Garda John Hennessy receiving the Limerick Person of the Month award from Áine Fitzgerald, Limerick Leader with Dave O’Hora, Philomena Hennessy and Pat Reddan Picture: Adrian Butler
A COURAGEOUS garda who earned two prestigious bravery awards having put his life on the line to help two people who were in immediate danger of death has been named the Limerick Person of the Month.
Garda John Hennessy was honoured at the National Bravery Awards ceremony at Farmleigh House in Dublin’s Phoenix Park last month for assisting in keeping a woman alive in her burning car until fire brigade personnel freed her.
The Kilmallock man, who was based in Clonmel at the time, was awarded a bronze medal and a certificate of bravery.
This is the second time that Garda Hennessy, who is now based in Tipperary town, was honoured for acts of bravery in the line of duty.
He had previously received a silver medal for risking his life by entering a burning house at Ballyclerihan outside Clonmel to save a man’s life in November 2010.
“I got a shock when I got the call,” smiled Garda Hennessy of the phone call he took this week informing him that he was the latest recipient of the Limerick Person of the Month award. “When I realised what was happening I was delighted. I would be a fierce proud Limerick man so to receive something like this on top of the bravery awards is just awesome.”
When Garda Hennessy and his colleagues arrived on the scene of the latest incident, back in July 2012, they observed the front of the car on fire and began their attempts to free the woman, who was aged in her 30s, from the vehicle.
After finding it impossible to get the unconscious woman out of the car, they took turns in the vehicle to ensure her airways stayed open.
“She was at the driver’s side and was wedged into the car so we couldn’t get her out. She was unconscious so we took turns going in and out of the car to keep her airways open while the car burned down around us and then the petrol tank exploded. There was a bit of a bang, we kept her airways open and thankfully she survived.”
“In the house fire in 2010, the ceiling was dropping down on us a bit and there was a lot of fire that time - the whole house was covered in smoke and visibility was poor. The man was helpless at the time and the lady in the car was the same - she needed help. A lot of adrenaline kicks in and you find strength from somewhere. I’m just glad we were there and we had great results from both rescues,” he added.
The married father-of-one has been in An Garda Siochana since 2005. He applied to join the force when he was just 18 but some sage advice from his father, Michael, saw him follow a different career path for a time.
“Initially, when I applied, I was 18 and just out of school but my dad took me aside - dad is always great with advice – and he said, ‘listen, what happens if you don’t like it?’. It is a job like no other so he said ‘get something behind you’. I went into the buildings then and got a trade and I joined the gardai when I was 24.”
Having some life experience, Garda Hennessy says, has very much stood to him in his policing career.
“It definitely helps in the job. The job is people orientated - you are going to meet people at their best and, more often than not, you will meet people at their worst.”
He paid tribute to his family, particularly his wife Nicola and daughter Aimee, 5, for their continuous support.
Garda Hennessy was accompanied by his mother Philomena at this week’s presentation. Nicola was supporting her husband from their home in Kilmallock where they live with their little girl.
“Nicola is just proud of me and it’s great for Aimee as well.”
Aimee has also made the headlines in the past – the little girl was so small at birth that her father’s wedding band could fit around her arm.
Aimee was born weighing a mere 1lb 3oz but is now a happy-go-lucky child enjoying her first term in big school.
“She knows the awards are for bravery and says she has got the best dad in the world. She is after taking possession of the medals. She has taken them into school. I gave her two of the ribbons that accompanied the medals - I have two on my uniform and the other two are on Aimee’s jacket so she feels part of it.”
He also paid tribute to his garda colleagues for their support.
“The station party in Tipperary town and Superintendent Patrick O’Connor - they are a great support. No matter what we do there is always going to be a bit of back up behind you - that’s ingrained in us in the guards. We stick together.”
The Limerick Person of the Month award is jointly sponsored by the Limerick Leader, media agency Southern, and the Clayton Hotel.