Irish Awards for the Diaspora

Three of the first diaspora award recipients.

October / November 2012

The Irish government announced the first recipients of the Presidential Distinguished Service Awards.

Ireland has a diaspora of over 70 million around the world, many of whom maintain a close connection with the country of their ancestors. From philanthropy to activism, from education to business and the public sphere, many of the diaspora have demonstrated exceptional passion for Irish causes.

A new Irish award, the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad, aims to recognize these individuals and celebrate their great work. The inaugural recipients were announced in early September, and will be honored in a ceremony at Áras an Uachtaráin, the president’s residence in Dublin, on November 15.

Irish Americans dominate the first group of recipients. The four honorees living in the U.S. are Chuck Feeney, who has donated over 1.5 billion dollars to the Irish university system (he recently also received the first-ever honorary degree to be awarded by the Irish universities as a group); Don Keough, the former president and COO of Coca-Cola, who brought the company to Ireland and has spearheaded many programs there; Loretta Brennan Glucksman, chair of the American Ireland Fund; and Sr. Lena Deevy, community educator and executive director of Boston’s Irish Immigration Center.

Awardees from around the world include business mogul and Irish community leader Pat Kelly of Ottawa; Pierre Joannan, Ireland’s Honorary Consul General in France and a great promoter of Franco-Irish connections; Fr. Michael Kelly, for his research and work with HIV and AIDS in Zambia; Irish Council of State member and activist Sally Mulready and businessman Andy Rogers of England, each of whom have established a number of networks and initiatives for the Irish in Great Britain and beyond; and the late Jim Stynes, one of Australia’s best football players and a great philanthropist.

In a statement, President Michael D. Higgins said “Each of the awardees has distinguished themselves by the long-standing service they have given to Ireland and to the Irish community abroad.” The awards are to be given annually. Nominees must reside outside the island of Ireland and have rendered distinguished service to the nation and/or its reputation abroad.

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