Boy paralysed in bike accident among winners at Garda awards

Ian O’Connell lauded for ‘legendary’ determination at inaugural youth awards ceremony

Ian O’Connell from Killarney was left paralysed from the shoulders down after being thrown from his bike in August 2017.  Photograph: An Garda Síochána

Ian O’Connell from Killarney was left paralysed from the shoulders down after being thrown from his bike in August 2017. Photograph: An Garda Síochána

 

Dozens of young people aged 13 to 21 were honoured at the first ever Garda National Youth Awards on Saturday.

Those to receive awards included Ian O’Connell (16), from Killarney, Co Kerry for “showing strength in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds”.

The teenager was left paralysed from the shoulders down after being thrown from his bike in August 2017. He now has more than 42,000 followers on Instagram through which “he offers online support to young people and their families who are grappling with similar issues in their lives”.

“Ian’s determination is legendary. He was told that he would never come off a ventilator; he got rid of it within 80 days,” the citation read.

“Ian O’Connell continues to defy the odds. He has returned to school. This entails getting up at 5.30am for his rehab treatment each day before he sets off for school.”

Other winners included Odhrán O’Neill and Ruby Hurst from Coláiste Cholmcille, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, for the manner in which they responded to the collapse of a classmate in PE class, performing CPR with the aid of a defibrillator; and Kevin Linehan, Éamonn Nolan and James McDonnell from Castleisland Community College, Co Kerry, for developing a slurry pit safety device aimed at preventing illnesses or near-death experiences caused by toxic slurry pit gases.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Assistant Garda Commissioner Anne Marie McMahon presented 22 awards in total to more than 100 young people at Midlands Park Hotel, Portlaoise, in recognition of their contribution to making their communities better places to live.

“To be recognised as someone who has made their community a better or safer place to live, or as someone who has defied the odds in overcoming difficult circumstances, is really special,” said Mr Flanagan.

“And that recognition is what these inaugural Garda National Youth Awards are giving to many of the young people who join us in this room. The awards give us all a wonderful opportunity to celebrate young people from across the country who have given so much to their communities.”

The national awards build on the divisional Garda youth awards which have been running for the past 20 years.