DUBLIN, Ireland - International rugby legend Paul O'Connell was among those honoured at this year's People of the Year Awards. The annual ceremony was presented by Grainne Seoige, along with reporter Aidan Power and broadcast live on RTE One television. Founders of Hugh's House Ade Stack and Martin Curley, John Evoy of the Irish Association of Men's Sheds, community group Yes Equality, Fadhila Hajji, Aoibheann Mangan and Padraic Godwin (winners of the Young Person of the Year Award), Father Brendan McBride and Philip Grant (winners of the International Person of the Year Award) and Oglaigh na hEireann for the work of the Irish Naval Service were also celebrated at the awards. Ken Maleady was announced as the winner of this year's special category award Ireland's Everyday Hero in association with The Ray D'Arcy Show on RTE Radio 1.
The winners were honoured at a black-tie event in the Radisson Blu St Helen's Hotel in Dublin followed by the show broadcast live from RTE studios. They were joined by family, friends and supporters along with other well-known faces including Robbie Henshaw, Daniel Majella O'Donnell, Stephanie Roche, Micheal O'Muircheartaigh, Anne Doyle, George Hook, Larry Gogan, Sinead Kennedy, Lorraine Keane and Eileen Dunne. The ceremony is a special opportunity for the Irish public to honour and celebrate those extraordinary people among us, who have shown courage, bravery and determination. This year's winners have contributed to our society and to their local communities, friends and families in their own unique and individual ways.
2015 People of the Year Award Winners:
Ade Stack and Martin Curley received a People of the Year Award for establishing Hugh's House - a place to stay for families from outside Dublin who have sick children attending Temple Street Children's Hospital and the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin. They donated a six-bedroom house on Belvedere Place, following the death of their son Hugh, aged just eight months. The house serves as a home from home for families whose children are in hospital, with many staying for a few months. There is no charge for parents to stay and all help in the house is voluntary. From their own experience, Marty and Ade realised an outdoor space for the families would be essential, and with the help of volunteers they transformed the garden of Hugh's House from a derelict site to an outdoor space that's full of life. They continuously raise funds to support and develop this worthwhile service which provides a safe haven for patients and their families in the form of Hugh's House and Garden to parents and children who are going through some of the toughest periods of their lives.
John Evoy won his award for founding the Irish Men's Sheds Association. A Men's Shed is a dedicated, friendly and welcoming meeting place where men come together from all walks of life to work on meaningful projects at their own pace, in their own time, and where the main aim is to advance the health and well-being of the men participating. John first witnessed Men's Sheds when he travelled to Australia in the early 90's. The first Men's Shed was established in Tipperary in 2009 and John was the driving force behind a gathering held in 2010 of the seven Men's Sheds in Ireland at the time. The purpose is to provide a space where men are able to come together and work on meaningful projects at their own pace, in their own time, and in the company of other men, with the main aim being to help their health and well-being. There are now over 10,000 men using 300 Men's Sheds in 150 towns around Ireland every week.
Yes Equality were named Community Group of the Year Award for their inspirational campaign which contributed enormously to a global advance in recognition of the rights of gay and lesbian couples. On 22nd May 2015, Ireland voted in the marriage equality referendum, with mass turnout and a yes majority of 62% carrying in all but one constituency. The result sparked incredible scenes across the country with Dublin Castle being a focal point of exhilaration. The journey to this point started many years ago following the Norris v. Ireland European Court of Human Rights judgement in 1988 was now over. Ireland became the first country in the world to legalise same sex marriage by popular vote and it was signed into the Constitution by the President Michael D Higgins on 29th August 2015.
Fadhila Hajji (18), received a People of the Year Award, for establishing Diverse City FC, a soccer team in Dublin for Muslim girls, which enables them to play the game wearing the hijab if they wish to. Fadhila's first love is football and in 2007 due to the FIFA ban on the wearing of hijabs and other religious covers during football matches, Fadhila began to lose interest and confidence in the game as referees and coaches were stopping her from playing. With the help of her brother, Fadhila decided to take matters into her own hands, which is when she started Diverse City FC. She took it upon herself to recruit a team of Muslim girls who could wear their hijabs if they wished. As well as embracing her new college life and playing with the team, Fadhila is also a youth leader for Sport Against Racism Ireland. She travels around Ireland with her brother Abdul visit schools to educate children on the perils of racism and discrimination.
Oglaigh na hEireann were recognised with a People of the Year Award for the work of the Irish Naval Service. They displayed immense courage and resilience in saving thousands of lives in their humanitarian mission in the Mediterranean. In the Mediterranean, thousands of people attempt to make the crossing every day to a new life, driven by the turmoil of their home places, unfortunately, not everyone makes it. Supported by their colleagues throughout glaigh na hireann to deliver their mission, the crews of the Irish Naval Service's L Eithne, LE Niamh and LE Samuel Beckett have shone a light of inspiration during the ongoing tragedy. In May, the LE Eithne and her 69 crew set off on an eight week voyage in the Mediterranean where almost every day there were reports of scores of refugees who lost their lives. On this voyage alone they saved 3,376 migrants. The LE Niamh undertook a three month mission in July, based off the coast of North Africa, rescuing more than 4,100 people. Then in October the LE Samuel Beckett went to sea in an operation that will last until early this month.
