Ten people around the world, both Irish emigrants and descendants, have received the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for 2014 at at a ceremony at Áras an Uachtaráin. Actress Fionnula Flanagan, Irish-American activist and publisher Niall O’Dowd, author Thomas Kenneally and top EU civil servant Catherine Day are among the recipients who were presented with the award at this year's awards ceremony.
The Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad honours the work of exceptional people who contribute to Ireland and to Irish communities abroad. President Higgins this evening presented awards to awardees for 2014 at a ceremony which was attended by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste, Joan Burton, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, and Minister for the Diaspora, Jimmy Deenihan TD.
President Michael D. Higgins presented the awards to the recipients and in his speech at the ceremony discussed the impact of migration on the Irish saying it was 'deeply ingrained in the Irish psyche' and and 'inescapable part of the Irish identity – one that informs our outlook of the world and our sensitivity to the fate of others.'
He asked "What would have happened to the Irish people, had they been denied the possibility to emigrate to the New World in order to escape starvation at home in the mid-19th century?" and noted that "Today its diaspora is one of Ireland’s strengths.”
He continued "at the heart of our relationship with our diaspora lies a sense of inclusivity – of the coming together of Irish people, wherever they may be in the world, in a spirit of support and solidarity. It also builds a bridge of mutuality and kinship between those who have gone and their fellow Irish in their homeland of origin, and it celebrates what we can and must do together."
He went on to acknowledge the reason that each of the recipients have been honoured with the prestigious award and expressed his deep appreciation for the service that each of them have given to Ireland and the Irish people.
Speaking at the event, he new minister for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan also acknowledged the recipients saying “Tonight we are celebrating the diversity of the global Irish family. Among the ten 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. The recipients want the best for Ireland – for this small country with its global nation. And Ireland wants the best for each and every one of both the recipients and all our Diaspora.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan added: “Tonight we shine a light on ten men and women whose passionate and selfless work has been of great benefit to the Irish people, communities and our nation as a whole. These people never look for our acknowledgement but tonight we recognise their endeavours which have been of tremendous service to our nation and helped build our reputation around the globe."
The recipients of 2014 Presidential Distinguished Service Awards, which are organised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, are:
Arts, Culture and Sport
Fionnula Flanagan (US)
Thomas Keneally (Australia)
Fr. PJ McGlinchey (Korea)
Business and Education
Jim Flaherty (deceased,Canada)
Catherine Day (EC)
Colm McLoughlin (UAE)
Irish Community Support
Mary Allen (Britain)
Avril Conroy (Russia)
Peace, Reconciliation and Development
Niall O’Dowd (US)
Kevin Cahill (US)