7 December 2015
By Tom O’Sullivan
Yes Equality and Óglaigh na hÉireann for the work of the Irish Naval Service are both honoured at the 2015 People of the Year Awards
Ballincollig native, Deirdre Duffy was part of the Yes Equality team that were honoured with the Community Group of the Year Award at the 41st People of the Year Awards on Saturday evening last. The Awards were organised by Rehab and broadcast live on RTÉ One from the studios at RTÉ television, Dublin. All the winners were joined on the night by their family and friends.
The Community Group of the Year Award was bestowed to Yes Equality for their inspirational campaign which contributed enormously to a global advance in recognition of the rights of gay and lesbian couples. David Norris presented the group with their award on the night. On 22nd May 2015, Ireland voted in the marriage equality referendum, with mass turnout and a yes majority of 62% carrying in all but one constituency. The result sparked incredible scenes across the country with Dublin Castle being a focal point of exhilaration. The journey to this point started many years ago following the Norris v. Ireland European Court of Human Rights judgement in 1988 was now over. Ireland became the first country in the world to legalise same sex marriage by popular vote and it was signed into the Constitution by the President Michael D Higgins on 29th August 2015.
Óglaigh na hÉireann are recognised with a People of the Year Award for the work of the Irish Naval Service. They displayed immense courage and resilience in saving thousands of lives in their humanitarian mission in the Mediterranean. In the Mediterranean, thousands of people attempt to make the crossing every day to a new life, driven by the turmoil of their home places, unfortunately, not everyone makes it. Supported by their colleagues throughout Óglaigh na hÉireann to deliver their mission, the crews of the Irish Naval Service’s LÉ Eithne, LÉ Niamh and LÉ Samuel Beckett have shone a light of inspiration during the ongoing tragedy. In May, the LÉ Eithne and her 69 crew set off on an eight week voyage in the Mediterranean where almost every day there were reports of scores of refugees who lost their lives. On this voyage alone they saved 3,376 migrants. The LÉ Niamh undertook a three month mission in July, based off the coast of North Africa, rescuing more than 4,100 people. Then in October the LÉ Samuel Beckett went to sea in an operation that will last until early December. One of the four that received the honour was Able/Comm Op Shuana Ferro from Cork city.
Mo Flynn, CEO Rehab Group, and Chairperson of the Adjudication Panel, said: “We are delighted to organise the People of the Year Awards for the 41st year, and are honoured to share the stories of this year’s winners with the nation. These awards give us the opportunity to acknowledge unsung heroes from communities across the country and from abroad, whose stories and achievements inspire everyone around them. With nominations for each winner coming from the people of Ireland, these truly are the ‘People’s Awards’ and reflect all that is good about our society. We congratulate tonight’s winners, and all of the previous winners from the past four decades on their achievements and successes.’’