Paul O’Connell wins at the People of the Year awards

Referendum campaigners Yes Equality named Community Group of the Year

Winners at the 2015 People of the Year Awards, organised by Rehab, after the live awards presentation. Front left to right: Aoibheann Mangan, Padraic Godwin, Mick O’Connell (on behalf of his son, Paul), Fadhila Hajji, John Evoy, Ade Stack and Marty Curley. Back left to right): Cpl Conor Kilbride, Able Comm Op Shauna Fero, Lt Elaine Maloney, Chief ERA Rory De Barra, Philip Grant, Fr Brendan McBride, Brian Sheehan, Deirdre Duffy, Grainne Healy and Ken Maleady. Photograph: Robbie Reynolds.

Former Irish rugby captain Paul O’Connell has been named sports person of the year at the 2015 People of the Year awards for his outstanding achievements and leadership in the sport.

His award was one of nine presented at the annual black-tie event in Dublin and broadcast live on RTÉ television.

The awards are an opportunity for the public to honour those who have shown courage, bravery and determination.

The work of the Irish Naval Service for their humanitarian mission in the Mediterranean Sea was recognised with an award to the Defence Forces, Oglaigh na hÉireann.


The Yes Equality campaign was named Community Group of the Year for their “inspirational” referendum campaign “which contributed enormously to a global advance in recognition of the rights of gay and lesbian couples”.

Irish diplomat and Consul General to the Western US Philip Grant and Father Brendan McBride, were joint recipients of the International Person of the Year Award, for their work in supporting families and the survivors of the Berkeley tragedy in San Francisco.

Emergency nurse practitioner Ken Maleady received the Everyday Hero award for saving the life of fellow marathon runner Mary Leech, when she collapsed with no pulse during the Dublin City marathon in October.

She went on to make a full recovery with no long-term effects and he went on to finish the marathon.

Founders of Hugh’s House Ade Stack and Martin Curley, were honoured for providing a six-bedroom house free for families from outside Dublin who have sick children attending Temple Street Children’s Hospital and the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin.

They donated the house following the death of their son Hugh aged just eight months, and continue to raise funds to support and develop the service.

Fadhila Hajji (18), was honoured 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.

Aoibheann Mangan (8), and Pádraic Godwin (9) were joint winners of the Young Person of the Year award for the creation and design of a farm safety website for children -

John Evoy received a People of the Year award for founding the Irish Association of Men’s Sheds, “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”.

Currently, more than 10,000 men use 300 Men’s Sheds in 150 towns around Ireland every week.

Mo Flynn, chief executive of Rehab, which organises the awards, said they “give us the opportunity to acknowledge unsung heroes from communities across the country and from abroad, whose stories and achievements inspire everyone around them”.

She said the nominations came from the public which made them truly the People’s Awards, and they “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.’’

Previous People of the Year winners include Rory O’Neill (2014), Brendan O’Carroll (2013), Katie Taylor (2012), Joanne O’Riordan (2012), adventurer Mark Pollock (2012), Pieta House founder Joan Freeman (2011), Rory McIlroy (2011), PC Ronan Kerr (2011), Graeme McDowell (2010), Gerry Ryan (2010), the Irish rugby team (2009), actor David Kelly (2009), autism campaigner Keith Duffy (2008), former Northern Ireland Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan (2008) and campaigner Bob Geldof (2005).

The ceremony was presented by Gráinne Seoige and reporter Aidan Power in the Radisson Blu St Helen’s Hotel in Dublin.

The award winners were joined by family, friends and well-known faces including rugby international Robbie Henshaw, singer Daniel O’Donnell and his wife Majella O’Donnell, soccer star Stephanie Roche, former sports presenter Micheál O’Muircheartaigh, former presenter Anne Doyle, commentator George Hook, DJ Larry Gogan, RTÉ broadcasters Eileen Dunne and Sinead Kennedy and presenter Lorraine Keane.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times