Belfast Telegraph

Mary is the Pride of Belfast

by Chris McCann

North Belfast community worker Mary Kelly has been named the UK’s top next door neighbour.

Mary, 63, landed the ‘Neighbour of the Year’ accolade at the Daily Mirror Pride Of Britain Awards on Monday night in London.

She received her award from Jonathan Ross at the ceremony which recognises ‘unsung heroes’ throughout Britain.

The night was hosted by Carol Vorderman, with an extensive guest list including Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall, Cheryl Cole, Simon Cowell, Bruce Forsyth, Christine Bleakley and Lord Sugar. It will be broadcast nationwide on ITV1 tonight (Wednesday, November 10).

Last week Mary told the Community Telegraph ahead of the awards bash that she “wasn’t expecting” to be even shortlisted.

“If I did win, I’d like to think I was representing all those people who worked alongside me,” she said.

Mary has worked tirelessly in the Skegoneill/Glandore area for 30 years, despite attacks on her home during the past year — including two blast bomb attacks.

News of her victory has gone down well in north Belfast, where political leaders heaped praise on her efforts for the community.

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said: “I am delighted for Mary that she has won this award. I visited her last week to congratulate her on being nominated and I know how much she was looking forward to the trip and this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“She is a very worthy recipient as someone who has worked diligently and faithfully in community and youth work over many years to improve inter-community relations in the Skegoneill and Glandore area. Now we can say she’s the ‘pride of Britain’ as well as the pride of North Belfast!

“Sadly Mary has suffered from intimidation herself, with three attacks upon her home during the past year. She has bravely stood up to these disgraceful and cowardly attacks and in her own determined way has overcome them.

“Through all this Mary has sought no recognition or reward for her determined and caring work, and I am delighted that through this award she has now received some recognition for her good work. She is a credit to her family and to her community and on behalf of everyone I want to say ‘Well done, Mary and very well deserved’. I will enjoy seeing Mary receive her award in the Pride of Britain showing on Wednesday evening and I look forward to congratulating her personally upon her return.”

SDLP councillor Nichola Mallon said: “Mary Kelly continues to do outstanding community work in north Belfast. Time and time again, Mary has had the courage and strength to put her head above the parapet and show true leadership even against a backdrop of attacks on her home.

“I am delighted that her commitment to peace and reconciliation, particularly among young people in north Belfast, has been recognised through this award and I wish to extend my heartfelt congratulations to her.”

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