Humanitarian Adi Roche, whose charity has delivered some €100m in aid to people affected by the world’s worst nuclear accident, said she is humbled by Cork City Council’s decision to confer her with the Freedom of Cork.
The Clonmel-born voluntary CEO of the Chernobyl Children International (CCI) charity thanked the city council and described being recognised by her “favourite city” as one of her proudest moments. It is a “great honour and privilege”, said Ms Roche, who is in war-torn eastern Ukraine, where she is co-ordinating CCI’s 35th Flying Doctors’ Cardiac Mission.
“I will be proud to accept the freedom of the city on behalf of myself and all our wonderful volunteers, staff, and donors and on behalf of all the innocent victims of Chernobyl, especially the children,” she said.
“In this the 30th anniversary of the catastrophic nuclear accident at Chernobyl and in this the 100th year anniversary of the emergence of our great nation there could be no greater honour.”
She said she would convey the news to the people of Chernobyl today.
“I will tell them that they are not forgotten, not by the people of Cork, not by the people of Ireland,” she said.
Ms Roche was speaking after city councillors voted 25 for, two against, with one abstention, in favour of Lord Mayor Chris O’Leary’s proposal to confer her with the freedom honour, with the ceremony most likely to take place in late May.
Mr O’Leary, who visited the Ukraine and Belarus this year with council chief executive Ann Doherty to see, first-hand, CCI’s work, said Ms Roche was a worthy recipient of the honour, given that her humanitarian work has made CCI the largest global contributor to victims of the 1986 nuclear disaster.
He also said he was delighted to receive near unanimous support for his proposal.
Former lord mayor, Councillor Terry Shannon (FF), who did not confer a freedom award during his mayorality, voted against the proposal, along with party colleague Councillor Sean Martin. Mr Shannon said he had nothing against Ms Roche personally, but believes the honour has been devalued by being conferred too often.
Councillor John Buttimer (FG), who conferred the freedom of the city on three people during his term as lord mayor, abstained.
However, Councillor Kieran McCarthy (Ind), described Ms Roche as an ideal candidate for the honour, given her international standing.
Ms Roche has received several international awards for her work, including the European Woman Laureate Award, the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award, the World of Children Health Award, and the 2015 Princess Grace Humanitarian Award.
Meanwhile, Cork athletes Rob Heffernan and Olive Loughnane are to be accorded a joint civic reception to mark their recent Olympic medal wins following the disqualification of drug cheats.
Award tinged with sadness for Roche
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