International football legend Robbie Keane was honoured at the 2016 People of the Year Awards, organised by Rehab. The annual ceremony was presented by Gráinne Seoige and Aidan Power and broadcast live on RTÉ One. Olympic rowers Paul and Gary O’Donovan, sailor Annalise Murphy, Buncrana tragedy hero Davitt Walsh, and Connacht Rugby’s Pat Lam and John Muldoon were also among those honoured at the awards.
The deserving winners were honoured at a black-tie event in the Citywest Hotel broadcast live on RTÉ One. They were joined by family, friends and supporters alongside other well-known faces including Liam Cunningham, Claire Byrne and Jim McGuinness. One Direction star Niall Horan also feature in the show. The prestigious ceremony is a special opportunity for the Irish public to honour and celebrate those extraordinary people who have shown courage, bravery, commitment and determination.
2016 People of the Year Award Winners:
Robbie Keane received the International Person of the Year Award for his inspirational service, leadership and passion. Having exploded onto the Irish schoolboy’s league with his club Crumlin United, Robbie went on to play with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Coventry City, Inter Milan, Leeds United, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Glasgow Celtic. In 2011, the Dubliner signed for LA Galaxy and has been central to the success of the US side. Earlier this year Robbie announced his retirement from international football having represented Ireland on the international football stage for 18 years. With sixty-seven goals from 145 appearances, the Tallaght native is Ireland’s record goal scorer and cap holder. He made his last international appearance for Ireland in a friendly against Oman in August. Scoring his 68thinternational goal, Robbie celebrated his final Irish goal with his trademark cartwheel. He has made a huge contribution to soccer in Ireland, and all over the world, and will always be known as a stalwart member of the Irish team.
Robbie said: “I have spoken this year of how it has been an honour to represent my country for so long. I have always worn the green jersey with pride and I will always be grateful for the opportunities to play for and captain the International Team. It has been the highlight of my career. It is a privilege for me and my family to receive this award.”
Paul and Gary O’Donovan, and Annalise Murphy, are joint winners of the Sports Person of the Year Award. The Olympic medallists captured the hearts and imaginations of the nation after they secured medals at the Rio Olympics. In their first Olympic games, the O’Donovan brothers won a silver medal in the men’s lightweight double scull at the games in Brazil. Immediately after Rio, Paul (22) flew to Rotterdam and took gold at the World Rowing Championship. More than 10,000 people filled the streets of Skibbereen for their homecoming as locals honoured the rowing heroes.
Accepting his People of the Year Award, Gary said: “We’re really honoured to accept this award and follow so many previous recipients who have inspired us to chase our own dreams. Both of us love what we do and enjoy every moment – even in those cold and wet winter mornings out on the water. We have made many sacrifices to get to where we are but our passion never wanes. Without that passion we would not be where we are today. 2016 has been a huge year for us, but 2017 will bring new challenges. We must rise to them if we are to continue to add to Ireland’s rich sporting heritage – so we’ll keep doing our thing, keep enjoying Nana’s cooking and hopefully we’ll keep winning medals.”
Olympic sailor Annalise Murphy navigated her way in stunning style to a silver medal at the Rio Olympics. After being pipped to the podium at the London 2012 Games, Annalise’s spectacular performance on a glorious August day in Guanabara Bay will live long in the memory of the Irish people. Her success is Ireland’s first medal in sailing in over 35 years. The 26-year-old, from south county Dublin, spent more than 100 days training in Rio prior to the opening ceremony. The Olympic medallist, who still trains with the Dún Laoghaire National Yacht Club, hopes her success will put sailing on the map. Accepting her award, Annalise said: “It really means a lot to win this award, it’s great for all the young sailors in the country to realise they can make it if they keep pursuing their dreams. I think the Rio Olympics has put sailing on the map and I’ve noticed a spike in the amount of people giving it a go.”
