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People of the Year

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14

Days to the Awards

Inspirational People

2013 People of the Year

Fiona  Doyle

Fiona Doyle People of the Year Award

For her courage, determination and bravery in fighting for her own rights and the rights of survivors of abuse, Fiona Doyle was awarded a People of the Year Award.

The country was moved to an extraordinary outpouring of both admiration and anger when the harrowing details emerged in relation to Fiona Doyle’s life. It not only exhibited the remarkable courage and determination of a person who had suffered years of abuse, but also served to highlight the failure of the justice system in fully protecting victims.

While the story of Fiona Doyle is, unfortunately, not an uncommon one, her bravery has accomplished a movement towards change in the attitudes of the justice system in recognising the emotions and standing of victims of sexual abuse in the sentencing of their abusers.

Fiona Doyle never set out to become the face of justice for victims of abuse in Ireland. She initially reported her father, Patrick O’Brien, to the authorities in 1989. In doing so, she was merely looking for her own justice after experiencing nearly 10 years of abuse that began when she was just 7 years old.

Those initial complaints fell on deaf ears, but Fiona refused to accept that her complaint would not be taken seriously. She insisted that the complaints be brought to a conclusion that would allow her to find justice and some solace so that she could move on with the rest of her life.

She continued to pursue her complaints, and her tenacity finally led to a full investigation of her case and the charges being brought against her father. The ensuing court case publically aired the incredibly difficult and upsetting details of the true extent of her ordeal.

Fiona felt that, in order to allow her to show other victims what she had experienced, she must take the opportunity to speak out. She decided to waive her right to anonymity during the trial. In doing so, she opened herself up to the scrutiny of the world, but she also gave hope to other victims of abuse who were too afraid to talk.

The court case was difficult for Fiona. It brought back memories of events that had never been forgotten – events that had had a terrible impact on Fiona’s life. But, with the support of her husband Jim, her children and her close friends, Fiona made it through the court appearances and the glare of the media.

Patrick O’Brien was found guilty and was sentenced to 12 years for his crimes. However, as quickly as the  guilty verdict had been delivered, any relief that Fiona Doyle had felt was quickly taken away when, in sentencing, Mr Justice Paul Carney reduced the possibility of any jail time being served by suspending nine years of the sentence and granting Patrick O’Brien continued bail pending an appeal.

This person who had taken so much of Fiona’s life away from her was free to walk the streets, even though he had been found guilty. 

It was a devastating blow to Fiona and her family. But, in the true spirit of her long quest for justice, Fiona Doyle was determined to stand up for herself and the rights of other victims. 

The decision sparked a real debate in Ireland on the issue of sentencing those guilty of sexual crimes. There was huge outcry, along with public support for Fiona. Three days after the initial decision, Justice Carney accepted that the procedure he had undertaken in the sentencing was inappropriate and he expressed his personal regret for the stress he had caused in the case. He revoked his earlier decision to grant bail, meaning that Patrick O’Brien would be placed in jail pending any appeal. 

Fiona Doyle could now at least feel that the system had, in some way, recognised the personal turmoil and hurt that she had gone through for the last 30 years. “Justice has been served today and I have been vindicated and I accept Judge Carney’s regret in what happened,” she told the country’s media as she stood on the steps of the Criminal Courts. “I’m just overwhelmed by the support – the media support, the support of the people of Bray, Facebook – it’s just been amazing. They picked me up and carried me the past four days.”

Following the decision, many would have been content to put the case behind them as soon as possible, but Fiona now had the opportunity to give other similar victims a focal point. 

Her openness and courage on the issue made the justice system and the Government take note. An Taoiseach Enda Kenny met with Fiona Doyle only a week after the judgment so that he could listen to her experiences and understand the issues that she had faced. Almost 24 years earlier, Fiona Doyle had begun her search for justice. She had now reached a point where her personal story had become a story of hope for many other survivors of abuse. 

Fiona had hoped, and still hopes, that her story would be a catalyst in terms of effecting real change in relation to how sexual offenders are sentenced in Ireland. In particular, she hopes that her experience will see the impact on victims considered more centrally in sentencing. 

The entire court case has begun a healing process for Fiona: a process that she captured in her book, Too Many Tears. In telling her full story, Fiona hopes to help other victims to speak out and come to terms with their abuse. Fiona has highlighted an issue that, thanks to her strength, is now firmly caught in the tides of change. 

For her courage, determination and bravery in fighting for her own rights and the rights of survivors of abuse, Fiona Doyle is awarded a People of the Year Award.

 

Loretta  Brennan Glucksman

Loretta Brennan Glucksman International Person of the Year

In recognition of her tireless work, dedication and commitment, her extraordinary philanthropic efforts and her generosity of spirit, Loretta Brennan Glucksman was awarded the 2013 International Person of the Year Award.

The Irish diaspora has always been hugely supportive of their families back in Ireland and of Irish causes in general. For people of Irish descent living in all four corners of the world, Ireland holds a special place in their hearts. From first-generation Irish who keep traditions alive abroad, to second- and third-generation Irish who are brought up with a love of the country that their parents and grandparents are so proud of.

Loretta Brennan Glucksman is a member of the Irish diaspora who has made a significant contribution to Ireland and to Irish causes, benefitting the lives of thousands of people on the island of Ireland. Her tireless work and generosity of spirit has had an enormous impact on the promotion of Ireland and on in improving the lives of its citizens. She is a proud Irish-American, the granddaughter of a Brennan from Donegal, a Campbell from Ulster, a McHugh from Leitrim and a Murray from Carlow.

At the end of this year, Loretta Brennan Glucksman will step down as Chairman of The American Ireland Fund. Founded in the USA in 1976 and now operating in 12 countries, The Ireland Funds have become one of the largest private funding sources for not-for-profits across the island of Ireland. The Funds generate private philanthropic donations to support projects in Ireland that promote education, cultural and community development, as well as peace and reconciliation projects across the island of Ireland. The Ireland Funds have raised over $450 million since their foundation, benefitting some 1,200 Irish charities. During her 18-year tenure, The American Ireland Fund has raised over $250 million for Ireland and Irish causes, with Loretta personally contributing over $27 million to the Fund.

Loretta’s career is most varied and distinguished. She was a high achiever at an early age. She went into teaching in several universities in the North East, including Trenton State College in New Jersey, before changing into public television in the early 1970s. Her television career grew steadily and she worked both as a producer and a presenter. She then moved into public relations and set up her own PR company in the early 1980s.