Aoibheann Mangan (8) and Padraic Godwin (9) were joint winners of the Young Person of the Year Award. Together, they created and designed a farm safety website for children - www.farmsafety4kids.net.. Pupils from the Cloghan's Hill National School, a 12-pupil school on the Mayo-Galway border, they undertook a third class English project where pupils designed websites. The fatality rate in agriculture is far higher than any other economic sector. Of the 193 people killed on Irish farms between 2005 and 2014, 22 were children. Padraic and Aoibheann felt that children needed farm safety messages that were aimed directly at them, not at adults. They made sure the website had child-friendly information on animals, tractor and water safety, with a range of videos and games.. From that they emailed, tweeted and blogged about the site, leading it to appear on the news on RT, UTV and TG4.
Paul O'Connell was the winner of the Sports Person of the Year Award, for his outstanding achievements in rugby, as well as the leadership he has shown in Irish rugby over many years. 'Strong', 'powerful', 'reliable', 'committed', and 'a leader' are just some of the characteristics associated with Irish rugby legend Paul O'Connell. On the pitch he has laid his heart and body on the line for club and country; in the dressing room he has inspired a host of team-mates; and off the pitch, his warmth, charm and modesty has endeared him to the nation. A hero and a leader, he has worn the Young Munster, Munster, Ireland and Lions jerseys. He has led Munster to winning two Heineken Cups, three Celtic Leagues, and one Celtic Cup. Leading Ireland, he has won three Six Nations Championships, including One Grand Slam in 2099 and four Triple Crowns. When he announced his retirement, everyone was prepared for the fairy-tale ending, which wasn't to be, as he was stretchered off during Ireland's fourth game of the Rugby World Cup against France. Paul will continue his rehabilitation in France as he begins to settle into his new club, Toulon.
Father Brendan McBride and Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States have been named as joint winners of the International Person of the Year Award, for their work in supporting families and the survivors of the Berkley tragedy in San Francisco earlier this year. Philip Grant called upon his years of experience with the Department of Foreign Affairs' Press Office to ensure that the media received accurate and relevant information while protecting the privacy of those involved. Father McBride was on the scene of the accident within hours, and continued his work at the Highland Hospital, comforting students as the news filtered through. Philip and Brendan worked together to remain in constant contact with the familiars, survivors, JI organisations USIT and SAYIT to name but a few. They also worked with the Consulate assembling their 300 volunteer base to provide constant access to transport, mobile phones and meals. The Irish community worldwide stepped up and donated over US$500,000 to a trust fund for the deceased and injured. Philip and Brendan's collective efforts were recognised by President Higgins when he travelled to Berkeley in October in a visit organised by the Consulate to acknowledge the contribution of the first responders.
The Everyday Hero Award in association with RTE Radio One's Ray D'Arcy Show was presented to Ken Maleady from Mullingar. In October, Mary and Alan Leech from Mullingar approached the Dublin City Marathon with great enthusiasm, training for months and looking forward to the race. Ken and Alan had played football together in their younger years and hadn't seen each other in over ten years. Before the race Ken met Alan and they had a quick chat and wished each other well in the race. Ken and Mary ran together for a while and then passed each other often as the race went on. . Coming to the one of the final stretches, Ken noticed someone has collapsed, when he looked, it was Mary. Ken is an emergency cardiology nurse practitioner and an advanced life support provider. Mary's heart had stopped. He started mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and advised a first aider to begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation, as Mary had no pulse. Ken continued with mouth-to-mouth until the defibrillator arrived. Ken applied the defibrillator and resuscitation continued. Ken inserted an intravenous drip and started intravenous fluids. In the third cycle of CPR, Ken checked for heart rhythm, Mary's heart was beating, fast and irregular. Once Mary was safely in the ambulance, Ken continued his race and finished the marathon in a very respectable time of four hours and twelve minutes. Mary made a full recovery and there will be no long term side effects due to the quick response of Ken.
"We are delighted to organise the People of the Year Awards for the 41st year, and are honoured to share the stories of this year's winners with the nation," Mo Flynn, the CEO of Rehab said Saturday night. "These awards give us the opportunity to acknowledge unsung heroes from communities across the country and from abroad, whose stories and achievements inspire everyone around them. With nominations for each winner coming from the people of Ireland, these truly are the 'People's Awards' and reflect all that is good about our society. We congratulate tonight's winners, and all of the previous winners from the past four decades on their achievements and successes.''