Keith Duffy named National Philanthropist of the Year

Keith Duffy, Arthur Guinness Fund and former publican Hugh O’Regan recognised

Carly (8) and Gracie (4) Fagan, from Portlaoise, whose sister Lucy is affected by autism, pictured with Keith Duffy at the 2013 launch of the Blue Nose fundraising campaign. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Carly (8) and Gracie (4) Fagan, from Portlaoise, whose sister Lucy is affected by autism, pictured with Keith Duffy at the 2013 launch of the Blue Nose fundraising campaign. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Actor and musician Keith Duffy has been awarded National Philanthropist of the Year for his work with Irish Autism Action (IAA). The former Boyzone member was recognised for his fundraising work for children with autism at an event in Dublin city centre on Wednesday afternoon.

“Today is about recognising philanthropy, generosity and leadership,” said Tina Roche, CEO of the Community Foundation for Ireland, who organised the awards. “These awards celebrate what’s good about Irish people, promoting the values we have in strategic, long-term giving.”

Keith Duffy, who was represented at the event by his wife Lisa Duffy, said he was “delighted” to accept the award. “It’s great to receive this award because it puts IAA on the map,” he said in a video message to the audience. “It makes people understand and realise how important it is that we educate these children with autism and that we keep the schools open that are providing the appropriate education for them.” Mr Duffy said a special thanks to the Abacas school in Kilbarrack which specialises in education for children with autism.

The lunchtime event was hosted by RTÉ broadcaster Marian Finucane who highlighted the importance of continuing to support charities at home and abroad, despite the recent bad publicity. “It’s really important that this event goes ahead with a positive feel, because whether you’re talking about tidy towns or volunteers answering phone lines, community and volunteer work is part of our tradition and a glue for society,” said Ms Finucane.

Two other awards were presented at the event. Diageo Ireland was named Corporate Philanthropist of the Year for its work with the Arthur Guinness Fund. Angela Smith from Diageo accepted the award for the Fund’s work in supporting social entrepreneurs in Irish communities. The inaugural Brian Wilson award was given posthumously to Hugh O’Regan, the publican and hotelier who died in November 2012. He was represented by his wife Adrienne and four sons who spoke of a man who “believed in Ireland, its history and culture... but particularly its young people who he believed had something unique to say.”

The Brian Wilson Award was presented in commemoration of the former chairperson of the Community Foundation and 10 year serving board member, Brian Wilson, who also died in November 2012.

The Community Foundation is one of the country’s leading philanthropic foundations and works with philanthropists to connect them to causes they care about. A total of €3.5 million was issued by the foundation in 2013 on behalf of donors to charities and community groups.