The head of the Birmingham Irish Association has hailed the community and in particular the city’s GAA clubs, saying his honour in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours is recognition for them also.
Maurie Malone, CEO of Birmingham Irish Association, was awarded the British Empire Medal in the list revealed on 1 January for services to the Irish community during Covid- 19.
Maurice Malone told The Irish World: “I’m delighted and really, really happy with the recognition of the organization and the community.
“Things like this can sometimes get wrapped up in being about one person but this is as far from that as it could possibly be.
“This is about recognition for the staff, the community, the volunteers, everybody associated with the organization because what we achieved during COVID was fantastic and the support we were able to provide to the community was unbelievable- But that was all down to everybody who contributed and without them, we certainly wouldn’t have achieved what we achieved.”
Such an honour was the last thing Maurice was expecting.
“I wasn’t quite surprised, I was very surprised because it’s not the sort of thing that crosses your mind at all and particularly in the early days of the pandemic, you become reactionary more than anything. You put the wheels in motion for the new services that you’re doing and the furthest thing from your mind is thinking, ‘Oh, will we get recognized for this by the end of it?’
“When the letter came, it was a bit out of the blue to be honest.
“Myself and the rest of the organization, the staff, the volunteers, they were delighted because it was recognition of the work that they’ve all done during lockdown.”
Maurice, whose family come from Dublin and has been with the association since 2004, says it was a combined community effort and singles out the city’s GAA clubs for what they did.
“It wasn’t just us by any stretch of the imagination.
“There’s no way we could have done what we achieved without everybody joining together and pulling together.
“We had the support of the schools, prominent GAA clubs in Birmingham who really stepped up, the local community themselves, local businesses- It was a massive mobilization really.
“GAA clubs tend to be quite competitive. When it comes to things like this, all the competitive nature and everything was put to the side.
“It was literally, ‘What do we need to do? How can we help? As an organization, what do you need to deliver this stuff?’
“It was a phenomenal response: Not only the quantities of food they were bringing in, they were donating volunteer hours for deliveries and running food parcels around, and hot meals and clothing, bringing people shopping, ringing people- We set up a dedicated befriending service and they taking some of the calls for that as well.
“Without them, we wouldn’t have achieved half the things that we achieved and that’s why the recognition is as much about them as anybody to be honest.
“We’ve now got a fantastic partnership with the GAA which is something we didn’t have pre-pandemic. That’s something we’re going to look at building and keep working together going forward.”
While many were delighted by the news, Maurice was in trouble for not telling one person sooner: “You receive the letter and then have to sit on it for a couple of months and not tell anybody, not even the wife which obviously got me in trouble when she then found out.”