Irish aid worker and mother of Berkeley victim among recipients of Presidential award

Irish aid worker and mother of Berkeley victim among recipients of Presidential award
Sally O'Neill. Picture: Trócaire

An Irish aid worker who died earlier this year is among those to be recognised by the Presidential Distinguished Service Awards for the Irish Abroad.

Sally O'Neill Sanchez, who worked for Trocaire for 37 years and was killed in a car crash in Guatemala in April, is named as the recipient of the Peace, Reconciliation and Development award.

Sally worked primarily in Latin America, working on the frontline during some of the world's most significant humanitarian crises.

During the conflict years when civil wars were being fought in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, she oversaw humanitarian aid to more than 2 million refugees.

The mother of one of the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse Jackie Donohoe will receive the Irish Community Support award.

Jackie's daughter Ashley, an Irish-American student, was killed in the balcony collapse along with her niece Olivia Burke.

Ashley Donohoe
Ashley Donohoe

Four other students - Eoghan Culligan, Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster, and Eimear Walsh - were also killed.

Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Sean Fahey, Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin, Niall Murray, and Hannah Waters all received injuries of varying severity.

A year after the tragic incident, Jackie Donohoe gave emotional testimony to the California State Assembly's Appropriations Committee about the importance of greater oversight of contractors and the safety of balconies.

"She’ll never get married. Her father will never walk her up the aisle, and her cousin Olivia will never be her bridesmaid. I will tell you one thing. Her father carried her up the aisle — he carried her coffin up the aisle and her beloved friend Olivia did follow her... She came after her in her coffin," Ms Donohoe said in her testimony.

Ms Donohoe had started a petition to pass the bill in Califoria aimed at toughening building regulations to prevent a repeat of the Berkeley tragedy.

The Presidential Distinguished Service Award was established by the Government in 2011 to recognise the contribution of members of the Irish Diaspora.


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