Irish volunteers across Britain honoured at annual awards

Irish volunteers across Britain honoured at annual awards

A RAFT of volunteers serving the Irish community in Britain have been honoured at an annual awards ceremony.

Irish in Britain (IIB) held its 2024 Annual Volunteer Awards at the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith this month, where they recognised the transformational power of volunteering to people’s lives and its ability to “bring communities together”.

“It is worth remembering volunteering, at its core, changes lives,” IIB CEO Brian Dalton said.

“It reinforces the idea that everyone has something to offer and has within them the power to make a positive difference – and we don’t always get to say that in our day-to-day lives.”

Award winner Maeve Heath pictured with Irish Ambassador to Britain Martin Fraser at the Irish in Britain Volunteer Awards 2024 (Pics: Malcolm McNally Photography)

Musician Niall Jackson was the compere for the event, which saw five awards handed out to the winners of each category, while the finalists were also recognised.

The Outstanding Individual Volunteer award went to Maeve Heath from Irish Elderly Advice Network.

A volunteer for 45 years and now aged 85m Ms Heath still volunteers up to 40 hours a week with the London-based charity.

“I love what I do, as long as I can keep going, I will keep going,” Ms Heath said as she collected a glass plaque and a framed certificate.

Sabrina Frankiline, Ambassador Martin Fraser and John McCarthy, who won the Outstanding Trustee Award

She was also presented with a generous gift from celebrity Irish chef Anna Haugh, an invitation to dine at her Chelsea restaurant Myrtle.

The Outstanding Trustee Award went to John McCarthy from The Traveller Movement.

Mr McCarthy had been nominated by Sabrina Franklin from The Traveller Movement and John Delahunty, Chief Executive of Innisfree Housing Association.

Ambassador Martin Fraser, Outstanding Young Person award winner Quincy Majekadegbe and Francis Duncan (Pics: Malcolm McNally Photography)

Ms Franklin described him as a “powerful advocate and spokesperson… who also leaves a lasting impression as a true champion for social justice and equality”.

Mr Delahunty said he was an “ambassador for Innisfree” and “the best neighbour you could ever hope for”.

Accepting his award, which included an Irish hamper gifted by Your Irish Shop, Mr McCarthy spoke both of his pride in being a Traveller man and a role model for the community as well as the discrimination that Travellers have faced.

Irish Ambassador to Britain Martin Fraser and his wife Deirdre, herself a volunteer, were on hand to present the Award for Outstanding Young Person.

The Irish in Britain Volunteer Awards 2024 took place at the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith (Pics: Malcolm McNally Photography)

Quincy Majekadegbe, from Manchester Irish Community Care, won the award, after being nominated by Francis Duncan from Irish Community Care, who said the young man “exemplified the organisation’s values of care, culture and community”.

Mr Majekadegbe told the audience that volunteering had helped him reconnect with the Irish community again, having left Limerick at 14.

The Outstanding Volunteer Group was won by walking group The Ramblers from the Birmingham Irish Association.

The group’s Wellbeing and Activities Co-ordinator Liam Blackwood accepted the award and explained that they meet every Friday to walk and talk and keep people connected.

The Ramblers won the award for Outstanding Volunteer Group

The final award of the event was the David O’Keeffe Special Recognition Award, created in memory of the late David O’Keeffe, who was the General Manager of the Irish Cultural Centre until his sudden death in 2019.

Dr Tony Murray was announced as the winner of the Award this year, with IIB CEO Mr Dalton describing him as “a man who has spent his career promoting Irish culture, Irish writing and diaspora history in Britain.”

“As a community we are deeply grateful and privileged that we to have people like Tony bringing our history, our unique community story to new audiences – he is one of our own telling our story to the world,” he explained.

Award winner Dr Tony Murray pictured with Angela Brady and IIB CEO Brian Dalton (Pics: Malcolm McNally Photography)

Irish architect and artist Angela Brady joined Mr Dalton on stage to pay tribute to Dr Murray and present him with a unique piece of her own glassware.

Congratulating all winners at the event, Mr Dalton reminded those gathered of the importance of volunteering.

“Volunteering brings us together, bring communities together, and that is hugely important at a time when it seems there is so much division,” he said.

“That is the power of volunteering and why we are so proud to be here today to celebrate the winners and runners up in our Awards”.