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'A truly remarkable person': Tributes paid to Trócaire worker of 37 years Sally O'Neill

Through the years, O’Neill worked primarily on Trócaire projects in Latin America.

sally_o_neill_trocaire_1979 Sally O'Neill Source: Trócaire

TRIBUTES HAVE BEEN paid to Trócaire worker Sally O’Neill after she died in a road accident in Guatemala.

O’Neill, from Dungannon, Co Tyrone, had worked for the charity for 37 years. She joined the organisation in 1987 and retired in April 2015. 

“We are heartbroken by this news. She was a truly remarkable person. Trócaire was only five years old when Sally joined,” Trócaire CEO Caoimhe de Barra said. 

“Sally built the foundations of the organisation. She embodied our values and, through her courage and commitment to human rights, touched the lives of so many people,” she said. 

O’Neill worked primarily on Trócaire projects in Latin America, but she was also involved in providing famine relief in Ethiopia in the mid-1980s. She established Trócaire’s programme in Somalia in the early-1990s in response to a famine there. 

Prior to her retirement, she was Trócaire’s head of region for Latin America, based in Honduras. 

“I was with Sally last week in Guatemala. Despite having officially retired, she remained a driving force for human rights in Central America,” de Barra said.

Her drive, passion and commitment was as strong as ever. Sally was much beloved by communities and human rights activists throughout Central America. She dedicated her life to improving the lives of others.
Her legacy will live on through the thousands of people whose lives she helped to improve.

 O’Neill had also worked in Central America at a time when civil wars were being fought in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. She oversaw humanitarian aid to more than two million refugees in the Central American region during those conflicts years. 

In 1982, O’Neill and President Michael D Higgins, who was a TD at the time, visited El Salvador to investigate reports of a massacre in the village of El Mozote. 

She was appointed by President Higgins as a member of the High Level Panel for the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad in 2012 and awarded the Hugh O´Flaherty Humanitarian Award in 2011.

In July 2017, she was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Law degree by the University of Ulster.

Paying tribute to O’Neill, President Higgins said: “I was privileged to have her as a friend and will never forget the brilliant guidance and assistance she provided on so many occasions and in so many places. 

She will be missed by so many, but must acutely by her family, her wide circle of friends and her former colleagues in Trócaire. 

Following her retirement, Sally continued to work in a voluntary capacity as a facilitator with prisoners and migrants in Honduras, where she lived.  

“Our hearts go out to Sally’s family, particularly her children Roger, Rhona and Xio, and her husband Roger,” de Barra said. 

“Although we still cannot believe she is gone, we know that she left an incredible footprint around the world.” 

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