A MAN who drowned at Inny Strand in Waterville, Co Kerry, 21 years ago while trying to rescue his lifelong friend in treacherous conditions was honoured posthumously with the highest national bravery award at a ceremony in Leinster House.
Paddy Sean Fogarty from Waterville, Co Kerry, who never hesitated to help anyone in need, swam to his friend, Fr Willie Murphy, but became tangled in rope and was unable to get ashore. Help arrived but the Glasgow-based priest was pronounced dead at the scene. Paddy Sean also lost his life trying to save his friend.
Fr Murphy had suffered from polio as a younger man and used to go swimming to ease the effects of the disease.
The memorial gold medal and certificate citation for Paddy Sean’s heroic act in July 1989 was presented by Ceann Comhairle, Seamus Kirk, to his three children – Julie Carey, John Fogarty and Trish Horgan.
John pointed out that it was neighbours, Eugene Dennehy and Gerald Cronin, who tirelessly canvassed for the award on their father’s behalf.
Julie said her family were carrying the Murphy family in their hearts and minds on the day. “It was such a tragedy that they both lost their lives,” she said.
A silver medal was awarded to Cherie Eustace who rescued her grandparents from a fire in a flat that she shared with them in Bishop Street, Dublin, in July 2005.
Cherie decided to rescue her grandfather, William Eustace, after her grandmother, Eileen Eustace, was able to escape through the front door, although her legs were badly burnt.
Cherie, now 29, stayed with her grandfather in the bathroom upstairs because she felt the availability of water would keep them safe.
“I was screaming out the bathroom for someone to help me but as I was screaming I was breathing in the smoke from downstairs and that is why I continue to have speech and lung problems,” she explained.
The young woman was hospitalised for two weeks in intensive care and a further two weeks in a high dependency unit following the fire. She still attends hospital regularly to have her lungs and speech checked.
Her grandmother is still alive but her grandfather later contracted pneumonia and died a year and a half ago.
Bronze medal recipient, Michael Bracken, recalled driving along Camden Quay in Cork city in March 2005 when a young man went into the river.
He descended the quay ladder, entered the water and waded out with a life buoy to the man, bringing him back to the ladder where he held onto him until the emergency services arrived.
“I was delighted to be able to save someone’s life because my own father, Patrick, who founded Bracken’s Bakery in the city, died in a drowning accident.”
A total of 23 awards were presented in recognition of outstanding acts of bravery.
They were made by Comhairle na Mire Gaile – the Deeds of Bravery Council, established in 1947 to provide recognition by the state of deeds of bravery.
The council includes the Cathaoirleach of Seanad and the chairman of the Irish Red Cross.
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