SHELAGH O’CONNOR made history when she became the first woman to be named as London Kerry Person of the Year.
The Kilmanihan, Brosna native was selected by the Kerry Association London in recognition of the work she does in helping young Londoners of all nationalities,who have fallen on hard times, get back on her feet.
Shelagh is a director of the New Horizon Youth Project in King’s Cross, which is close to Euston and St Pancras railway stations and a gathering zone for lost souls and new arrivals to the British capital.
Speaking at the Association’s annual dinner dance at The Crown Moran Hotel in Cricklewood, she said: “I am proud to accept this award. I would like to thank the Kerry Association for even thinking of me, considering me and selecting me.
“The Association has supported New Horizon Youth Project for the past few years and I am hoping that over the next few years we will continue to work together.”
She added: “Irish women have made an enormous impact on their communities and on families and on the GAA. There are many fantastic women here tonight that do much more than I do.
“I am proud to accept this award on behalf of all the women here, especially all the Kerry women.”
Shelagh, who was accompanied by her husband Peter Middleton from Roscommon, accepted the Denis Reidy Memorial Trophy from outgoing Kerry Person of the Year, Pat Griffin from Lispole.
She told the 240-strong audience about the work she and her staff carry out at the New Horizons Youth Project.
“I am pleased to say that now the majority of the young people we are seeing coming from Ireland are well-educated young people, they have friends and connections here and they are au-fait with groups like the Kerry Association and I am delighted to hear that,” she said.
“But the people we work with are not like that, they have not been successful. Our centre is all about picking up people who need a helping hand and I firmly believe that by offering people opportunities and showing you care about them you can move people on to independence.”
Last year the Kerry Association London gave out over £45,000 to worthy causes in London and Ireland and their annual dinner dance is one of the organisation’s biggest fundraisers.
Tributes were paid on the night to the late Patsy Byrne. Mr Byrne was a leading lights of the Kerry Association and one of its biggest supporters.