Honouring the campaigners and the heroes - People of the Year Awards 2014

Whistleblowers Maurice McCabe and John Wilson have been honoured for their efforts to expose corruption in An Garda Síochána at an awards ceremony at the weekend.

Honouring the campaigners and the heroes - People of the Year Awards 2014

The pair were recognised with Person of the Year awards, along with equality campaigner Rory O’Neill, aka Panti Bliss, and eight others.

Accepting the award, Sgt McCabe thanked his family for the support over the past two years. Mr Wilson also thanked the people of Ireland for their support, and paid tribute to his former colleague. “Maurice McCabe is one of the greatest people I’ve ever met in my live. The Garda authorities should be proud to have a person of the calibre of Maurice McCabe in our policing service. I hope that transparency and accountability have finally arrived on our shores.”

Accepting his award as Panti Bliss, a humble Rory O’Neill said he was “not really that special”, attributing the accolade to the equality movement “gaining ground” in Ireland.

Mary and Tony Heffernan from Kerry were also honoured at the event. After both their children, Saoirse and Liam, died from Batten’s disease, a rare neuro-degenerative brain disorder, the Heffernans established two charities in their honour.

They set up the Saoirse Foundation to promote awareness about rare and genetic disorders and provide transport for sick children. Liam’s Lodge, due to be completed in the next few years, will be Ireland’s first respite centre for families of children with rare diseases.

Tony said he was honoured to receive a Person of the Year award. “This acknowledgment will help to shine a light on the work of our charity The Saoirse Foundation, BUMBLEance, and the soon to be built Liam’s Lodge respite centre.”

Other winners included Louise O’Keeffe, who fought years of legal battles to get the State to take responsibility for the abuse she suffered in a Cork school, and teenager Owen Condon who saved the life of a man by performing CPR.

Tomi Reichental, a Holocaust survivor now living in Dublin, won International Person of the Year, while St Vincent de Paul was named Comm-unity Group of the Year.

The winners

Maurice McCabe and John Wilson: Garda whistleblowers who raised the alarm on corruption within the gardaí, a scandal that led to the resignation of Alan Shatter as justice minister and Garda commissioner Martin Callinan.

Rory O’Neill/Panti Bliss: Has become the figurehead of Ireland’s equality campaign after a rousing speech at the Abbey.

Mary and Tony Heffernan: After their children, Saoirse and Liam, both died from Batten’s disease, they couple set up the Saoirse Foundation to promote awareness about rare and genetic disorders, and provide transport for sick children. They also established Liam’s Lodge, which will be Ireland’s first respite centre for families of children with rare diseases.

Paul Kelly: After his sister Sharon took her life, Paul decided to set up a suicide prevention service which also supports those bereaved by suicide. He founded Console in 2002

Louise O’Keeffe: Louise was abused in a primary school in Cork. Though the teacher was convicted, the State refused to accept responsibility on behalf of the education system. After 40 years struggling for justice, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in Louise’s favour, after losing both a High Court action and appeal at the Supreme Court.

Owen Condon: The 17-year-old won the Everyday Hero Award for saving a man who had a heart attack by performing CPR.

Adam Horgan: One of the winners of the Young Person of the Year awards, 15-year-old Adam saved a woman and her toddler when they got into difficulty in the water off the coast of Youghal.

Shane Kennedy: The other winner of the Young Person of the Year award, Shane devoted himself to looking after his younger brother who was diagnosed with a chromosomal disorder and partial Down syndrome. In addition, Shane underwent brain surgery last year to remove a benign tumour.

Tomi Reichental: The Holocaust survivor was named International Person of the Year. He was born in 1935 in Slovakia and, at 9 years old, survived the Bergen-Belsen camp and relocated to Dublin in 1959. He currently visits schools to promote tolerance and is writing his second book

St Vincent de Paul won the Community Group award.

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