US OPEN CHAMPION Rory McIlroy was among those honoured at last night’s People of the Year Awards.
The Northern Irish golfer was named Sports Person of the Year for his achievements on the course in 2011.
The Irish cricket team were also recognised for their exploits in the World Cup in March, where they provided the shock of the tournament by beating England and Kevin O’Brien set the record for the quickest century of the competition.
The awards, organised by Rehab and sponsored by Quinn Healthcare, are now in their 37th year. The winners are chosen by the public through a nominations process and finalised by a panel of judges.
PSNI Constable Ronan Kerr who was murdered in Omagh in April was posthumously awarded a People of the Year award for his work as a police officer. His mother Nuala accepted the award at the ceremony last night.
The community of Skerries in Dublin was recognised for the “empathy” and “solidarity” that was shown during the search for two marine engineers who went missing at sea in April. The bodies of Ronan Brown and David Gilsenan were eventually recovered and last night the town was commended for showing the power of community spirit in the face of immense tragedy.
The Best Friend of the Year Award was presented to Laois woman Sharon Malloy. She was nominated by her friend Ian Lawlor who she has supported for years as he battles a drug addiction.
The International Person of the Year Award went to Edith Wilkins for her work in India, where she has lived since 1982. A nurse by profession, Wilkins has set up a foundation to provide a safe haven for street children, child labourers and victims of child trafficking. She has also established outreach clinics and drop-in centres in the slum colonies.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny presented Joan Freeman, founder of Pieta House, with a People of the Year Award. Pieta House provides counselling, support and advice for those who are actively suicidal, contemplating suicide or those who self-harm. Set up in 2006 in Freeman’s home in Lucan, Pieta House now has five centres in Dublin and Limerick with more than 60 staff.
Eighteen-year-old Jackie Kelly was named the Young Person of the Year for 2011. X-Factor singer Mary Byrne presented Kelly with the award for her “caring spirit and quiet determination” while facing her mother’s illness. She provided support for her parents while completing her Leaving Certificate. From Templetuohy in Tipperary, the teenager is now studying at LIT in Thurles.
AJ McCullough was also a recipient of a People of the Year Award for rescuing a woman and her three sons after their car plunged into the Boyne Canal last December.
The Tall Ships Festival Waterford 2011 was commended for the enormous voluntary and community effort which led to its huge success. About half a million people visited the ships, generating some €30m for the local economy.
The ceremony took place in the CityWest Hotel in Saggart last night and was hosted by Gráinne Seoige.