In 1984, she was introduced to Lewis Glucksman. At the time, he was head of investment bank Lehman Brothers, and he later became her husband. Despite Loretta being steeped in Irish ancestry, it was Lewis Glucksman who first brought Loretta to Ireland –he was a frequent visitor to these shores. Loretta fell in love with the country on her first visit in 1987. The couple later bought a home near Cobh in Co. Cork.

In 2000, Lewis received sad news. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer and was given just six months to live. He moved to the couple’s home overlooking the sea in Cobh, and lived for a further six years. Between 1987 and 2006, both Loretta and Lewis had made many unforgettable contributions to Ireland and to the Irish-American community. In 2004, the Gluckmans funded the development of the Lewis Glucksman Gallery in Cork. Other Irish institutions that benefited from their generosity include the National Gallery of Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, the Royal Irish Academy of Music, the Abbey and Gate theatres, the Coastal and Marine Resources Centre at University College Cork and Wexford Festival Opera.
 
Through her philanthropy efforts, Loretta played an integral role in spreading a message of peace throughout the island of Ireland which included the funding for two integrated schools for Catholic and Protestant children in the North. Loretta donates time and funding because she is genuinely committed to her causes. She says, “It brings huge joy to life to be part of a purpose greater than oneself. I find that the harder I work, the more fully I live”.

Loretta also encourages other donors to really get involved in projects so that they feel that special sense of satisfaction when a project is completed.  Hopefully, this will ensure that they will donate again in the future.

She wholeheartedly believes in leaving a strong legacy for future generations, “Lew and I often referred to a quote from George Bernard Shaw that we liked, "I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle for me. It is a splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations".”

In June this year, at the American Ireland Fund’s annual Irish conference at the K Club in Co. Kildare, Ambassador Rooney’s words expressed the importance of Loretta’s work in the unprecedented growth and success of the Fund. Ambassador Rooney recalled the time in the early 1990s when he and co-founder of the Fund, Sir Anthony O’Reilly, approached Loretta about taking up the post as Chairman. He said: “She graciously agreed and went on to make history.”
 
In addition to her work with The American Ireland Fund and Glucksman Ireland House, Loretta is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and has also served on the boards of The National Gallery of Ireland, the IDA, Cork Airport Authority, the National Concert Hall, the National Library, Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork and the Royal College of Surgeons.

It is now close to 30 years since Loretta first set foot on Irish soil, and since that first journey she has contributed enormously to the land of her ancestors and to generations of Irish people. 

In recognition of her tireless work, dedication and commitment, her extraordinary philanthropic efforts and her generosity of spirit, Loretta Brennan Glucksman is awarded the 2013 International Person of the Year Award.

 

Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe

Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe Person of the Year Award

For his dedication in protecting the ordinary citizens of Ireland, and for his bravery and courage in the line of duty, Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe was posthumously awarded a People of the Year Award.

“Loyal”, ”Honest” “Admired”, ”Humble” “respected by all in the locality”, “a gentle giant” are some of the ways in which Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe has been described. But this man, who was at the heart of the community in Dundalk was tragically killed in the line of duty while trying to intervene in an armed robbery at Lordship Credit Union.

Friday the 25 January 2013 started as a normal day for Detective Garda Donohoe but it was to end in tragedy.   At 9.30pm, he and his colleague Detective Garda Joe Ryan were at Lordship Credit Union in Bellurgan just outside Dundalk, Co. Louth.  They were on duty to escort staff who were about to transfer cash from the credit union to a bank in Dundalk.  As the Gardaí and staff were about to leave, the entrance to the credit union was blocked by a car.  Detective Garda Donohoe got out of the patrol car to investigate and was shot in the head without warning by the raiders.

The tragic murder shocked the nation. An outpouring of anger and grief followed this callous murder. Policing and political figures joined forces in condemning  the killing. Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said, “He was a very popular member of An Garda Síochána, a very efficient member, someone who was revered both by his peers and members of the community where he served”. President of the Garda Representative Association, John Parker said “this dreadful news is what every police family fears”. 

There was an outpouring of grief and sadness from ordinary people for the man who had made the ultimate sacrifice in protecting the citizens of Ireland. Books of condolences were opened in towns and cities across the country. Thousands of mourners endured harsh weather conditions and near freezing temperatures to pay their respects. Shops and businesses closed their doors. In a show of strength over 2,500 uniformed Gardaí, and up to 1,000 plain-clothes officers, all wearing black armbands attended the Mass. The scene became a river of blue as the Detective Garda was escorted by his policing family to his final resting place.

Policing was in Det Garda Donohoe’s blood. Born in Kilnaleck in Co. Cavan, he comes from a family of six, three of whom are members of An Garda Síochana. Adrian joined the force in 1994 and was stationed in Dundalk for all of his service.  When he made the move  to the Garda Training College in Templemore for his training, little did he know that as well as beginning his career, romance was also about to blossom. It was there in the Garda training college that he met the love of his life, Caroline. Caroline is a native of Clare whose twin brother is also a member of the force. Both Adrian and Caroline were transferred to Dundalk from the Garda College in 1995. The couple later married and have two children, Amy, seven, and Niall, six.

Detective Garda Donohoe was a community man. Known by everyone in town, he always had time to have a word with people. He loved Manchester United and was well known in GAA circles in both Louth and his native Cavan. From a young age he played for Crosserlough GAA Club and was an outstanding minor and under 21 for the Breffni county. When he moved to Dundalk, the GAA family welcomed him with open arms. Adrian became involved in club life with St Patricks GAA Club both on and off the pitch and was part of the team that brought the Joe Ward Cup to the club in 2003. Adrian then began coaching the underage children when Amy and Niall started playing football with the clu  and was a regular on Thursday evening’s training and Sunday morning blitz.  He also coached the Under 16’s.


For his dedication in protecting the ordinary citizens of Ireland, and for his bravery and courage in the line of duty, Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe is posthumously awarded a People of the Year Award.
 

Donal  Walsh

Donal Walsh Joint Young Person of the Year (posthumous)

For his courage, strength, determination and desire to show young people the true value and meaning of life, and for being an inspiration to so many people, Donal Walsh was posthumously awarded a Young Person of the Year Award.

Sixteen-year-old Donal Walsh had an insatiable appetite to #livelife. He dreamed of playing for Munster and travelling the world. At age 12 he was diagnosed with a tumour in his femur. It was the beginning of a four-year battle that would see the Kerry teenager refuse to be a cancer statistic, and it would also see him leaving a legacy that would help people across the country to understand the value of life. He was to save lives as he lost his own.

