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Catherine Corless, Rescue 116 crew and Vera Twomey among People of the Year

The Awards aim to recognise the achievements of the country’s everyday heroes.

THE PEOPLE OF the Year Awards celebrate figures in Irish life who’ve contributed to society through their bravery and dedication, with the public nomination who they feel is deserving of recognition.

Historian Catherine Corless, the crew of Rescue 116, rugby referee Joy Neville and campaigner Vera Twomey were among those honoured at the 2018 Rehab People of the Year Awards.

The Galway Senior Hurlers, human rights campaigner Ifrah Ahmed, homeless advocate Father Peter McVerry, and the community of Ballaghaderreen were also honoured.

Here’s the list of winners, and why they’re being honoured.

Probe into mother and baby homes Local historian Catherine Corless at the site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home. Source: Niall Carson

Catherine Corless called for a full exhumation of the remains of hundreds of babies on the site of the former Tuam mother and baby home.

As a result of her research into the home, run by the Sisters of Bon Secours, the remains of hundreds of babies were discovered. Catherine was recognised for her passionate advocacy on behalf of survivors and their families and for her persistence and dedication, without which the scandal would never have been exposed and the truth revealed.

BLACKROCK ISLAND 90508819_90517881_90517997 Search efforts for the crew of Rescue 116 last March. Source: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

The Irish Coast Guard, the crew of Rescue 116, Caitríona Lucas and the community of Erris were also honoured at tonight’s People of the Year Awards.

They were awarded in recognition of the heroic work by the men and women of the Irish Coast Guard who risk their lives to assist maritime and coastal communities, while the people of Erris were recognised for their contribution to the search for the missing crew of Rescue 116.

On 14 March 2017, Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 disappeared off the north coast of Mayo, with four crew members on board: Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, Captain Mark Duffy and winchmen Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith.

Hundreds of volunteers, fishermen, and colleagues supported the emergency services in combing the area for the missing crew. The bodies of Dara Fitzpatrick and Mark Duffy were recovered in the subsequent searches. Despite intensive efforts, the bodies of Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby have yet to be recovered.

Just six months previously, the Irish Coast Guard community had suffered another devastating loss with the passing of their brave colleague, volunteer member Caitríona Lucas, who had been participating in a search operation off the coast of Kilkee, Co Clare.

protest 712_90541683 Source: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

Father Peter McVerry was also among those awarded tonight – his second time being given the People of the Year award in 13 years.

Speaking about receiving the award twice, McVerry said: “I accepted the same award in 2005 for our work helping people who face homelessness and here, 13 years later, in 2018, I am being offered the same award, for the same reason.

It shows the lack of progress being made on this issue as a country, and the growing demand for homelessness services.

The advocate has been at the coalface of homelessness in Ireland since the 1970s. His award was in recognition for a lifetime of dedication to the homeless and for his unrelenting efforts to shine a light on the plight of some of our most vulnerable.

File Photo Cork North Central Solidarity TD Mick Barry said this morning that the campaign to legalise medicinal cannabis should now be steeped up. His comment came in the wake of news that the state has agreed to fund the cost of medicinal cannabis sour Source: Leah Farrell via RollingNews.ie

Vera Twomey and her daughter Ava Barry (8) rose to national prominence during a two-and-a-half-year national campaign to secure medicinal cannabis to treat Ava’s condition called Dravet Syndrome, which causes severe, dangerous and frequent seizures, sometimes up to 500 a month.

Following a persistent campaign, Vera’s lobbying efforts finally bore fruit with Ava being issued with a special license to allow her access to medicinal cannabis in Ireland. Vera said: “It is very hard to watch other parents and families suffering in similar circumstances to ours.

Ava has received the benefit of medicinal cannabis, prescribed and overseen by consultants, which has improved her health dramatically. It is now time that people throughout Ireland also have the same option, in a therapeutic and professional environment.

England v New Zealand - 2017 Women's World Cup Final - Kingspan Stadium Referee Joy Neville during the 2017 Women's World Cup Final at the Kingspan Stadium, Belfast. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Rugby player and referee Joy Neville has represented Ireland and Munster during her playing career, and was recently named World Rugby Referee of the Year for 2017. She has won 70 caps in the back row for Ireland and went on to captain her country for a number of years.

Neville says that all young sportswomen should be able to dream and achieve, as she was presented with Sports Person of the Year Award for her inspirational achievements, and for her service, commitment, and leadership to the world of rugby.

6/2/2018 Worldwide social mediaÊThunderclapÊ#MeTooFGM Events Pictured is Ifrah Ahmed at the Lighthouse Cinema in Dublin’s Smithfield for the launch of the #MeTooFGM event. Source: Leah Farrell

Ifrah Ahmed was presented with the International Person of the Year Award by Sabina Higgins. A dual Irish-Somalian citizen, the human rights campaigner scooped the gong for leading an ongoing international campaign against female genital mutilation.

In 2006, Ifrah was forced to flee the war in Somalia to Dublin where she would begin a new life in exile. She quickly found her calling in social activism and in 2008, founded the United Youth of Ireland, an organisation that helps young people from migrant communities in their artistic, creative and business endeavours.

Syrian Refugees Expected To Arrive Before St Patricks Day in Ballaghaderreen County Roscommon Source: Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie

The community of Ballaghaderreen was honoured for its inspirational altruism and community spirit and was presented with the Community of the Year Award.

The Roscommon community was recognised for doing Ireland proud by welcoming to a group of Syrian refugees: mostly young families fleeing war-torn Aleppo and young men from Damascus who had left behind their immediate families in Syria.

As many of the refugees were young children, a call-out yielded a massive donation of toys and a beautiful playroom was created at the emergency centre. Life for the refugees was also made a little easier by various sporting and fun activities, cultural and social outings, and various other trips organised by local volunteers.

The Galway Senior Hurling Team was awarded the Sports Person of the Year Award for lifting the Liam McCarthy Cup for the first time in more than 29 years.

Galway had suffered heartache defeat in six All-Ireland finals during their 29-year drought, but last September the Tribesmen beat Waterford to win the All-Ireland Championship.

Colette Byrne was presented with the Everyday Hero Award for selflessly founding an online community – widow.ie – following the death of her husband, Peter.

Peter was killed in a traffic accident in August 2008, when their daughter Kate was just three years old. The website has supported hundreds of people in similar circumstances through their most difficult and darkest time.

Harry (13) and Molly Flynn (10) were presented with the Young Person of the Year Award by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, for saving their sister’s life on many occasions.

Their sister Isabelle (6), was born with cerebral palsy and apnoea which means she can suddenly stop breathing at any stage during the day or night. Isabelle’s condition worsens when she is sick or has a cold, which means it could happen 20 times a day.

Mo Flynn the Chief Executive of Rehab Group, which organises the Awards, said:

“Every day our teams in communities across the country meet people who are also doing great work, but they do not seek the limelight or get the recognition they deserve.

The Awards serve to highlight all that is good about Ireland and honours those whose courage, resolve and bravery is boundless.

The black-tie ceremony was held in the Mansion House, Dublin, and was broadcast live on RTÉ One tonight.

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