Davitt Walsh received a People of the Year Award for the incredible bravery he showed rescuing a young baby from the Buncrana pier tragedy in March. Davitt was just about to leave the beach area when he noticed a car sinking in the water. He immediately jumped into the water and swam out to the car which had drifted nearly 30 metres away. When Davitt reached the car Sean McGrotty (49) told him to “save the baby”. Davitt bravely rushed back to shore with little four-month-old Rioghnach-Ann McGrotty in his hands. Within seconds the car was submerged. Little Rioghnach lost her father Sean, her brothers Mark (12) and Evan (8), her grandmother Ruth Daniels (57), and her aunt Jodie-Lee (14). The family was enjoying a Sunday evening when the car skidded on green algae on the pier ramp and drifted into the sea. Davitt was left battered and bruised from the rescue, having slipped on the same green algae as he rushed to the car. Davitt said: “The only time I feared for my safety was on my way back from the car because I thought I wasn’t going to make it back to shore. I was physically exhausted, I was struggling and I actually feared for the baby’s life more than my own. I really wanted to get her back to shore.”
Alan Herdman (24) received a Young Person of the Year Award for saving the lives of eight young children who nearly drowned in Rusheen Bay, Co Galway, in July. The water sport enthusiast and rescuer, originally from Co Kildare, was bringing a group of youngsters to the bay when the alarm was raised. A dog walker frantically waved and shouted to get Alan’s attention and alerted him to the children, aged between 8 and 12-years-old, struggling in the sea. Alan immediately rushed into the sea on his paddle board and went out to the girl furthest offshore who was sinking under the water. Alan dived off his board into the water, brought her back to surface and put her on the board. He then grabbed a second child nearby and placed him on the board also. Six further children remained in difficulty in the water, but Alan calmly managed to bring three children to shore before his colleague, Neil Gibson, arrived on the scene to help the other three children. Alan’s courage, bravery and endeavours avoided the ultimate tragedy and all eight lives were saved.
AMEN, a charity supporting male victims of domestic abuse, was named as the Community Group of the Year. Founded nearly 20 years ago by Mary Cleary, a nurse in the Navan Accident and Emergency Department, the charity supports many men who are victims of domestic abuse every year. In 2007, the structure of the organisation reformed and the service developed nationally, having received funding from the HSE. The AMEN helpline may have only received two phone calls a day in 2007, but demand is now so high they are ringing almost immediately every morning. Having campaigned for greater recognition and supports, AMEN is now a lifeline for men. Their confidential helpline is the only service in Ireland dedicated to supporting the needs of these men. One-to-one support, group meetings, counselling and outreach clinics have all exploded in recent years. Despite funding cuts during the austerity years, AMEN has also grown substantially and raised awareness of the devastating impacts domestic violence can have on families. The charity has supported and stood up for the thousands of men who took the brave step in seeking support.
Brother Kevin Crowley was awarded a People of the Year for running the Capuchin Day Centre, which serves hundreds of dinners a day to rough sleepers. Having always had a close affinity to religious life, Br Kevin left his work in the CIE to join the Capuchin Franciscans. After moving to Dublin from his native Cork, Br Kevin established the Capuchin Centre in 1969 providing food and other service to those in need. When the centre first opened it served 50 people. Today, as the country is gripped by a housing crisis, it feeds up to 600 people every day, six days a week. More than 1,600 food parcels are distributed weekly to those on the streets, while the service also provides clothing, shower facilities and also delivers medical and social supports, including access to a doctor, dentist and optician. Despite more than forty years of dedication to the cause, Br Kevin has not slowed down or taken a step back from the frontline. He and his team have adapted to the changing landscape of Dublin’s needy. The centre no longer caters just for the homeless, but also helps those who are struggling – including 8,000 children who attended the centre for meals in 2015. “To me in this day and age it is absolutely appalling to think that people have to queue up here for baby food and for nappies. I hope I can continue as long as I can to make sure that our homeless people and the people in need will be served with dignity and with respect,” said Br Kevin.