Growing up in Blennerville – just outside Tralee town in Co. Kerry – Donal was, according to his family, an ordinary young teenager. From an early age he was competitive, especially with his sister Jema. Although Donal was two years younger than Jema, once she walked he wanted to walk; once she was talking, he wanted to be able to communicate like her. Even in later years when he was sick, he asked Jema to allow him to learn to drive before she did. Jema gave her permission – and Donal did just that! Jema and Donal shared a great relationship, as siblings and as friends.

Known as the ‘Gentle Giant’ – a head in height taller than his friends – Donal was a sports fanatic. He played football with Kerins O’Rahilly’s GAA Club and rugby with Tralee RFC.  Every evening, he’d spend two hours practising his kicking, and even though his height placed him in the second row forward position, he always saw himself as a replacement for Ronan O’Gara. He was as dedicated as any professional player!

In 2008, aged 12, Donal was injured in a match. Nothing much was thought of it but when it wasn’t healing, his mother Elma had refused to accept the medical diagnosis. It was her instinct that made them push for answers. A series of tests followed over the next three weeks under the guidance of Dr Fionán O’Carroll. Then the dreaded news came. Donal was diagnosed with an aggressive bone tumour on his right femur. They removed half his femur and his entire knee. Four painful months of chemotherapy was endured. Two and a half years of good health followed, but then in 2012 a relapse occurred – this time in Donal’s lung. The doctors removed half of his lung and this was followed by five months of intensive chemotherapy.

Throughout his battle with cancer, Donal inspired everyone around him – particularly his friends. He faced his treatment with dignity and surpassed all challenges and milestones set by doctors and medical staff on his road to recovery. He studied for his Junior Certificate in hospital. He became disillusioned and angry with some of the conditions that patients have to put up with at a time when they are so vulnerable, so he began fundraising for Crumlin Hospital, raising over €150,000 and also campaigning for a Teen Room for older patients. In periods of good health, he got back on his bike and relished the feeling exercise gave him.

He protected his friends from some of the harsh realities of cancer, feeling that they deserved to enjoy their youth and not be burdened by life’s dark side. When the disease that had stolen his youth struck for the third and final time, Donal was forced to look at life from a perspective that no teenager should ever experience. However, Donal never feared death: he had faith and drew strength from his spirituality.

Frustrated by the epidemic of youth suicide that was taking a grip of the country, Donal came to national prominence when he expressed his views, exhibiting extraordinary selflessness and courage. Donal felt he had to challenge his peers to live life rather than consider suicide. “I feel that I am trying as best I can to prepare my family and friends for what’s about to come and leave as little a mess as possible... If I’m meant to be a symbol for people to appreciate life, then I’ll be happy to die!”
 
Donal urged people to realise that suicide is a permanent response to a temporary set of circumstances and that help is available everywhere. He wanted people to understand how precious life is. “Suicide is not the answer to life’s problems. Life is a precious gift, which is irreplaceable. There is no such thing as a meaningless moment or a meaningless life.” Donal’s words caught the attention of the nation. Here was a young man facing death who, instead of expressing bitterness, anger and resentment, showed incredible bravery, strength and determination.

The country mourned Donal’s passing on Sunday, 12 May 2013. Surrounded by family and friends, Donal made his last journey. Sports stars from the world of football and rugby shouldered his coffin as a mark of respect, giving him the send-off that very few people have the honour of receiving. For them, Donal was an inspiration: the true icon of bravery.
 
Donal’s father Fionnbar says, “We are so proud of Donal. He left a legacy for us to manage. Since Donal spoke out about youth suicide and the value of life, we have received phone calls, letters and messages from people across the country. They all have a personal story to tell and Donal’s words have had a positive effect on their lives. We know that he has saved lives because he encouraged people to reach out and get help. As Donal said himself: ‘I live in a part of the world that is surrounded by mountains. I can’t turn my head without finding a bloody hill or mountain and I suppose those were God’s plans for me. To have me grow up around mountains and grow climbing a few too. And that’s exactly what I’ve done, I may have grown up in body around them but I’ve fully grown and matured in mind climbing his mountains. I’ve climbed God’s mountains, faced many struggles for my life and dealt with so much loss. And as much as I’d love to go around to every fool on this planet and open their eyes to the mountains that surround them in life, I can’t. But maybe if I shout from mine they’ll pay attention.’”

For his courage, strength, determination and desire to show young people the true value and meaning of life, and for being an inspiration to so many people, Donal Walsh is posthumously awarded a Young Person of the Year Award.
 

Fabian Lugandu

Fabian Lugandu People of the Year Award

For his bravery and fearlessness when he came to the rescue of Liz O’Brien and her son Derek, and for his quick thinking and courage, which ensured that Liz and her son returned home safely that day, Fabian Lugandu was awarded a People of the Year Award.

Saving one life is remarkable, but saving three lives in one go is a miracle! That is exactly what Fabian Lugandu managed to do when he ran to the rescue of a heavily pregnant Liz O’Brien and her 10-year-old son Derek, who had fallen into a river near their home in Tralee, Co. Kerry in January this year.

At the time of the accident, Liz O’Brien was a mother of four: Derek (11), Danielle (10), Jamie Lee (8) and Aoife (3). Liz had collected her three older children from CBS Primary School Tralee and was on her way back to their grandmother’s house via a well-known short cut along the River Lee. While crossing the bridge, Derek slipped and fell. As he was getting to his feet he slipped again and fell into the freezing cold water. Liz, who was six months pregnant at the time, watched in horror as her young son struggled in the water: “It was horrible. It was the worst experience a mother could have to see their child in that position. I didn’t think about the other kids or how I was pregnant. I just wanted him out so I jumped in after him.”

Having leaped to her son’s aid, Liz soon discovered how difficult it would be to save her son. “He hadn’t come up so I was trying to grab him and pull him up but I was only grabbing at branches and other things under the water. It was on the fourth go that I knew I had him so I pulled him up. But Derek was caught for breath and as he struggled to breathe he was kind of pulling me under the water. That’s when Fabian came out of nowhere. He saved three of us that day.”

On that day, at about 2.30 p.m., Fabian was collecting his children from school. On his way back to the car he saw a woman running towards him and screaming: “She was calling ‘Help! Help! Help!’. I ran with her and saw Liz and Derek in the water. Liz was trying to hold him up as Derek can’t swim.”

