Vera Twomey, who succeeded in having her daughter issued with a licence for medicinal cannabis to treat a severe form of epilepsy, was among those honoured at the Rehab People of the Year Awards.

Ms Twomey, from Aghabullogue, Co Cork, received the award from Olympic medallist Rob Heffernan at Dublin’s Mansion House last night.

Her eight-year-old daughter, Ava Barry, suffers from Dravet syndrome, which causes severe, dangerous, and frequent seizures.

After a two-and-a-half-year national campaign, a medicinal cannabis license was approved for Ava.

Ms Twomey said the Government needs to legislate and put a framework in place for prescribing of medicinal cannabis so other families do not have to go through the same ordeal as her.

“It is very hard to watch other parents and families suffering in similar circumstances to ours,” she said.

    Among the award winners announced last night were:
  • Fr Peter McVerry for being the voice of the homeless;
  • Catherine Corless for her research into the Tuam mother and baby home;
  • Irish Coast Guard, the crew of Rescue 116, and Caitríona Lucas for their bravery;
  • Joy Neville, for her leadership in the world of rugby;
  • Ifrah Ahmed for her ongoing international campaign against female genital mutilation;
  • Harry and Molly Flynn from Waterford for saving their little sister’s life many times over.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar jockey AP McCoy, activist Sabina Higgins, and rock band Aslan also walked the red carpet at the televised black-tie event to honour Ireland’s heroes.

Ms Corless, who received her award from human rights commissioner Emily Logan said it would be “disrespectful and unacceptable” to erect a memorial at the Tuam babies site, as some had suggested.

“A full exhumation is now needed. We need to remove the remains of these innocent children; it is no place for them, and give them a respectful burial,” she said.

Ms Corless said a proper burial would be part of the healing process for all of the families involved.

“The only thing stopping a full exhumation is money, and that is not good enough.”


People of the Year Award recognises Vera’s battle

Fr McVerry believes that being honoured with a second People of the Year Award in 13 years showed the lack of progress being made on the homeless issue in Ireland.

His award is in recognition of his unrelenting efforts to shine a light on the plight of vulnerable homeless persons and was presented by Aslan’s Christy Dignam.

Fr McVerry said he was honoured to accept the award but was also quite sad because he accepted the same award in 2005. “It shows the lack of progress being made on the issue as a country and the growing demand for homeless services,” he said.

Limerick sportswoman Joe Neville was presented with a Sports Person of the Year Award by AP McCoy for her achievements in breaking down barriers in rugby.

Ms Neville has represented Ireland and Munster and was recently named World Rugby Referee of the Year for 2017.

She helped Munster win six inter-provincial championships and later led the Ireland team to a Grand Slam victory in 2013.

She went on to become one of rugby’s most accomplished referees, becoming the first women referee to officiate in a European match in 2016, followed by taking charge of the Women’s Rugby Cup final in Dublin last August and then taking to the field to become the first ever woman to referee a men’s international match in October.

Harry and Molly Flynn were presented with their award by Mr Varadkar, for saving their sister’s life on numerous occasions.

Isabelle Flynn, 6, was born with cerebral palsy and apnoea, which means she can suddenly stop breathing at any stage during the day or night. Her condition worsens when she is sick or has a
cold — her breathing could be affected up to 20 times a day.

Both Harry, 13, and Molly, 10, have been junior members of the ‘T bears’ of the Irish Red Cross Waterford City branch since they were five years old.

The skills they have developed means that they have been life-savers to Isabelle on hundreds of occasions during her short life.

Harry and Molly gave Isobelle cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) while playing on a bouncy castle and on a supermarket trolley while out shopping.

Isabelle’s family hope she will grow out of her apnoea. Until then she knows her siblings will be there for her when she needs them most.


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