Minister for Diaspora Affairs and International Development, Joe McHugh T.D, added:

“This year’s Presidential Distinguished Service Award recipients signify the breadth and richness of our diaspora. They include those working with the most marginalised and vulnerable, those who have become the voice for those who have none.

“Through their work as community activists for many years in New York, Brendan Fay and Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy have secured rights and recognition for LGBT members of the Irish community. And, in the very challenging environment of Sierra Leone, Sr. Mary Sweeney has worked tirelessly for local communities and most recently she has played a significant role in coordinating a response to the Ebola epidemic.”

The full list of recipients of Presidential Distinguished Service Awards in 2016 are:

Arts, Culture and Sport
Angela Brady (UK)
Sir Terry Wogan (Deceased - UK) - presented posthumously

Business and Education
Robert Kearns (Canada)
Gerald Lawless (UAE)

Charitable Works
Norman McClelland (US)

Irish Community Support
Nora Higgins (UK)
Brendan Fay (US)
Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy (US)

Peace, Reconciliation and Development
Martin Von Hildebrand (Colombia)
Sr. Mary Sweeney (Sierra Leone)

Science, Technology and Innovation
Garret FitzGerald (US)

ENDS
Press Office
08 December 2016

 

Note for Editors:

The Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad is neither to be an honours system nor does it confer any legal entitlements upon the recipients.

In order to be eligible for consideration, nominees must be habitually resident outside the island of Ireland and are required to satisfy the following additional requirements:

(i) have rendered distinguished service to the nation and/or its reputation abroad;
(ii) have actively and demonstrably contributed to Ireland and/or its international reputation and/or Irish communities abroad in at least one of the categories listed above;
(iii) have a track record of sustained support and engagement with Ireland and/or its international reputation and/or Irish communities abroad over a period of not less than 5 years.

The scheme is managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and a High Level Panel was established to make recommendations to Government. This Panel includes: Mr Niall Burgess, Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Chair), Mr Martin Fraser, Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach; Mr Art O’Leary, Secretary General to the President; and four representatives from the non-Government sector- Ms Sally O’Neill Sanchez, Prof Declan Kiberd, Mr Kingsley Aikins and Fr Bobby Gilmore.

Nominations were made by Irish communities abroad through Ireland’s network of Diplomatic Missions.

2016 Recipients

Arts, Culture and Sport

Angela Brady (UK)
Angela Brady is a Dublin-born architect, TV broadcaster and former President of the Royal Institute of British Architects. She is currently Director of London based Brady Mallalieu Architects. She was made a British Council Ambassador to Vietnam for Innovation and Design and has also worked with the British Council in the Near East. Angela promotes architecture on TV, radio and in publications.

She is very active in the Irish community, particularly among the business networks, promoting Irish business and design talent. Ms Brady also made a significant contribution to the success in Britain of the Year of Irish Design 2015.

Terry Wogan (Deceased) (UK) - presented posthumously
Sir Terry Wogan was a universally-known Irish broadcaster who spent most of his career with the BBC. He passed away in January 2016. Throughout his career, he was a respected and loved representative of the Irish in Britain. The reaction to his death highlighted the significance of his contribution to the community, particularly in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Sir Terry’s rise to the highest ranks of broadcasting in Britain was recognised when he received a knighthood in 2005.

Business and Education

Robert Kearns (Canada)
Robert Kearns is a key figure within the Irish community in Toronto and has been instrumental in creating the Ireland Park Famine Memorial Park along the quayside in Canada’s largest city. He is now engaged in creation of a new memorial in Toronto, Grasset Park, to commemorate the Canadian medical staff who died administering to the Famine Irish.

Mr. Kearns is a successful business man and member of the Global Irish Network. He has assisted a number of Irish firms enter the Canadian market, including providing free office space for one such company. He chaired the Ireland Fund of Canada for six years and helped raise funds for integrated education in Ireland.

Gerald Lawless (UAE)
Gerald Lawless has had a distinguished career in the hospitality sector in the United Arab Emirates, serving as CEO of the Jumeirah Group for 18 years and is a member of the Global Irish Network. This year he was appointed Chairman of the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Throughout this time he has played a leading role in the emergence of a strong, vibrant Irish community in Dubai. As a prominent member of the wider Dubai business community Gerald has used his position to advance Irish interests e.g. making it possible to “green” the Burj Al Arab Hotel. He is currently Vice-President of the Dubai Irish Business Network.

Charitable Works

Norman McClelland (US)
The son of Irish emigrants, Norman McClelland, is a businessman and philanthropist based in Phoenix, Arizona. His philanthropic endeavours have spanned the creation of one of the largest urban parks in the world; through sustained support for the St. Mary’s food bank, to whom he gives 80,000 pounds of food per month; and donating the college of management to Arizona State University; to the building of the Phoenix Irish Centre, Library and Genealogical Centre.

