Local heroes: the nominees for Limerick Person of the Year award

Aine Fitzgerald


Aine Fitzgerald

Celia Holman Lee with her aunt, Teresa Hayes, who will be one of the special guests when she is given a Lifetime Achievement award. Picture: Kieran Clancy
THE winner of the 2013 Limerick Person of the Year award will be revealed this afternoon.

THE winner of the 2013 Limerick Person of the Year award will be revealed this afternoon.

There are 12 outstanding candidates for the prestigious award, which will be announced at a gala awards lunch in the Clarion Hotel where fashion icon Celia Holman Lee will also be honoured with a lifetime achievement award.

The 63-year-old model agent, who stepped into the fashion world at the tender age of 15, says she is “beyond humbled” to be honoured by her native Limerick.

Now in its 13th year, the Limerick Person of the Year Awards was set up to honour the achievements and success of local people.

The awards are proudly sponsored by the Limerick Leader, Southern Marketing Design & Media and the Clarion Hotel. Stay with the Limerick Leader online for details later today.

The nominees for 2013 Limerick Person of the Year award are:

January: Fergal Deegan, local charity fundraiser

Fergal Deegan has been a champion volunteer in Limerick city and county for over three decades, raising thousands of euro for numerous good causes.

His infectious enthusiasm and bubbly personality has resulted in people across the city and county digging deep into their pockets on many occasions. He has raised funds for worthy causes including Cliona’s Foundation, and is involved in Limerick’s Live 95FM annual fundraising endeavour for the Children’s Ark Unit and Cari. Despite his hectic schedule he still finds time to make the journey to Lourdes each year. He has been going there for the past 33 years as a volunteer and in recent years has cycled there while raising funds.

February: John Keyes, local community leader and coach

Community outreach worker John Keyes has given people in Limerick’s most disadvantaged areas a new sense of identity.

Upon his arrival in the city from Arsenal FC, John worked tirelessly with Limerick FC, assisting the most vulnerable and marginalised in the city. His work though social inclusion projects is centred on the development of individuals in disadvantaged areas, through sport. Much of John’s work has been done through Project Reclaim whereby young people are encouraged to get involved in small, practical things to improve their communities “the long-term goal being to empower the children”.

March: Representatives on Irish women’s rugby team

A group of Limerick rugby stars’ heroic exploits on the field of play guided the Irish women’s team to Grand Slam glory in 2013.

The team secured their first ever Six Nations Grand Slam victory in some style in March, edging out Italy 6-3 in a tense final match in Milan.

With eight of the panel either hailing from Limerick or living and studying in the city or county, the win on St Patrick’s Day sparked great celebrations locally and has inspired a new generation to take up the oval ball game.

“It was the most incredible feeling ever,” commented star player Niamh Briggs of the win.

April: Tony Brazil, Mid-West region tourism ambassador

Over the last 40 years, Tony Brazil has been instrumental in promoting the Shannon region across the world.

Having gained extensive knowledge of all aspects of the travel and tourism industry through his role as owner of Limerick Travel since 1971, Tony has used this invaluable expertise to market Limerick city and county as a must-see tourist destination.

Over the past four decades, Tony has served on many tourism boards. He spent 14 years as director of Bord Failte, and also of Aer Rianta during which time Aer Rianta International at Shannon Airport was founded. Tony employs 28 people at Limerick Travel on Bedford Row.

May: Jessie Griffin, fundraiser for cancer care

County Limerick woman Jessie Griffin, pictured below left, has helped countless individuals suffering with serious illness after raising over €70,000 for cancer services.

Jessie, from the Old Mill, Bruree, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. On the day she finished her treatment, she returned home to find that her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Alice was 81 at the time and was living with Jessie. That day she returned from hospital, Jessie swore that if she and her mother were alive in a year, they would do something to raise funds for cancer care. Thankfully, they both survived the disease and organised a range of dances and events around the county.

