Higgins praises work of Irish abroad

President Higgins with Dr Mary Tilki

By staff reporter

President Michael D. Higgins has spoken of the important work being done in many fields by the Irish diaspora as he presented the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish abroad yesterday.

In the UK, Seamus McGarry and Mary Tilki were singled out for their work amongst the Irish in Britain.

President Higgins said: “Mr. Seamus McGarry has for many years provided a strong voice for Irish people living in Britain; not least through his work as Chair of the Federation of Irish Societies at a time of great sensitivity in relations between our two countries.

“Its current Chair, Dr. Mary Tilki has also been an exemplar of leadership, advocating tirelessly on health matters for the Irish community, and highlighting the inherent dignity and needs of the elderly Irish living in Britain.

He added: “Ireland’s reputation abroad has also been enormously enhanced by the expertise and policy formulation of Mr. John Martin, whose contribution to the work of the OECD has secured enormous respect and influenced Governments throughout the world. John’s promotion of the role of social inclusion within the OECD policy portfolio is a contribution that has global significance.

Seamus McGarry with President Higgins

There were awards for the following:

Arts, Culture and Sport

Mick Moloney

Professor Mick Moloney is a famed folklorist, musician and scholar. He holds a Ph. D. in folklore and folklife from the University of Pennsylvania and currently teaches at New York University in the Irish Studies Program. He has taught ethnomusicology, folklore and Irish Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and at the Universities of Georgetown and Villanova.  Professor Moloney has recorded over forty albums of traditional music and served as artistic director for several major arts tours.

Business and Education

Craig Barrett

Dr. Craig Barrett is a leading advocate for improving education standards.  Over the course of thirty five years, Dr. Barrett held many positions in Intel including Chief Operating Officer, President, CEO and retiring as Chairman of the Board in May 2009. As CEO/Chairman of Intel and more recently as Chairman of the Irish Technology Leadership Group, Dr. Barrett has been a key supporter and guide to Ireland in our efforts to attract and retain high-tech foreign direct investment in Ireland.

John Martin

John Martin was former Director for Employment Labour and Social Affairs in the OECD. His most significant contribution was to bring social policy to the centre of economic analysis at the OECD. His ground breaking research and policy prescriptions in the area of social inclusion, especially in the area of employment, equality including gender equality have significantly influenced governments within the OECD and beyond.

Charitable Works

Anne Merriman

Dr. Anne Merriman trained as a doctor in UCD. She is a founder member of the Hospice Care Association of Singapore and was the first Medical Director of the Nairobi Hospice. She also founded Hospice Africa and has led Hospice Africa’s International initiatives in Nigeria, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Ethiopia, Zambia, Sudan and Rwanda.  Her concern is the relief of suffering and the provision of holistic care to millions of patients and families in Africa suffering from cancer and/or AIDS.

S.M. Cyril Mooney

Sr. Cyril Mooney is a Loreto Sister who, since her profession in 1956, has worked tirelessly in India in the areas of social justice and education. Sr. Cyril has been serving the poor, destitute and socially excluded children of Kolkata, West Bengal for over 50 years.  Amongst her many achievements is the Rainbow Programme which provides education and rehabilitation for formerly street-dwelling children. She is the only Irish citizen to have been awarded India’s highest award – The Padma Shri Award.

Irish Community Support

Seamus McGarry

Seamus McGarry has for the last 40 years been one of the most prominent and well respected members of the Irish Community in Britain. He was involved in the establishment of the Federation of Irish Societies, was its Chairman for a decade, and is a member of the Emigrant Advisory Committee which advises the Government on issues of concern to the Irish Community in Britain.

Mary Tilki

Dr. Mary Tilki has been keen to address the inequalities relating to the health of the Irish Community in the UK and has written many articles highlighting Irish need. She continues to lobby policy makers to address the inequalities relating to health, not only with the Irish and Traveller community but for other disadvantaged ethnic groups.  She is the current Chairperson of the Federation of Irish Societies.

Rodney Walshe

Rodney Walshe has served as Honorary Consul General in New Zealand for 37 years. He is highly regarded, receiving the New Zealand Order of Merit, and enjoys excellent relations with senior political, business and cultural figures which he has leveraged to great effect for Ireland over the years. He is a founding trustee of Irish Fund of New Zealand and is an active member of the Global Irish Network.

Peace, Reconciliation and Development

George Mitchell  

George Mitchell is a politician, lawyer and businessman and has been a visionary of peace around the world, most notably in Northern Ireland. He was appointed United States Peace Envoy for Northern Ireland by President Clinton. As Chair of the all-party peace negotiations, he led the parties to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.  He was Chancellor of Queens University Belfast from 1999 – 2009. He was also named US Special Envoy for Middle East Peace by President Obama in 2009.

Dan Rooney

Dan Rooney served as Ambassador to Ireland from 2009 – 2012 and during that time played a pivotal role in developing relations between Ireland and the US. In 1976, together with Tony O’Reilly, he set up the American Ireland Fund with a trinity of goals – peace, culture and charity. Mr. Rooney is Chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a club with a reputation for providing equal opportunity for all communities.


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