Fabian didn’t think twice. He jumped in to help. “I tried to push them both out of the water but I couldn’t as it was too difficult from within the river. I got back out and went to the railing and pulled Derek out, it was more difficult to get Liz out as she was heavily pregnant, so I had to pull on her side and hold her hand to get her out.”

Having pulled Liz and Derek from the river, and having saved three lives, Fabian’s concern for the family continued. “Once they were out I could see they were cold after being in the water so I wrapped Derek in my coat and left them with the ambulance.”

It all went from very dramatic back to very normal again as Fabian immediately left to continue his daily routine and collect his daughter from school! His calm and coolness in the face of extreme pressure is made all the more remarkable considering Fabian has never done anything like this before and has never done any training: “The only thing I had done was I have done a lot of swimming the last three years!”

The effect of Fabian’s actions are long-lasting. Three months after their lucky escape, Liz gave birth to a happy and healthy little boy, Kayden! Fabian’s actions had a special effect on Derek, who has ADHD and is partially deaf. Liz says: “Derek is so determined now to learn how to swim. Fabian went to his lesson one day because his own son was up there, and Derek told me once he saw Fabian he knew he was safe. He respects him so much.” Unfortunately some of the children have been deeply affected by the accident and can’t bring themselves to pass where it happened. Liz said, “The kids go down to their grandmother’s everyday but they go round the long way. They won’t go near that bridge; it’s like a black spot to them.”

Originally from Tanzania, Fabian has lived in Ireland for 13 years with his wife, Tralee native Cassandra Looby. The couple met in London in 1997. Cassandra had moved there to train as a nurse and she was working in Ealing Hospital. Son of a diplomat in the Tanzanian Embassay, Fabian had gone to college in the United Kingdom and was working in a garage in London. A trip home for Christmas in 2000 became a permanent move! Now with four children, two of whom have autism – Joe (13), Adam (11), Nathan (10) and Allanna (7) – the couple have put down solid roots in the north Kerry town. Like passing ships in the night, Fabian cares for the children during the day while Cassandra is at work as the manager of the day centre in the town. And in the evenings when Cassandra returns, Fabian goes to work as a sales assistant.

For his bravery and fearlessness when he came to the rescue of Liz O’Brien and her son Derek, and for his quick thinking and courage, which ensured that Liz and her son returned home safely that day, Fabian Lugandu is awarded a People of the Year Award.


 

Joe Prendergast

Joe Prendergast Joint Young Person of the Year

For his motivation, determination and successful achievements, Joe Prendergast was awarded the Young Person of the Year Award.

Bouncing on a trampoline is not the usual way you’d imagine a writer would get inspiration for a story, but then Joe Prendergast is not a typical author. At 10 years of age, Joe already has one book published – with all of the proceeds from the sales of the book going towards the Clinical Cancer Research Trust at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin. An accomplished novelist at the age of 10…there aren’t many people who can make that claim!
 
Joe, from Sandyford in south Dublin, has just finished 4th Class in Holy Trinity School, where English is his favourite subject. From a young age, he loved reading and writing. At the age of 5, he started creating small picture books that he stapled together. His passion for writing developed over the years and last year he wrote his first book, The Great Fragola Brothers. It tells the story of two magicians, Paulo and Giuseppe Fragola, who become embroiled in a world of secret societies and dark magic. Joe says that the idea for the book just popped into his head one day and then he sat down at his laptop and began writing the tale. The word ‘fragola’ is the Italian word for strawberry and Joe said he liked it so much that he used it to name his characters.

The second book in the series, The Great Fragola Brothers – The Twisted has just been published and Joe has been getting a lot of media attention for his work. However, this doesn’t seem to faze him: he is grounded, well-spoken and confident. The book covers were designed by Joe’s cousin, Ruth Mac Conville, and it didn’t take long for the books to be picked up by online publishing company Emu Ink. Joe says: “It was really amazing to have my book published.  It was like living in a dream. I had always wanted a book published. Emer Cleary from Emu Ink really helped with editing and evolving my books.”

It takes Joe about a week to write a chapter. He has learned a lot about the writing process since his first book. He is more aware of the editing process now and he examines more closely where characters have appeared in the story before and when they come in again. According to Joe, “The hardest part about writing is connecting the characters. The ‘why’ of the story and how you get to the end is the most difficult aspect. I always have the ending word-for-word before I have even written the start. Then I just have to go back and write how it gets to the end.”
 
As one of the youngest authors in Ireland, Joe is unique. But this is not just because of his youth, it is because all of the proceeds from the sales of the book are going to the Clinical Cancer Research Trust at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin. Joe’s dad, Geoff, suffered from lung cancer and died in St Vincent’s last year. Joe dedicated his first book to his father. “I wanted to do something for my dad, even before I started writing this book. I didn’t think it was going to be published. I just wanted to dedicate it to him and give all of the proceeds to cancer research. I think he would be proud of me.”
 
Joe’s father and mother encouraged him to read and write from a young age. Joe’s mother, Ita, says that Joe’s storytelling and love of words began to shine through very early on. There were lots of books around the house when he was growing up and storytelling was a part of their lives. “He has had a lot of support from family, when he was in crèche and then when he went to school. Everyone has encouraged him to develop his talent further.”

Geoff taught Joe how to type when Joe was just 5 years old. Joe has happy memories of sitting on his dad’s lap and typing. Geoff told Joe lots of stories and read to him from an early age. Ita is certain that Geoff would be very proud of their successful son. She remembers how Geoff used to go insane when Joe would hop from one idea to the next without finishing anything. She says, “I think he would be proud of him for sticking at it.”

Joe is determined to do just that: to stick at it and continue writing. He has nearly completed the third book in the Fragola Brothers trilogy, the name for which is a closely guarded secret!  Joe likes nothing more than coming home from school, having a bounce on the trampoline and then sitting at his laptop and bringing his ideas and characters to life. When asked about the influences on his own writing, Joe says there are many authors he likes and admires. He mentions Irish author John Boyne: he “loves his imaginative stories”. He’s also a fan of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and of Susan Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy. One of Joe’s favourite quotes, “May the odds be ever in your favour”, is from the Hunger Games trilogy.

In school, Joe’s friends have read his books and have been very supportive. According to Joe, in order to be a good writer “you need to have a good imagination and to not be afraid to try things and to take risks.” To any aspiring young writers out there, he says: “Let your imagination do the talking and let your characters develop.”
 
Joe wants to keep writing, and if that doesn’t work out, he’d quite like to be a journalist or a radio DJ when he is older. Bouncing on the trampoline continues to help Joe with his inspiration, and no doubt his name will be bouncing around the publishing world in the years to come.
 