July: Limerick senior hurlers, Munster champions

In honour of the unforgettable summer of hurling they served up in 2013, which culminated in their Munster final victory, the Limerick senior hurling team and management were named the Limerick Persons of the Month for July.

Under blue skies and in searing heat, the hurlers ended a 17-year famine on July 14 by beating Cork at home in the Gaelic Grounds to take the Munster crown. The final whistle sparked scenes of wild euphoria as thousands of Limerick supporters swarmed onto the pitch to congratulate their local heroes. “Obviously, winning the Munster final in the Gaelic Grounds with the pitch invasion has to be the highlight of the year,” team captain Donal O’Grady remarked.

June: Conor Murray, star of the triumphant Lions team

Munster and Ireland rugby young gun Conor Murray was named the Limerick Person of the Month for his outstanding displays on the victorious Lions tour of Australia.

Conor was one of just two Munster players – the other being Paul O’Connell - named in Warren Gatland’s Lions squad for last summer’s tour to Australia. The Patrickswell man described his meteoric rise from playing in a provincial Senior Cup final less than two and a half years previous to being named in the Lions squad, as ‘crazy’.

The scrum-half, who played in seven of the Lions games with two crucial tries to his name, expressed his delight on receiving the person of the month award.

August: Joan MacKernan, former county arts officer

Joan MacKernan was honoured for her outstanding contribution to the arts in Limerick during her tenure as county Limerick arts officer.

From the very first day, 20 years ago, when she walked through the doorway of the old county council building opposite the Belltable on O’Connell Street, Joan brought to the job a passion for creativity and individual expression, be it through the spoken or written word, music or drama.

With her characteristic modesty, she plays down the role she had in the development of the office - the only immodest thing she will say is: “I always surround myself with talented people. I am a facilitator that makes things happen”.

September: Donal Ryan, award-winning author

Author Donal Ryan, whose debut novel, The Spinning Heart, saw him longlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize, was named the Limerick Person of the Month for September.

The 37-year-old, who lives in Castletroy, was among just three Irish authors in the running for the €100,000 International Impac Dublin Literary Award, having been nominated for The Spinning Heart which has been lauded by critics. The book won the Bord Gais Energy Book of the Year 2012. The author also won the 2013 Guardian First Book Award for The Spinning Heart. Donal’s latest novel, The Thing About December, was shortlisted for novel of the year in the 2013 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards.

November: Shellie Murtagh, dedicated fundraiser

Inspirational teacher Shellie Murtagh, whose dream in life was to help children with special abilities to realise their potential, was posthumously honoured with the person of the month award.

During her short life, Shellie – from Clareview – was devoted to advancing services for children with special abilities. Through her charity, The Shellie Project, Shellie combined horse therapy with the techniques and methods she learned during her primary teacher training. Sadly, Shellie passed away last November after being diagnosed with a brain tumour. Her parents Eamon and Dorothy and brother Sean, pictured, are continuing her good work.

October: Martin Kiely, Walk of Life event organiser

Martin Kiely, who rallied communities across the county to take part in the Walk of Life campaign which raised almost €80,000 for Milford Hospice, was named the Limerick Person of the Month for October.

The GAA commentator and Leader columnist came up with the brainwave to organise fundraising walks in communities across Limerick as he was driving home from a training session. The Walk of Life campaign saw hundreds of people don their walking boots and wet gear on Saturday, October 19, at five different locations around Limerick including Newcastle West, Curragh Chase, Kilfinane, Glenstal Abbey, UL along with Sixmilebridge.

December: The Collison brothers, entrepreneurs

Brothers Patrick and John Collison from Castletroy were honoured for the extraordinary success they have achieved with their company Stripe - an online payments company which is valued at around $1.75 billion.

The Limerick brothers - both past pupils of Castletroy College - employ more than 80 people at their base in San Francisco.

Deputy principal of Castletroy College, Joan McGarry, described the brothers as “absolute role models” for students because, she said “they have proven that by hard work, imagination and a total passion for the area they have chosen, that you can make good.”