Storm Emma efforts help Cork man win ‘volunteer of the year’ award

Annual Irish Red Cross ceremony recognises contribution to communities across the State


A Co Cork man who doubles as a full-time Dunnes Stores worker and on-call fire fighter has been named as volunteer of the year by the Irish Red Cross.

Padraig O’Reilly, from Clonakilty, was recognised on Saturday for more than 20 years of work supporting local communities, particularly during extreme weather events such as Cork’s 2012 flash floods and Storm Emma.

His work with the Irish Red Cross has also included opening a Clonakilty Red Cross branch in 2016 and leading the Advent Food Collection in aid of Cork Penny Dinners, which amassed 42 crates of food and 12 bags of toiletries this year.

Mr O’Reilly played an important role in helping people from west Cork whose homes and businesses were damaged by the June 2012 flash floods and drove the Clonakilty branch’s 4x4 ambulance during the treacherous conditions of Storm Emma this year - transporting nurses and patients to hospitals.

He has also established with his wife a carer of the year award in memory of a former colleague.

Others recognised included 12-year-old Sarah McConnellogue, who was crowned young volunteer of the year at an awards cremony in Croke Park, Dublin.

Sarah, who comes from Muff, Co Donegal, has been a member of the Irish Red Cross for three years and has completed numerous volunteer programmes, including first aid training.


Described as “an enthusiastic, committed volunteer”, she was praised for her important work in recruiting younger volunteers to the charity, including 19 students from her class in school.

Alan Farrell, chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs, commended Irish Red Cross volunteers for their “commitment to helping local communities, providing humanitarian aid in times of need and assisting the most vulnerable people, both at home and abroad”.

Mr Farrell also highlighted the work of the charity’s volunteers during the recent storms Emma, Eleanor, Brian and Ophelia.

“The selfless nature with which they carry out their work showcases their commitment to helping others and working to make our world a better place,” he said. “I wish to express my sincere gratitude to every single member of the organisation across Ireland for their commitment to helping others.”

Rose Ward, from Claremorris in Co Mayo, was named instructor of the year at the ceremony while Antoinette Coffey, from Dungarvan, Co Waterford was recognised as health and social care officer of the year. Caoimhe McLaughlin, also from Muff, Co Donegal, was presented the youth achievement of the year award; and Paddy Redmond, from Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, was named unit member of the year.