In an age where computer games, TV shows and online media threaten to overshadow the printed word, Joe has shown the importance of a good book and how it still holds value for so many people. He is an inspiration for young people all over the country. Joe shows us all that no matter what age you are and no matter what you may be facing in life, if you are strong-willed and really put your mind to something, you can achieve anything.
 
For his motivation, determination and successful achievements, Joe Prendergast is awarded the Young Person of the Year Award.
 

Irish Women's Rugby Team

Irish Women's Rugby Team Sports Person of the Year

For their skill, passion and dedication in achieving their success, for capturing the hearts of the nation and breaking down barriers for women’s sport in Ireland, the Ireland women’s rugby team received a People of the Year Award.

As the final whistle blew on a rain sodden pitch in the town of Parabiago in the northern suburbs of Milan, the Irish women’s rugby team began to embrace one another in celebration for what was the singular most significant moment for women’s rugby in Ireland.

The 6-3 win over their Italian hosts was the fifth successive international victory of the year for the team to secure their first ever RBS 6 Nations Championship and with it the highly coveted Grand Slam!

The fact that this moment was captured live by RTÉ Television on St. Patrick’s Day was an indication of how far the women’s game has travelled in a relatively short space of time. The prominent broadcasting highlighted the support of a united rugby community and also a team that had  captured the hearts and admiration of the wider Irish public.

The Championship and Grand Slam success was the culmination of a journey that began as far back as 1993, when the women’s team, under their own expense and selecting from fewer than 200 female players in Ireland, played their first international game, resulting in a 10-0 loss to Scotland. 

They struggled for player numbers, fixtures and facilities. However, as amateurs, they continued to grow the game themselves under their own independent organisation while balancing their personal lives. They did all of this for one simple reason: the love of the game. A new generation of players emerged from those first trailblazers of the mid 1990s and, through their passion for the sport, they drove the women’s game to the point where there was consistent improvement both on and off the field.

In 2008, the Women’s Rugby Union agreed to amalgamate with the IRFU. This gave a vastly improved structure to aid the development of the women’s game and to allow the international team to prepare on a par with their opposition.

While playing numbers were (and still are) far below any of the opposition countries that they played, the squad created many landmarks, including qualifying automatically for the Women’s Rugby World Cup and progressing to the quarter-finals for the first time in 2010. But it was success in the Championship that the players targeted when they began preparations for the 2012/13 season – something many would have thought impossible only a few years earlier.

They began the Championship assault in an away game against Wales, a side they had never beaten on Welsh soil. In a closely-fought game, tries by forwards Sophie Spence and Gillian Bourke and a single penalty by goal-kicking stalwart Niamh Briggs, helped Ireland to a famous 12-10 victory that set the team on their way.

In many ways, the next game against England was the most remarkable victory of the Championship. England, a semi-professional side with resources far greater than any of the other countries, had never lost to an Ireland side and came to Dublin as defending RBS 6 Nations Champions. The game was played in Ashbourne Rugby Football Club, a place that has become the spiritual home ground for the women’s team in recent years.

What took place that afternoon was a performance and result that made everybody in the country sit up and take notice. A devastating hat-trick of tries by Portlaoise flyer Alison Miller grabbed the headlines as the team scorched to a 25-0 victory over their nemesis, leaving everybody in the country wondering at the possibility of such a long sought-after success in the Championship.

The team refused to talk of anything other than the next match and so it was that the Ireland team arrived in Scotland hoping to secure a triple crown by beating all of the home nations. Perhaps it was fate that it was Scotland, the first side that the Irish women’s team had ever played at international level. It was a measure of how far the Irish team had come that they crushed Scotland 30-3.

The next game (and final home match) for the side was against France, whom they had beaten only once before. On a cold and foggy evening in Ashbourne, Co. Meath, a record crowd of over 3,000 crammed into the ground to create an atmosphere that few of the players had experienced before. In another tense match, Ireland were 10-5 down at half-time but, lifted by the home support, they rallied in the second half. Thanks to a crucial score by prop Ailish Egan, they won 15-10, sparking wild celebrations both on and off the pitch.

Ireland were crowned champions the very next day without even having to play their final game, as Italy were beaten by England, meaning that Ireland could not be caught. Far from this being an anticlimax for the team, they still had their eyes on the ultimate prize: the final game against Italy and the potential Grand Slam!

In the week building up to the Italy game, the hype and pressure was something that the Irish squad had never experienced before. The game was broadcast live to the nation and, on a quagmire of a pitch, the Irish Women raised themselves beyond the mental pressure to slip past Italy and win the match 6-3. As Captain Fiona Coughlan received the RBS 6 Nations trophy in Milan, it was a special moment for women’s sport in Ireland.

“The Championship and Grand Slam win was an incredibly special time for all of us. The support we received from all over the country just blew us away. It was an incredibly important part to our success. But just as much as the Grand Slam was a reward for the efforts of the players today, it was a salute to those players who began this journey for women’s rugby. The future for the sport is incredibly bright and hopefully our success can show what is possible for women’s sport in Ireland.”

For their skill, passion and dedication in achieving their success, for capturing the hearts of the nation and breaking down barriers for women’s sport in Ireland, the Ireland women’s rugby team receive a People of the Year Award.
 
 

Orla O'Sullivan

Orla O'Sullivan People of the Year Award

For her determination, her incredible talent and for acting as an inspiration for others with a disability to follow their dreams, Orla O’Sullivan was awarded a People of the Year Award.

“Music is a profound gift to the human spirit. Music makes you sing, it makes you dance. It has the ability to build your confidence, to make you feel you belong. Music opens your heart and it heals your mind.”
 
So says Cork-born Orla O’Sullivan, the world’s first deafblind music teacher, pianist, composer and performer. Mother to 15-month-old John Amadeus, Orla uses music as a way of overcoming her profound deafness and visual impairment.
 
Orla was just six weeks old when she became deafblind due to medication taken for an infection. Despite growing up with dual sensory loss, Orla remains remarkably positive, something she attributes to music and the importance it plays in her life. It’s a passion that she credits her mother for encouraging.
 
“As a young child of 3 or 4 years of age, my mother used to teach me lots of nursery rhymes and songs while she held my fingers on the piano keys. This was the beginning of my experience of sounds. I was able to identify the various levels of pitch, tone and sound. I was too young to realise then what a huge learning step this was.”
 