John Muldoon and Pat Lam received a Person of the Year Award after leading Connacht Rugby to their first trophy in 131 years in a truly historic sporting moment. Connacht’s coach Pat Lam and captain John Muldoon led from the front and helped Connacht to its first silverware after beating Leinster in the Pro12 final earlier this year. Pat captained Samoa in three World Cups and won the Heineken Cup in 2000 with the Northampton Saints, beating Munster in the final. Having retired from playing in 2002, Pat took up coaching roles with Scotland as assistant coach. Before his appointment as head coach of Connacht, Pat also coached Super Rugby side the Auckland Blues. John Muldoon had been a lynchpin of Pat Lam’s style of play. One could call John Muldoon ‘Mr. Connacht’ given his commitment and dedication to the Westerners. John has just commenced his 14th season as a professional player with Connacht. He has also captained Connacht for almost six full seasons now. John has made more than 280 appearances for the province, making him the most capped player for Connacht and in the PRO12 championship
Róisín and Mark Molloy were honoured with a People of the Year Award for their campaign in highlighting the inadequate standards of maternity services. In 2012, the Molloys, from Co Offaly, rushed to the Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise as they expected the arrival of their baby. Unfortunately, Baby Mark got into difficulty during labour and only lived for a brief time. His time of this earth, however, was a game changer. His birth was first classed as a stillbirth, but was later changed by the determination of the Molloys. The family questioned how their healthy son died. Their fight led to over 5,000 hours of researching, corresponding and attending numerous meetings with the HSE and Department of Health. The Molloys became aware of the extent of baby deaths in maternity units across the country and, after two years of little intervention, they made the tough decision to blow the whistle and contacted the RTÉ Investigations Unit to look into the matter. More than 80 families are now getting reviews into their care following the programme. Since airing their story, investigations have been carried out into maternity services, a National Maternity Strategy has been put in place, and the country’s first ever Perinatal Bereavement Standards were launched. A report into the death of baby Mark has also resulted in new measures including a national patient advocacy service.
Milo McCarthy (11) received a Young Person of the Year Award after he raised nearly €18,000 for Syrian refugees by busking on the streets of Cork City and his hometown of Midleton. He began playing music and singing with his guitar every Wednesday or Saturday and was encouraged by the generosity of the local people. As news spread of Milo’s heartfelt efforts, the 11-year-old captured the hearts of the nation after appearing on The Late Late Show singing Ireland’s Call. Milo’s original target was €10,000, but earlier this year he presented the Irish Red Cross with a cheque for €17,742. Since the busking campaign ended, Milo has also busked to raise funds for an operation to help a young boy from Cork, who has cerebral palsy, to walk.
“I thought they (Syrian refugees) should not have to be doing that and no human should have to endure what they are going through. I know I’m no different to any of those people and it is just luck that I wasn’t born in those conditions,” said Milo.
Ireland’s Paralympic medallists were honoured with a Sports Person of the Year Award for their incredible success in the Rio Games. Winning 11 medals – four gold, four silver and three bronze – it was one of the finest performances for any Irish team. Jason Smyth took the Maracana stadium by storm after he literally ran away with his 100m final in a time of 10.64. Eoghan Clifford won bronze in the 3000m individual pursuit and later won gold in the 30km time trail. The tandem team of Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal won a gold medal in the 33km race and silver in the road race. Colin Lynch and swimmer Ellen Keane also secured a bronze and silver medal on the same day that was later christened Winning Wednesday. Runner Michael McKillop also stormed home in a gold victory in the middle distance race. The ‘Rebel Treble’ discus with Cork women Orla Barry, Niamh McCarthy and Noelle Lenihan each secured silver and bronze medals.
We are delighted to organise the People of the Year Awards for the 42st year, and are honoured to share the stories of this year’s winners with the nation. These awards give us the opportunity to acknowledge our heroes from communities across the country and from abroad, whose stories and achievements inspire everyone around them. With nominations for each winner coming from the people of Ireland, these truly are the ‘People’s Awards’ and reflect all that is good about our society. We congratulate tonight’s winners, and all of the previous winners from the past four decades on their achievements and successes.
– Mo Flynn, CEO Rehab Group and Chairperson of the Awards Adjudication Panel