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News | State Visit

President Higgins to honour ‘crucial’ work of Irish in Britain

President Michael D Higgins
President Michael D Higgins
TWO community stalwarts in Britain are to be honoured at the highest level by the Irish State later this month.

Seamus McGarry and Dr Mary Tilki will receive the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad at the end of November.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore described their contribution over the decades  to the Irish community as “immeasurable.”

“These awards recognise the tireless and crucial work of those like Seamus McGarry in the UK who have looked after Irish citizens abroad,” he added.

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“On behalf of the Irish people, I would like to express our gratitude for their hard work and commitment to Ireland over many decades.”

The Presidential Awards were established by the Government after the 2011 Global Irish Economic Forum. They were presented for the first time last year.

Recipients are honoured in the fields of peace-building, charitable work, business, education and arts culture and sport, among others.

Mr McGarry and Dr Tilki will receive their awards for community support.

“When you think of all the people who’ve done so much in this country, you wonder how your name even gets onto a list like that,” said Mr McGarry, who came to Britain in 1957 – spending the first 20 years hurling with the GAA before setting his sights on community and cultural projects.

Seamus McGarry is Director of the Irish Cultural Centre
Seamus McGarry is Director of the Irish Cultural Centre

He was involved in establishing the Federation of Irish Societies and chaired the organisation for 10 years during some of the most politically difficult times for the Irish in Britain.

Mr McGarry continues to be involved in an array of organisations including the Ireland Fund, the Safe Start Foundation, the Irish Cultural Centre, the Irish World Heritage Centre in Manchester and Irish Heritage.

“It’s been a long run,” he joked.  “But I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Dr Tilki said she would accept  her award on behalf of the Irish in Britain.

“If I have achieved anything it is because of the support, guidance and assistance of so many in the Irish community,” she said. “I’m very honoured.”

Dr Tilki's work was recently praised by British Prime Minister David Cameron
Dr Tilki’s work was recently praised by British Prime Minister David Cameron

Dr Tilki came to England from Sligo in the early 1970s where she played a pivotal role in addressing the inequalities relating to Irish people’s health in Britain.

As chairperson of Irish in Britain she continues to lobby policy makers to address the inequalities relating to health within the Irish and Traveller community as well as other disadvantaged ethnic groups.

Her recent work on Cuimhne – The Irish Memory Loss Alliance – received recognition in the form of a supporting letter from Prime Minister David Cameron.

The awards will be presented by President Higgins at the end of this month at a ceremony in Áras an Uachtaráin.

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The 2013 Presidential Distinguished Service Awards in full:

Peace, Reconciliation and Development

Senator George Mitchell

Ambassador Dan Rooney

Business and Education

Craig Barrett

John Martin

Arts, Culture and Sport

Mick Moloney

Charitable Works

Anne Merriman

Sr Cyril Mooney

Irish Community Support

Mary Tilki

Seamus McGarry

Rodney Walshe



Siobhan Breatnach

Siobhán Breatnach is the Editor-in-Chief of The Irish Post. You can follow her on Twitter @SBreatnach

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