Jack Charlton and WHO’s Michael Ryan win presidential awards

Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad recognises diaspora’s achievements

Former Ireland football manager Jack Charlton, who died earlier this year, and World Health Organisation official Dr Michael Ryan are among 14 recipients of the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad in 2020.

The award was established following the 2011 Global Irish Economic Forum as a means to recognise the contribution of members of the diaspora.

Mr Charlton was described as having “turned a sceptical Irish public into adoring fans” of the international team.

Dr Ryan, the WHO's executive director for health emergencies programmes has come to some prominence during the global battle against Covid-19.


Dr Ryan, a native of Co Sligo, has been a “central figure in designing, managing and advancing WHO efforts to ensure a globally co-ordinated response to an unprecedented crisis”, the department said.

Other recipients of this year's award include UK-based actor Fiona Shaw; UK-based entertainer Dermot O'Leary; Prof James Flannery of the WB Yeats Foundation at Emory University in Atlanta; Prof Mitsuko Ohno, an advocate for Irish literature at Aichi Shukutoku University in Japan; and Michael Dowling, chief executive of Northwell Health, the largest healthcare provider in New York state.

Sr Louise Horgan in Thailand was also among this year's recipients, as was Sr Patricia Murray in Italy, a co-founder of Solidarity with South Sudan, as well as the late Alice Kennedy, who was chairwoman of the Irish Elderly Advice Network in the UK .

Other members of the diaspora honoured are Loretta Cosgrove, a champion of the Irish LGBT+ community in Sydney; Prof William Duncan of the Hague Conference on Private International Law in the Netherlands; Fr Kevin O'Hara of Abakaliki diocese in Nigeria; and Prof Dennis Slamon, an American oncologist whose research led to the development of the breast cancer drug Herceptin.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times