Orla soon began to take formal piano lessons from Jean Downey, a music teacher who lived near their home in Douglas. These early lessons inspired her to pursue her passion for music. She was the first deafblind person to undertake music as a subject for the Inter and Leaving Certificate. A very determined lady, Orla admits that she works hard and that once she has set herself a goal, she refuses to give up until she has achieved it.
 
For the last 22 years, Orla has taught piano and electronic keyboard to scores of students – including many who are deaf – from beginners up to diploma level. But piano and keyboard are not the only instruments that she plays. “Over the years, I’ve also studied the organ, guitar and violin. To be honest, I didn’t really have a difficulty in learning music, but a huge effort was required in trying to hear.”
 
Orla is profoundly deaf and cannot hear anything without her hearing aids. With her aids on, she can hear all the keys of the piano except for the high frequencies. Orla relies more on “feeling” these sounds. For those of us with full hearing, this may be a difficult concept to grasp, so Orla uses a simple analogy.
 
“Imagine you were walking past a building site and somebody was working with a kango hammer. You would both feel the vibrations and hear the sounds, so you would use both senses. In my case, I think that I am using both senses to the maximum all the time, but with the high frequencies, the sense of hearing becomes less and the sense of touch takes over.”
 
Meeting Orla for the first time, most people would be unaware of her deafness and vision impairment. She does not use a cane or have a guide dog, she is an astonishingly accurate lip-reader and she uses observations of body movement and gestures to help her. It is not fool-proof, however, and this can lead to misunderstandings. Some people may think she’s rude when she fails to acknowledge a wave on the street or doesn’t respond to an oral greeting or question. Orla is at pains to explain that she and other deaf and deafblind people are not rude – just communicatively challenged.
 
Being deaf and partially sighted has meant that Orla has to get all the musical scores enlarged in segments in order that she can read them when she leans forward over the keyboard. She eventually memorises the whole score, something which takes long hours of hard work every day. “Imagine trying to memorise the three movements of a Schubert sonata!” says Orla. “That just doesn’t just happen overnight.”
 
Orla credits Beethoven as an inspiration when she was young, while the music of tenor Andrea Bocelli motivated her in recent years. The renowned deafblind music therapist Russ Palmer was a huge influence in giving her the confidence to bring music to the deaf and deafblind community.
 
In 2008 Orla got the opportunity to perform as a guest artist at an Elizabeth Petcu concert in Dublin and it was the hard-of-hearing flautist who encouraged Orla to record her own CD, Sound Senses. The album, which took about 10 months to produce and was released in 2010, features nine solo pieces by composers that include Bach, Haydn, Debussy and Schubert. According to Orla, she wanted to release the CD to not only showcase her gift but also to encourage other people living with a disability to use their talents and to follow their dreams.
 
This may be the inspiration behind Orla’s goal to establish a music centre for all, including those who are deaf and blind. She is passionate about the need to give deaf and blind children the opportunity to discover the joy of music and to learn to express themselves through it.
 
“As the years have gone by, I’ve realised how important learning music at such a young age was in helping to release my frustration at not being able to communicate orally. I guess you could say that music gave me a voice.
 
“My great vision is that all deaf, blind and deafblind children are given the opportunity to appreciate music, to feel it, to perceive it, to play it, to see it in their imagination.”
 
Without doubt, Orla’s passion for music, her innate talent, combined with her positive attitude and strong work ethic, make her an exceptional and inspiring music teacher.
 
“I feel that I have achieved a lot personally; maybe I can help to encourage others with a disability to follow their dreams. My message to others is simple. Everybody has a talent or a skill. Discover that talent, keep working hard at it. Believe in yourself and eventually you will succeed and achieve personal happiness.
 
“The one aspect of my life that has sustained and helped me overcome my deafness and visual impairment is my love of music. While listening to a piece such as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 or Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’, I’m transported to a completely different world, somewhere filled with joy and peace.
 
“Through music, I have found freedom; the freedom to express myself, to entertain, to achieve and not to let my disability limit my enjoyment and celebration of life.”
 
For her determination, her incredible talent and for acting as an inspiration for others with a disability to follow their dreams, Orla O’Sullivan is awarded a People of the Year Award.
 

Tom Arnold

Tom Arnold People of the Year Award

For his commitment and energy as a leading and tireless advocate in the fight against hunger and malnutrition across the world Tom Arnold was presented with a Peopl eof the Year Award.

Ireland’s aid agencies are recognised worldwide for their effectiveness in responding to disasters and in promoting long-term development. Concern Worldwide is one of our leading humanitarian agencies, working with the most vulnerable people in 25 of the world’s poorest countries.

Earlier this year, Tom Arnold retired as Chief Executive of Concern after nearly 12 years at the helm. During his tenure, the charity evolved from an effective and respected Irish charity into a charity of international scale and reputation. Today, Concern is a global movement that reaches millions of people every year. Under Tom’s direction, annual income increased three-fold and Concern spent over €1 billion improving the lives of tens of millions of the world’s poorest people.

Tom grew up on the family farm near Lusk, in north Co. Dublin. Graduating from UCD in 1972 with a degree in Agricultural Economics, he spent the first decade of his professional career with the European Commission, working mainly on development.  Three of these years were spent in Africa, as Agricultural Adviser in the Commission’s delegations in the Ivory Coast and Malawi.

Tom returned to Ireland in 1983 to work as an economist with ACOT, the farm advisory service. In 1988, he joined the Department of Agriculture and Food as Chief Economist, and five years later he was appointed Assistant Secretary General.

In 2001, Tom became Chief Executive of Concern Worldwide. He brought with him his energy and drive, building on the solid foundations laid by his predecessors. A core part of Tom’s vision for Concern was that it should focus on innovation, aimed at achieving the greatest impact on poverty with the available resources.

One key example of such innovation was the development of a new and improved approach to dealing with acute malnutrition, particularly for children. This approach, called Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM), was developed by Concern and Valid International, with financial support from Irish Aid. In 2007, it was adopted as best international practice by the UN and in the intervening years, it has saved hundred of thousands of young lives. In 2012, over 70 countries have built this approach into their national health systems and over 2 million children were treated.

An endless focus for Tom during his tenure at Concern has been the fight against global hunger. He is passionate about the scale of the problem and why it needs to be tackled: “Tonight over 860 million people will go to bed hungry and 165 million children are stunted because of chronic under-nutrition. This continuing ‘great hunger’ is directly responsible for the death of some 3 million children annually and, for those children who are stunted, a reduction in their life opportunities.”

