Those were the words of Fr Seán Healy, one of Ireland’s foremost anti-poverty campaigners as he received a prestigious award in his native city yesterday.
The director of the Conference of Religious in Ireland (CORI) was named Cork Person of the Year at a gala dinner after judges decided his work on behalf of the disadvantaged and poor deserved recognition.
“I find it an extremely humbling experience,” said Fr Healy who was nominated by Paddy O’Brien of the Irish Heart Foundation.
Health Minister Micheál Martin was guest of honour at the ceremony, while Brian Crowley MEP and RTÉ presenter Michael Ryan acted as MCs. More than 200 guests attended the function.
Judges were Bishop John Buckley (honorary chairman), County Manager Maurice Moloney and City Manager Joe Gavin.
Fr Healy was formally announced as the winner by Deputy Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Jim Corr and County Mayor Cllr Tadgh O’Donovan.
“Seán Healy has spent more than 20 years driving a range of programmes, involving public policy, empowering people and organisations, spirituality, advocacy and communications,” Mr Crowley said.
“He played a key role in gaining social partnership status for the community and voluntary sector back in 1996. He has also worked on some 16 books on public policy, such as the recent Choosing a Fairer Future (An Agenda for Social Partnership after the Celtic Tiger), so he is very deserving of this award.”
Fr Healy comes from a well-known Cork family and has four brothers, Tim, head of finance at Cork City Council; Pat, Southern Health Board programme manager; Derry, parts and service manager at Dennehys Cross Garage and former chairman of the Progessive Democrats, and Donal, therapist and director of the Flagstone Institute.
He has three sisters, Eileen, a nursing tutor at the Mercy Hospital; Áine, who lives in Wales, and Sara who is at the University of India. Fr Healy’s mother Nora lives in Douglas and his father Dan, who worked in CIÉ, died four years ago.
This year was the 11th year of the awards. The other nominees, previously given Person of the Month awards, were Tomás Mulcahy, Dick Griffin, Kathleen Woulfe, George Hook, Mick Murphy, Pat Byrne, Zelie Moran, Madeline Cummins, John Smyth, Dr Tony O’Brien and Paul Mitchell.