A member of the Global Irish Network, Mr. McClelland is proud of his Scots Irish heritage, with roots in Newry, and works hard to support an open and accepting Irish identity, inclusive of all the traditions of the island.

Irish Community Support

Nora Higgins (UK)
Nora Higgins was born in Milltown, Co. Galway, and immigrated to Britain in 1955. She trained as a nurse in Edinburgh and Glasgow before coming to London in 1960. Shortly afterwards, Nora become a member of the Management Committee of Southwark Irish Pensioners’ Project in South London and has been involved with this organisation ever since.

She is currently Chair of the Southwark Irish Pensioners, one of the largest Irish community organisations in south London. The organisation provides a lunch club and welfare support and outreach to hundreds of vulnerable older Irish people in the area. Ms Higgins has been a tireless campaigner for older Irish people in Britain and spoke about her experiences as an emigrant in the 1950s in a very moving and memorable intervention at the Global Irish Economic Forum in Dublin in 2013.

Brendan Fay (US)
Brendan Fay, a community activist, theologian, filmmaker and public speaker, is Co-Founder of the LGBT group, Lavender and Green Alliance. He was also a founding member of the Irish AIDS Outreach organisation in 1996 which sought to break the silence around AIDS in the Irish community in New York. He has been active on immigration reform (UAFA), civil marriage, AIDS awareness and human rights.

Brendan has been an activist for LGBT rights, and in particular Irish LGBT rights, in New York for several decades, forming the inclusive St. Pat’s For All Parade in 1999 as an alternative to the 5th Avenue Parade. Along with Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, he worked for years to secure the right of Irish gay groups to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC, a right which was finally won in 2016.

Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy (US)
Kathleen is a co-chair and co-producer of the St. Pat's For All parade and a board member of the Irish LGBT group, Lavender and Green Alliance of New York. She is a writer, social worker, community activist and has worked on the inclusive St. Pat’s For All Parade since 1999. Along with Brendan Fay, she worked for years to secure the right of Irish gay groups to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC, a right which was finally won in 2016.

The daughter of 1920s immigrants from Counties Offaly and Tipperary, she co-edited two fiction collections by Irish women writers, Territories of the Voice (1990) and A Green and Mortal Sound (2001).

Peace, Reconciliation and Development

Martín von Hildebrand Mulcahy (Colombia)
Martín von Hildebrand is an ethnologist and activist for indigenous and environmental rights who has played a key role in protecting the Colombian Amazon from illegal resource exploitation, principally mining, and in ensuring that indigenous communities living in these areas can exercise their legal and constitutional rights to manage their territories.

Martín was born in the US of an Irish mother and a German father. He studied in UCD in the 1960s, as well as at the Sorbonne and has devoted his life’s work to promoting economic, social and environmental rights in the Colombian Amazon. In the 1990s, he founded the Colombian NGO, Fundación Gaia Amazonas which works to empower indigenous communities in the Amazon to exercise their constitutional rights to protect and manage their own territories, to protect the Amazonian ecosystem and support sustainable livelihoods and food security and sovereignty.

Martín is now working on a project to connect and protect the interdependent ecosystems of the Andes, Amazon and Atlantic Coast of South America, spanning a number of countries including Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela.

Sr. Mary Sweeney (Sierra Leone)
Sr. Mary Sweeney has worked tirelessly for over forty years, often with limited support, in the extremely challenging environment that is Sierra Leone. Through her efforts in establishing the St Joseph’s School for the Hearing Impaired in Makeni, she has given education, skills training and life opportunities to the most vulnerable of people; children with a disability in a developing country. Notably, she remained in Makeni to keep the school open during the brutal civil war in the 1990s, and more recently she has played a significant role in coordinating much-needed support for the Ebola response in Makeni.

Sr. Sweeney has in recent years widened her ambitions and focussed her energies on promoting the development of a curriculum for the training of teachers for special needs education in Sierra Leone.

Science, Technology and Innovation

Garret FitzGerald (US)
UCD graduate, Professor FitzGerald is a globally recognised research physician scientist at the University of Pennsylvania. His research has contributed substantially to the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease by low dose aspirin and has benefitted millions worldwide. He has also won several major international awards for his work on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and is widely published in leading medical journals.

He is closely engaged in facilitating scientific endeavour in Ireland, establishing a successful Center for Cardiovascular Science at UCD and was a founding advisor of Science Foundation Ireland. He has contributed significantly to the training and mentoring of many Irish researchers, several of whom hold senior positions within Irish academia and industry today. Amongst the more than 100 postdoctoral and doctoral students who have trained in his lab, more than 20 are Irish and remain active in research.

In 2014, Science Foundation Ireland awarded Professor FitzGerald with the inaugural SFI St. Patrick’s Day Science Medal in recognition of his outstanding contributions to his field of expertise and to his ongoing support of the research community in Ireland.