A LONDON-Irish woman has been honoured by the President of Ireland for her community work in Britain.
Waterford’s Mary Allen has been named on a list that includes a host of well-known faces from the worlds of the arts and business.
As the only Biritsh-based recipient this year, Ms Allen is one of 10 people who will be honoured in October with the Presidential Distinguished Service Award.
Actress Fionnula Flanagan, top EU civil servant Catherine Day, author Thomas Kenneally as well as Irish-American activist and publisher Niall O’Dowd will also receive the accolade, which was established by the Irish Government after the 2011 Global Irish Economic Forum.
The award serves to recognise the contribution of the Irish abroad to Ireland and its international reputation.
Ms Allen’s award recognises the 60 years she has spent supporting the Irish community in London.
She has been a successful fundraiser primarily for the London Irish Centre’s welfare department.
“I’m thrilled to bits. I just couldn’t believe it,” the 84-year-old told The Irish Post today as news of her award was revealed.
Since arriving in London in 1948, Ms. Allen has also supported the community through her work as a member of both the Waterford Association and the Council of Irish Counties Association, of which she is President.
“You just do it,” she said of her tireless fundraising efforts that have raised thousands of pounds over the years to help vulnerable people. “You don’t even think about it and you don’t think you’ll get a reward for it. I’ve really enjoyed being involved.”
Ms. Allen has also helped celebrate Irish culture through the London Irish Festival of which she was lead festival co-ordinator in its final five years.
Announcing this year's award-winners, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan described the recipients as a “shining example to us all”.
He said: “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to these remarkable people for what they individually contributed to Ireland, to the Irish abroad and our international reputation.”
This year sees the Presidential Awards honouring individuals in UAE, Korea and Russia for the first time.
Jimmy Deenihan, the newly appointed Minister for Diaspora Affairs, said: “These 10 people show the remarkable diversity of Ireland’s reach in the world.
"Taken together, this group show diverse talents: cultural awareness, business acumen, humanity, far sightedness and, in different ways, a concern to make the world a better place.”
Presidential Distinguished Service Award recipients 2014
Arts, Culture and Sport
Fionnula Flanagan (US)
Fionnula Flanagan has celebrated almost 50 years of stage, film and television work. She is considered one of the world’s foremost interpreters of Joyce. Since moving to LA in the 1970's she has mentored and supported many Irish looking to succeed in the entertainment business in the US, where she is a host of LA’s annual Irish Film Festival.
Thomas Kenneally (Australia)
Thomas (Tom) Keneally is an Irish-Australian novelist, playwright, author and commentator who has published more than 30 novels, dramas, screenplays and books of non-fiction. He has won numerous prizes including the Booker Prize for ‘Schindler's Ark’. Born in Sydney in 1935, Keneally’s grandparents came from Newmarket in Co. Cork.
Fr. PJ McGlinchey (Korea)
Since arriving in Jeju, Korea in 1954 Fr. Mc Glinchey, a priest with the Missionary Society of St. Columban, has helped change the lives of those living in the province. He has helped found St Isidore farm where his model of profitable farming encouragedthe use of underused land and new farming methods. Among his other project was the setting up of Isidore Nursing home, hospice, kindergarten and a youth centre, which helps over 18,000 young people from all over Korea.
Business and Education
Jim Flaherty (deceased,Canada)
The late Jim Flaherty, Canada's federal Minister of Finance from 2006 to 2014, supported many Irish related projects in Canada including, the establishment of Ireland Park, the restoration of O’Connor House in Toronto, funding for the Darcy McGee centre in Carlingford Co. Louth, Federal funding for ICUF, the restoration of the famine graveyard on Partridge Island and the Irish Festival in Miramichi.
Catherine Day (EC)
In her role as European Commission Secretary General, Catherine Day has influenced the EU landscape through her championing of the enlargement of the EU to 28 Member States and her central role in shaping a coordinated response to the recent economic and financial crisis.
Colm McLoughlin (UAE)
Colm McLoughlin is the Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, an airport retailer with a turnover of US$1.6 billion in 2012. Owned by the Government of Dubai, Dubai Duty Free manages all aspects of the retail operation at Dubai International Airport. McLoughlin is also Chairman of the Dubai Duty Free Foundation, a non-profit charity founded in 2004 which is under the auspices of H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman of Dubai Duty Free.
Irish Community Support
Mary Allen (Britain)
Ms Allen has been active in the Irish community in London for over 60 years and has been a particularly successful fundraiser primarily for the London Irish Centre and the Council of Irish County Associations, of which she is now President. Throughout the London Irish Centre's (LIC) 60 years, she has been involved in fundraising for the Centre’s welfare work, as a member of the organisation's Administrative Committee', and more recently resigned as a Trustee after 14 years.
Avril Conroy (Russia)
In 2013 Avril Conroy became director of regional sales at Rosneft, Russia's biggest oil company Ms. Conroy moved to Russia in the early Nineties, joining BP in 1998. She helped establish BP's network of filling stations across Russia. She chairs the Irish Club in Moscow and plays a central role in the celebrations of St. Patrick's week every March, including organising the annual St. Patrick’s Day Ball (with all proceeds going to charities in Russia), and the St. Patrick's Day parade in Moscow city centre, the only such event of its kind permitted there.
Peace, Reconciliation and Development
Niall O’Dowd (US)
Niall O’Dowd is the founder of Irish Central website as well as of Irish America Magazine and the Irish Voice Newspaper. He is also responsible for publishing IrishCentral.com community news and The Irish Emigrant newspaper in Boston. Mr. O’Dowd was a founder of the Irish Americans for Clinton campaign in 1991, supporting candidate Bill Clinton for president. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by University College Dublin for his work on the Northern Ireland peace process.
Kevin Cahill (US)
Kevin Cahill is a medical doctor with a decades-long record of service to the Irish community in New York. He is President-General Emeritus of the American-Irish Historical Society and has been active on its behalf for more than 40 years. As a distinguished doctor of medicine, Dr. Kevin Cahill has not only treated patients including Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan, but has offered his vast expertise to a number of national and international organisations including the United Nations and the New York Police Department. Cahill began his medical career in 1961, studying tropical disease in the slums of Calcutta beside Mother Theresa.