Selfless qualities mark winners apart


SPORTING ACHIEVEMENTS, contributions to society, rigorous campaigning and, above all, personal selflessness were the qualities that marked out the 10 people and organisations who received people of the year awards on Saturday evening during a ceremony in Dublin.

Prior to the ceremony, some of the winners reflected on what the distinction meant to themselves and those they represented.

“This award is a recognition of a long campaign,” Alana Burke, one of the representatives of the Bloody Sunday families, stated with emotion. “We have campaigned over a long, long time with great tenacity. And we finally got justice for our innocent with the Saville report.”

Sandra Irwin-Gowran and Christopher Robson, representing the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, accepted the award that recognised the network’s campaigning role in establishing the Civil Partnership Act.

“People will notice it’s a slightly unusual award,” Mr Robson said.

“To be nominated by the public for this award sends out a really affirming message,” Ms Irwin- Gowran pointed out.

Catherine McGuinness, former judge of the Supreme Court, who was honoured for her “pioneering and vast contribution to Irish life”, said what meant most to her was that the award was “for my achievements over a lifetime”.

She spoke also about the challenges Irish women in public society face today. “In a way, the legal career seems to be easier to progress in for women than some other careers, including of course the church. And politics is still a pretty unfriendly career to work in if you have a family – whether you’re a woman or a man.”

Chief Supt David Sheahan accepted the garda of the year award on behalf of the Garda Síochána Limerick community policing unit. He admitted the unit’s biggest challenge over the last decade had been “gang-related activity. But from my perspective, this award shows that we’re going back to doing what we know best – working in communities.”

Young person of the year, Owen O’Keefe (17), who raised €15,000 for the Irish Cancer Society by swimming the English Channel, admitted he was wearing a black tie for the first time. “I haven’t hired the suit, I bought it,” he confided. “I’m hoping I’ll get another wear out of it for the grad next year.”

Golfer Graeme McDowell, who enthralled the country by winning the US Open earlier in the year, was honoured for his outstanding achievement.

Dr Louise Ivers and Gena Heraty, who have each spent several years working in Haiti, were joint winners of the international person of the year.

Rio Hogarty (73), who has fostered 140 children over the past 40 years, received a special award as mum of the year.

Emma Fogarty received her award for campaigning for awareness of the rare genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa (EB).

The late broadcaster Gerry Ryan was honoured posthumously for his “unique contribution to Irish radio”.

The awards, now in their 36th year, were organised by Rehab and sponsored by Quinn Healthcare.


Graeme McDowell:for winning the US Open Golf Championship

Families of the victims of Bloody Sunday:for their consistent campaigning for justice

Catherine McGuinness:for the retired Supreme Court judge’s contribution to Irish society

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network:for campaigning for the Civil Partnership Act

Gerry Ryan:posthumous honour for contribution to broadcasting

Emma Fogarty:campaigner for awareness of the skin condition epidermolysis bullosa

Louise Ivers and Gena Heraty:joint winners of international award for their work in Haiti

Owen O’Keefe (17):young person award for being the youngest Irish person to swim English Channel

Rio Hogarty:mum of the year, for fostering a total of 140 children.

Garda Síochána Limerick Community Policing Unit:won garda of the year award