Wicklow teen honoured with top bravery award at Farmleigh ceremony
Awards made for 21 outstanding acts of lifesaving courage
It was a day to remember split-second decisions that forever changed people’s lives. Garda Mark Irwin remembered the moments “like a scene from a movie”, while teenager Brian O’Sullivan vividly recalled seeing a father struggling in the water as he tried to hold up his two children, making him jump in to help without a second thought.
These two were among the 21 people recognised at the National Bravery Awards at Farmleigh House in Dublin yesterday, for their outstanding acts of courage for their life-saving efforts.
Garda Irwin (24), who was only person awarded two bronze medals and certificates of bravery, said the first incident happened he, with Reserve Garda Stephen Corrigan, was in pursuit of a car in Westport on October 28th, 2012.
He stopped the pursuit for safety reasons, but a short time later he found the car sinking in a Knappaghbeg Lake. The vehicle had landed on its roof and the driver was trapped inside. “It was like a scene out of a movie. I was running completely on instinct and adrenaline,” he said. “My training kicked in.”
Garda Irwin and Reserve Garda Corrigan jumped into the lake in freezing temperatures and managed to keep the man conscious until the emergency services arrived 20 minutes later. Reserve Garda Corrigan also received a bronze medal and certificates.
One morning not long after, at 4am, Garda Irwin was on duty with Garda John Boyle. “My uniform was barely dry almost two weeks later when I came upon a car dangling back and forth over the edge of the pier,” he said. A young man had climbed out of the car but had fallen into the sea. Both gardaí rescued the man and Garda Boyle also received a bronze medal.
Brian O’Sullivan (16), from Wicklow town, was awarded the top award of the day – a silver medal – and a certificate. Only two silver medals were handed out this year. During the school summer holidays in July last year, Brian and his friends were cooling down at Wicklow pier.
“I saw a man in the water struggling and I could see his two small children panicking. I thought ‘he needs help’ and to get in there as quickly as possible.”
He held the man’s head above the water as Katie O’Neill, the lifeguard on duty at the time, came to the rescue with a kayak. The man was brought to Tallaght Hospital but he died the following day. The children survived. Ms O’Neill was awarded a certificate for her lifesaving efforts.
Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett, who presented the awards on behalf of Comhairle na Mire Gaile – the Deeds of Bravery Council – said it was important to recognise those who risked their lives for others. “These people could have sat back and let somebody else do it, but they didn’t,” he said.