London's Mary Allen was among the exclusive few honoured at last night’s Presidential Distinguished Service Awards for the Irish Abroad.
Taking place in Dublin at a ceremony at Áras an Uachtaráin, the event acknowledged the work of exceptional people who contribute to Ireland and to Irish communities abroad.
President Higgins presented the awards and those in attendance included Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Joan Burton, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan and Minister for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan TD.
Ms Allen, a Waterford native, was honoured for playing her part in the Irish community in London for over 60 years.
She has been heavily involved with fundraising for the London Irish Centre and the Council of Irish County Associations.
Minister Flanagan said: “Mary Allen has been tenacious in making the voice of the Irish community in Britain heard in such a positive way through the years. The drive and energy you display every day through your community work is remarkable.”
Niall O’Dowd, founder of the Irish Central website, Irish America magazine and the Irish Voice newspaper was also recognised at the event.
Mr O’Dowd, who was previously awarded an honorary doctorate by University College Dublin for his work on the Northern Ireland peace process, was bestowed the accolade for his continued work in this area.
Minister Flanagan credited Mr O’Dowd for his continued support for emigration reform in the United States.
“Niall, for your constant support and never giving up on the issues that can better the lives of our people both at home and away, thank you,” he said.
Introduced two years ago by the Government, the Presidential Distinguished Service Awards acknowledges in a formal way those of Irish citizenship and descent who have made a sustained contribution to Ireland or Irish communities abroad.
Addressing the event, Minister Deenihan TD, said: “Tonight we are celebrating the diversity of the global Irish family. Among the 10 awardees, there are diverse achievements, in diverse walks of life and I am sure there are varying viewpoints. But when it comes to Ireland, we are all on one side.”
Others who were honoured at the awards ceremony included actress Fionnula Flanagan, EU civil servant Catherine Day and author Thomas Keneally.