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in the picture

Meet the Dublin local heroes getting honoured with stunning portraits

They were commissioned by Dublin City Council Company to celebrate the people who make the capital special.

THERE ARE OVER a million and a half people living in Ireland’s capital – people of all ages and backgrounds, who all contribute different things to their local communities.

But while some people might be well known throughout Dublin and beyond, there are some unsung local heroes who haven’t been recognised with a public pat on the back.

To shine a spotlight on them, the recently established Dublin City Council Culture Company created a project called Local Heroes – in which they commissioned seven artists to create “portraits” of 20 extraordinary Dubliners.

The project involved the artists spending six months getting to know the local heroes in order to capture them in unique artworks. 

The seven artists are dancer Emma O’Kane, musicians The Pale, poet and artist Kerrie O’Brien, photographer Philip Arneill, animator Una Gildea, illustrator (and more) Neil O’Driscoll, and poet, photographer, and painter The Poet Geoff Finan.

The individual artworks will each be unveiled to the local heroes in their community. Commenting on the project, Chief Executive of Dublin City Council Culture Company Iseult Byrne said:​

“We hope we will find and celebrate more of these local heroes, contributing to the unique character of our city, in the years to come.”

Here are some of the local heroes being honoured in the project:

Adaku Ezeudo by Una Gildea

Adaku Ezeudo by Una Gildea Adaku Ezeudo by Una Gildea

Una Gildea works in collage and animation.

Originally from Nigeria, Adaku has been living in Dublin since 2000. She is the Founding Director of i-Smile International, a charitable organisation set up to put smiles on the faces and in the hearts of vulnerable and marginalised women. They work to make sure the voices of these women are heard, to improve their self-esteem and empower them to reach their full potential. She is also the founder of U-Fest, an intercultural festival held in Dublin 15 which celebrates cultural diversity in Ireland. She continues to be involved with various community projects that further promote women’s economic, political, cultural and social participation in Ireland and Nigeria.

Godfrey Chimbganda by Kerrie O’Brien

Godfrey Chimbganda by Kerrie O'Brien Godfrey Chimbganda by Kerrie O'Brien

Kerrie O’Brien is a poet, photographer and painter from Dublin.

Godfrey oversees the Youth Platform Project Ireland (YPPI), an organisation within New Communities Partnership that aims to provide a platform through which issues that concern young migrants in Ireland are addressed. He also sits on the Dublin City Integration Forum Executive, Dublin City Community Forum Executive and Dublin Local Community Development Committee. Originally from Zimbabwe, he moved to Ireland in 2002 and is a certified financial advisor, entrepreneur, radio presenter, event organiser and promoter.

John Menton by Kerrie O’Brien

John Menton by Kerrie O'Brien John Menton by Kerrie O'Brien

He is a truly dedicated teacher who identified the crippling need for resources and inspirational reading material for his students, the majority of whom were non-native english speakers and new to the country. John’s passion for books and teaching spurred him on a mission to create a much needed library for his school. He put a call out for secondhand books on the Rick O’Shea book club Facebook page and one viral post later John received nearly 3,000 books from donors, publishers and authors across world. John believes it’s the people that make the city and his hope is for a city that is equal for all its citizens.

Penny Pu by Una Gildea

Penny Pu by Una Gildea Penny Pu by Una Gildea

Penny Pu has lived in Dublin for the past 18 years. A lawyer by trade, she is founder and director of the Chinese Cultural Association, an enthusiastic group of 300 volunteers from the Chinese community in Ireland. Working together, their mission is to preserve Chinese performing arts and culture, and to promote and encourage the inclusion of Irish people in Chinese cultural celebrations. The association is involved in the Chinese New Year celebrations as well as the St Patrick’s Day Parade.

Terry Fagan by Una Gildea Terry Fagan by Una Gildea

A resident of Dublin’s north inner city all his life, Terry Fagan is a collector. He assembles and preserves stories and objects from his local community of Mountjoy Square. Meeting older people in the flats and tenements through his work with meals on wheels, he starting recording their accounts of life in the Monto. Soon people were coming to him with their memories, photos, and artefacts. Recognising the need to record a way of life that was rapidly changing Terry opened the The North Inner City Folklore Project on Railway Street Dublin 1. Here the collection has a home, on display within the community from which it came.

Martina Bergin by Kerrie O’Brien

Martina Bergin by Kerrie O'Brien Martina Bergin by Kerrie O'Brien

Through her work with the Dublin Simon Community Martina became a familiar and friendly face among those struggling with addiction and homelessness in the city. She has dedicated her life to improving standards for the some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. She continues to work as a case worker and is regularly involved in fundraising, recently raising over €24,000 for supplies for the Dublin Simon Community rough sleeper team.

Shirley Higgins by Philip Arneill

Shirley Higgins by Philip Arneill Shirley Higgins by Philip Arneill

Belfast’s Philip Arneill is a long-term Tokyo-based documentary photographer and educator, now living in Dublin.

A Home Economics and Science teacher with a passion for music, Shirley has worked at St Mary’s School for the Deaf for over 21 years. She established an after school choir, performing through Irish Sign Language. Starting out with 11 students, she now has three thriving choirs made up of over 150 students past and present.The choirs performed for the Pope during his recent visit to Ireland and even featured on TV show Ireland’s Got Talent.

Nessa McNamara Nessa McNamara by Philip Arneill

A trained Montessori teacher, Nessa has been involved in childcare for over 30 years. She passionately believes in active learning and exposing children to the arts. Stories and drama are her great love. She is busy building her dream in Little Learners, a pre-school and after-school facility in Drumcondra which puts the children’s happiness and comfort at its heart. She believes children learn best by doing, and wants to give them many opportunities as possible. Her goal is to build a community and a safe, supportive place for children and their families in Dublin.

Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri by Philip Arneill

Shaykh Dr Umar Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri by Philip Arneill

Growing up, Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri experienced firsthand the fragmentation and isolation of Muslim communities in the Netherlands, and when he moved to Dublin he immediately saw a need for new Muslim communities to acquaint themselves with the local culture and people of the city. In 2004 he set up a mosque and has worked with people in the locality, including members of the LGBTQ community, to make it an open and welcoming place for all. He is head Imam of Al-Mustafa Islamic Educational and Cultural Centre Ireland, founding chair of Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council, an NGO promoting peace and integration in Ireland, and is also a founding member of Irish Council of Imams. His hope is to one day set up a Peace Centre where all people, religious and non-believers can come together to socialise and celebrate their different cultures.

The heroes weren’t just captured in portrait form – the band The Pale wrote musical tributes to Maureen Grant of the Olympia, Paddy Drac, and Sister Bernadette of St Agnes’ Primary School. Neil O’Driscoll created three comic strips of Pat Garry from the Liberties, youth worker Jamie Harrington and Ellie Kisyombe, Direct Provision activist; Geoff Finan created spoken word related to PJ of Sweney’s Chemist, urban ecologist Kaethe Burt O’Dea, and Nessa McNamara; and contemporary dancer/choreographer Emma O’Kane created works related to artist Esme Lewis, musician Ger Kellet and Peter Branagan, who was born on Henrietta St.

Esme Lewis by Emma O'Kane Esme Lewis by Emma O'Kane

Local Heroes will culminate in an evening of celebration at City Hall on 20 November. 

 Dublin City Council Culture Company invites the public to nominate the Local Heroes they would like to see honoured in 2019. Nominations for Local Heroes 2019 open on 20th November at

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