Acts of bravery honoured at tranquil ceremony
21 get National Bravery Awards
Gardaí James Hanley, James Rowan, Joe Hayes, John Reilly and Padraic Mc Weeney who were awarded medals for bravery. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
For the 21 people honoured at the National Bravery Awards yesterday, the tranquil atmosphere of Farmleigh House was a world removed from the dramatic circumstances that had brought them there.
It was a day when a group of individuals who had “stepped up”, as Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett put it during his opening remarks, could reflect on and be proud of their actions in the midst of family and friends.
Many had leapt into rivers, lakes or the sea. Some had even rushed into burning buildings. All of them had taken action at great risk to themselves to try to help another.
The two had been walking in the Patrick Street area of Fermoy, Co Cork – on their way out to celebrate their Leaving Certificate results – when they noticed a plume of smoke billowing from an apartment block.
“We were banging on the windows to see if there was anyone in there,” said Mr Twomey after the ceremony. “We got through the first door and set off the alarms in the building. We found a guy staggering around in the hallways. We couldn’t see anything with the smoke but we got him out.”
He continued: “We then realised there was a second person inside so I went back in and found the other man unconscious. I was able to lift him out – he was heavy enough but I was so focused on getting out that I didn’t really feel it.
“You couldn’t see a thing only for a glow in the corner where the fire was. The eyes were burnt out of my head. I busted my knee trying to kick in the door but I was okay apart from that.”
Mr Barrett presented 21 awards in recognition of “outstanding acts of bravery” at yesterday’s ceremony. The honours are bestowed by Comhairle na Míre Gaile or the Deeds of Bravery Council.
The council, which is chaired by the Ceann Comhairle, includes the Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, the Lord Mayor of Cork, the Garda Commissioner, the president of the Association of County and City Councils, and the chairman of the Irish Red Cross.
The council may award medals in gold, silver or bronze categories. Certificates of recognition may also be awarded. At yesterday’s ceremony, there were three silver medals and eight bronze awarded.
The third silver medallist was David McCormack, who was at his home in Co Kildare on the evening of Sunday, August 14th, 2011. He also ran into a burning building – this time to the aid of his neighbour, whom he rescued from an upstairs room.
Among those honoured yesterday were five members of the Garda, one of whom was Garda John Reilly of Drogheda Garda station, who rescued a woman from the river Boyne in August 2011.
“I went in in after her and grabbed her and started pulling her because the current was dragging us out. Then the Coast Guard arrived and one of them grabbed me by the shoulder and started pulling me. So I just grabbed her in a headlock and kept hold of her until we got on to the bank.”
Mr Barrett said yesterday was about “celebrating, recognising and giving thanks” to members of communities who “through their selfless acts of courage” had helped other people.
“One cannot fail to be impressed by the strength of spirit shown by the recipients of these awards. It is that strength of spirit that makes our communities better places in which to live, that selfless sacrifice and endeavour that lifts us all.”