Tom is recognised internationally as one of the most influential and effective policy advocates in relation to global hunger. In 2003, then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed him to the UN Millennium Project’s Hunger Task Force. He was a member of the Irish Hunger Task Force (2007–2008) and was credited by Minister for Trade and Development Joe Costello as having “played a key role in helping to shape Government policy on development aid”.

One of his keynote ideas for Government policy was that Ireland, as a country, should play a leading role internationally in advocating for greater political priority and more resources in the fight against global hunger.

Tom is pleased with the progress made since the publication of the Irish Hunger Task Force report in 2008. “The current Government, and its predecessor, have placed advocacy on hunger as a central part of Irish foreign policy and have used various international opportunities, within the UN, at EU level, and elsewhere, to press for more serious action on global hunger. Ireland’s principled position on this issue, as well as the fact that aid budgets have been maintained during a very difficult time economically, has helped our international reputation. It is also a policy position that resonates with the Irish people, given our own famine history.”    

Tom may have retired from Concern earlier this year, but this does not seem to have slowed him down. In April 2012, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon named him on the Lead Group of the SUN (Scaling Up Nutrition) Movement, which provides international leadership in reducing child under-nutrition. In October 2012, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced that the Government had appointed Tom as Chairman of the Convention on the Irish Constitution. He was also recently appointed Director General of the Institute of International and European Affairs, a post he will take up later this year.

He says he is humbled to receive this People of the Year Award. “I am very conscious that, on one’s own, you can achieve very little. Over the past 12 years with Concern, I have had the greatest good fortune to have worked with amazingly committed and hard working people, within Ireland and across the world. I have also been fortunate to work with committed people from other aid agencies and the wider development community, in Ireland and internationally. Irish Aid has played a positive role and its Director General, Brendan Rogers, has shown outstanding vision and leadership. To the Irish public, who have supported Concern and other agencies over many years, I can only say a huge thanks for your generosity – and for the trust you have reposed in us that we will spend your donations prudently, imaginatively and with maximum impact on poverty.”  

Because of his vision and drive, Tom has left behind him in Concern an organisation well-positioned for the future, as it continues to help tens of millions of the world’s most vulnerable people. His emphasis on innovation and on influencing policy provides Concern with the base to make an even greater impact on poverty in the coming years. He has shown great commitment and energy as a leading and tireless advocate in the fight against hunger and malnutrition across the world. Tom Arnold truly is a global Irishman, one of whom we can be immensely proud. For his commitment and energy as a leading and tireless advocate in the fight against hunger and malnutrition across the world Tom Arnold is presented with a Peopl eof the Year Award.
 

Ciarán  Finn

Ciarán Finn Dad of the Year (in association with 2fm's Breakfast with Hector)

For being a dedicated dad who goes above and beyond for his children, for teaching skills in a novel and fun way and for being an inspiration to those around him, Ciarán Finn received the Dad of the Year Award in association with 2fm's Breakfast with Hector.

Many of us think that our dad is the best dad in the world; however, we sometimes take our dads for granted and forget to tell them just how much they mean to us. Rehab knows that there are “ordinary” dads up and down the country doing unbelievable things for their families every day of the year, so it seems right that the People of the Year Awards 2013 should honour one of Ireland’s greatest dads.

In association with RTÉ 2fm’s Breakfast with Hector, the call went out to find the country’s Dad of the Year. For a long time Yvonne Finn had been telling her husband, Ciarán, just how much of an amazing father he was to their four children. He always shrugged off her compliments but Yvonne was determined to make her point. She picked up the phone to  2fm’s Hector and told the nation, live on air, just what a fantastic dad Ciarán is. With stiff competition from other dads around the country – worthy winners themselves – Ciarán was picked by the adjudication panel for being a dad who did ordinary everyday things in an extraordinary way.

Born in Drumcondra on the northside of Dublin city, Ciarán, the eldest five children, had a technical mind. He was always trying to figure out how things worked! After school in Árd Scoíl Rís in Marino (where he taught himself Applied Physics for the Leaving Certificate, since it wasn’t offered in the school) he went to DIT Bolton Street to study Mechanical Engineering. It was here that he met his wife, Yvonne, who was studying a year behind him. Ciarán always had an interest in fire and the technology associated with it: following his graduation in 1991 he went north to University of Ulster, Jordanstown where he studied for a Masters in Fire Safety Engineering. Ciarán and Yvonne married and settled in Asbourne, Co. Meath. A fire station was being opened in the town and, given Ciarán’s love of fire and technology, it was an obvious move for him to apply to work there.

Life as a retained fireman means that Ciarán has spent a lot of time with the couple’s four children over the years. Onóra (12), Cianán (9), Darragh (8) and Aoife (5) are used to Dad being around a lot of the time – and they’re also used to seeing him drop everything in the middle of the night or in the middle of a family occasion to dash off to work. Ciarán’s first- aid training comes in handy at home too. Recently, when Cianán fell off his bike and lost part of his finger, it was his dad who was on bandage duty!

Ciarán is an ordinary dad who takes ordinary everyday tasks and makes them fun and exciting for the kids. When he wanted to teach the kids about food, he got them to grow their own vegetables and then taught them how to cook them. When it came to dealing with fussy eaters, he made dinnertime fun with dishes like potato and baked bean volcanoes. He has even presented dinners in the shape of the children’s names! The children’s friends love coming over to the house, since there is always a new food to taste or some exciting dish for dinner! And the meals in the children’s lunch boxes are creative works of art!

Ciarán regularly brings the kids on adventures to places where they can go rope-swinging, surfing or hill walking. And Ciarán has been known to turn the back garden into an adventure playground too, building campfires, making dust explosions with flour, building tents to sleep in and cooking sausages for breakfast on the open campfire!

When it comes to entertainment, it’s a case of ‘no limits’ for Ciarán and the kids. From the paintings that are the size of a room to the DIY classes for the kids, Ciarán spends every day teaching his children something new. They make their own pasta sauces with home-grown produce, they learn how to tie knots, they grow flowers – and the kids love every minute of this. The time they spend with their dad is always fun, exciting, educational and unpredictable! 

Even when it comes to reading time, it’s not conventional. Ciarán prefers some of Roald Dahl’s funny, gory stories to traditional fairytales. He is a big fan of Julia Donaldson and one Halloween he created a PowerPoint presentation of Room on the Broom for local playschoolers. It went down a treat! Of course, Ciarán doesn’t just read the story: he acts it out!
 
So what is it that makes Ciarán so great in his children’s eyes? For Onóra it is the fact that he listens to them no matter what they say, and that he spends time showing them how to cook and how to do experiments! For Cianán it is that he lets them try things on their own that maybe other parents wouldn’t, like going off exploring in the woods. Darragh says, “I like going swimming with Dad. I like cooking beans and sausages at our picnics. I like beating Dad at draughts, but it’s really hard to do it.” For Aoife, Ciarán really is the best dad in the world: “He’s good to me and he’s nice to me, and he makes me dinner and he makes things with me. I like my daddy.”

When Onóra wanted to practise her times tables, Ciarán designed an excel programme that would randomly pick numbers and she would then have to guess the right answers. When driving on long journeys Ciarán practises mental arithmetic with the kids, making it fun, like guessing how long a journey would take if there were different speed limits.

Last October, when Darragh was told he was too young to join the local draughts team with his brother Cianán, dad signed himself up as a tutor so that his son could join. In May the brothers were members of the U10 draughts team that won the national final. Champions after only a few months!

Wife Yvonne says: “I tell him all the time that he is a great dad but he is a really humble person and I’m not sure he believed it. That’s why I nominated him. I’m so proud of him. He is my number one. Maybe now he’ll believe me that he really is a number one dad!”
 
For being a dedicated dad who goes above and beyond for his children, for teaching skills in a novel and fun way and for being an inspiration to those around him, Ciarán Finn receives the Dad of the Year Award. 
 

Brendan O'Carroll

Brendan O'Carroll People of the Year Award

For his services to the Irish entertainment industry and his ability to bring a smile to the faces of so many people, Brendan O’Carroll was awarded a People of the Year Award.

Brendan O’Carroll is a man of many talents who has experienced success, failure, joy and pain in equal measure during his long and varied career. Through his talent and hard work, this author, actor, director, script-writer and stand-up comic has risen to the very top of the entertainment world.

The youngest of eleven children, Brendan O’Carroll was born in 1955. He was raised in Finglas. His mother, Maureen, was a Labour TD and his father, Gerard, was a carpenter.

Brendan left school at 12 and began working as a waiter. He tried his hand at several other careers along the way: disco manager, milkman, pirate radio disc-jockey and painter-decorator. The most extraordinary of Brendan’s non-comedy jobs was when he spent four days working as a butler to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984. ‘The Iron Lady’ had visited Dublin for an EU leaders’ summit held at Dublin Castle, where Brendan was working with the hospitality team looking after the foreign leaders.

But it was the call of the stage that eventually captured Brendan’s attention. Always a man who enjoyed the craic and telling a joke, he took the plunge into comedy, honing his craft in small gigs. The turning point came when Brendan made his first appearance on The Late Late Show. The studio audience and the viewers loved him. His first video, Live at the Tivoli, went straight to number one. 

In 1994 he was voted Ireland’s Top Variety Entertainer at the National Entertainment Awards. In that year he also wrote his first novel, The Mammy, and has since gone on to write six more books, including The Chisellers (1995), The Granny (1996), The Scrapper (originally published as Sparrows Trap, 1997) and The Young Wan (2003). He went on to make four successful videos and a bestselling record, as well as touring in Ireland, the UK and the USA.

By the early nineties Brendan O’Carroll was riding the crest of a wave in his career. It was around this time when his most successful character made her first appearance in the radio show Mrs Brown’s Boys. Brendan wrote and starred in the show, which had a phenomenal daily audience on 2fm and led to the creation of Agnes Brown as the central character in Brendan’s first novel.

The book topped the bestseller charts in Ireland for months and was eventually made into the film Agnes Browne in 1999, starring Angelica Huston. However, Mrs Brown’s biggest influence in Brendan’s life was to come later.

In 1996 Brendan began a new chapter in his career when he presented on television for the first time with his Saturday night RTÉ quiz show Hot Milk and Pepper. The show’s title was a reference to his earlier job as butler to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

“I can remember being woken up one night by Mrs Thatcher’s MI5 security team, who told me that the prime minister wanted ‘hot milk and pepper’ in her apartment. I brought it down to her, and years later when RTÉ offered me a quiz show and asked what I should call it, I said ‘Hot Milk And Pepper’ after Mrs T.”

Brendan’s career was not without challenges, however. In 1998 a failure of a film project left him with an enormous debt that would have crushed many others. The debt in question totaled £2.2 million and the Dubliner was left completely broke and depressed. “It was the first time I’d felt depression like that. I sat in my house with the curtains drawn for days, thinking, ‘God, just take me now.’” The comedian was saddled with the debt when a film company expected to provide funds pulled out just two days before production began on Sparrow’s Trap and Brendan decided to finance the film himself. “I should have stopped right then and there but I didn’t.”

However, from this absolute disaster came the early stages of Brendan’s greatest success. Mrs Brown came to his rescue. “Mrs Brown saved me because coming up with a play about her helped me to start paying the money back.” Because of the generosity of a promotor friend, Brendan was able to make a start on the long road to recovery. Brendan’s friend asked him to “scribble up something” for a three-week run at the Gaiety Theatre. “I told him I didn’t feel funny right now and didn’t have the money for my share. But he lent me the share and I wrote the first play, Mourning Mrs Brown, in 2000.” It ran for 16 weeks, sold out and Brendan began to pay off his debts.

In 2008, on the advice of Rab C. Nesbitt creator Ian Pattison – who had seen Brendan’s play – Stephen McCrum, producer of Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet of Crisps, began pestering Brendan to turn Agnes into a television star.

Once Brendan agreed and the first series was broadcast on BBC and RTÉ, Mrs Brown became a phenomenon. The show is now three series in and has won both BAFTA and IFTA awards. It has been broadcast in a number of different languages and countries worldwide.  And the success of Agnes is not stopping there! She will be hitting the big screen very soon as Mrs Brown’s Boys: D'movie is currently in the middle of filming. Will the silver screen ever be the same again?

This is not just good news for Brendan – Mrs Brown’s Boys is very much a family affair. Cathy (Mrs Brown’s daughter) is played by Brendan’s wife, Jennifer Gibney. Maria Brown (Mrs Brown’s daughter-in-law) is played by Brendan’s daughter, Fiona. Buster (the best friend of Mrs Brown’s son) is played by Brendan’s son, Danny.

One thing is for sure: we’ve not seen the last of Agnes Brown or of Brendan O’Carroll. 

For his services to the Irish entertainment industry and his ability to bring a smile to the faces of so many people, Brendan O’Carroll is awarded a People of the Year Award.