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X Factor's Louis Walsh joins Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards judging panel

The pop music mogul is thrilled to join our judges after his surprise X Factor exit


Published 22/04/2015

Louis Walsh says he can't can't wait to meet the Spirit of Northern Ireland finalists
Louis Walsh says he can't can't wait to meet the Spirit of Northern Ireland finalists

X Factor's Louis Walsh has a new judging role as he has joined the search for Northern Ireland's unsung heroes.

Just days after announcing he was quitting The X Factor, the 62-year-old music mogul will sit on this year's judging panel for the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers and will be attending the gala final at the Culloden Estate & Spa in June.

We want your nominations for who you think is worthy of a Spirit of Northern Ireland Award, by selflessly serving others and being an inspiration to us all.

The finalists will be honoured at a star studded event on Friday June 12 at the five-star Culloden hotel in Holywood, which will again be broadcast on UTV. The unique Northern Ireland-wide search will give recognition to those whose good deeds have previously gone mostly unnoticed.

Louis Walsh said last night: "I am delighted to be on the panel of the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers. I encourage people to nominate anyone who goes the extra mile or does extraordinary things that makes a difference to others.

"I'm excited to see this year's nominations and look forward to meeting the finalists on June 12."

Joining him on the Spirit of Northern Ireland judging panel will be UTV presenter Sarah Clarke, Sunday Life editor Martin Breen and Specsavers store director Tony McGinn.

Hosting the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers this year will be UTV/U105's Frank Mitchell and Pamela Ballantine, and just like previous years the audience will be filled with many local celebrities supporting the event and eager to hear the incredible stories behind the finalists.

Soap and drama fans had their pick of household names at last year's event from the likes of Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Holby City, Game of Thrones and The Fall.

Mingling with the crowd were Corrie favourite 'Big' Jim McDonald, actor Charlie Lawson, Emmerdale stars Dominic Brunt, who plays Paddy Kirk, Bashkar Patel aka Rishi Sharma and Michelle Hardwick who plays vet Vanessa Woodfield.

The world of sport was also represented with boxers Carl Frampton and Paddy Barnes and rugby stars Rory Best and Craig Gilroy, The Fall actresses Bronagh Waugh and Niamh McGrady and singers Andrea Begley and Jordan O'Keefe.

This year's event will again be a memorable night as we pay tribute to ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things to help others.

Whether for demonstrating a spirit of compassion, neighbourliness, charity, enterprise, courage or devotion, all nominations are welcome.

Knockout show: Paddy Barnes, John Linehan and Carl Frampton at last year's Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards at the Culloden Hotel.
Knockout show: Paddy Barnes, John Linehan and Carl Frampton at last year's Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards at the Culloden Hotel.

All those who submit nominations will automatically be entered into a prize draw to win a £150 eyecare voucher and a VIP experience at the awards, including an overnight stay at the Culloden, courtesy of Specsavers.

Specsavers Northern Ireland Chairman Brian O'Kane said: "I know I speak for all of the Specsavers staff across the province that each year we are humbled and inspired by the stories that are received and I have no doubt that this year will be no different.

"These awards celebrate all that is good about Northern Ireland and give us the opportunity to champion these incredible people, so urge people to tell us about the unsung heroes in their local communities who deserve recognition."

Sunday Life editor Martin Breen added: "We want people to nominate those people who have made a difference to their lives or a difference to the lives of their local community. We will be celebrating all that is good about Northern Ireland, so we need people to tell us about their unsung heroes who deserve recognition."

Northern Ireland's fastest growing care recruitment and domiciliary agency, Peninsula Care Services, is supporting the awards this year by giving the overall winner a cash prize of £1,000.

Jonny Cook, managing director, said: "We are honoured to be able to support The Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards again. These awards encapsulate everything that our company ethos stands for. People who make a difference in the local community need to be recognised."


The name of this award says it all - someone whose great deed or deeds have hitherto gone unnoticed.

Last year's winner was Omagh man Brian McDonagh who has become a leading volunteer for Guide Dogs for the Blind, giving talks on guide dogs and encouraging others who are coming to terms with sight loss.


This award recognises those who have overcome huge personal challenges, whether it is dealing with illness or disability or overcoming problems.

One person who did just this was last year's winner, Séanín Smith, a beautiful and bubbly 22-year-old, who was enjoying university life when her world was shattered by the diagnosis of an array of rare genetic illnesses.

In the past two years, the young woman from Belleeks in Co Armagh has had to put up a brave fight for survival, having been hospitalised 12 times and has had to learn to walk again four times.


This award honours young people (under the age of 18) for special achievements.

This honour was awarded last year to a little girl who faced major surgery to rebuild her face when she was just six weeks old. Garvagh tot Rose Doherty's mum Orla was told her daughter would be deaf and blind within six months and dead within the year if the highly risky procedure was not carried out.


This is awarded by the judges to the person who they feels best represents the Spirit of Northern Ireland by selflessly serving others and being an inspiration to us all.

Last year's winner was Carol Doey, whose selfless acts have enriched the lives of countless people and who has been described as 'Cookstown's Mother Teresa'. Her biggest accomplishment was the opening of The Hub - a shared community space with the motto 'Our place, Your space'.

- There are four awards in total: the Specsavers Overcoming Adversity Award, the Sunday Life Unsung Hero Award, the U105 Young Persons Award and the overall Spirit of Northern Ireland Award.

- Five finalists from each of the three categories will feature in Sunday Life as well as on UTV and on U105.8FM radio station. One of the finalists, chosen by a judging panel from Sunday Life, Specsavers and UTV/U105.8FM, will also be named as the Spirit of Northern Ireland winner of 2015.

- You can nominate an unsung hero via the form on this page or email us at Closing date for nominations is Friday May 1.

Click here to download the nomination form

- The Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards grand final will be at held at the Culloden Estate and Spa on Friday, June 12. All the finalists will be invited to the glittering awards ceremony, which will include entertainment, celebrity guests and will be shown on UTV.

- Tickets for the gala awards ceremony cost £60 plus VAT, which includes dinner, table wine and the top class entertainment, can be purchased from JPR, Sylvan House, 232-240, Belmont Office Park, Belfast, BT4 2AW; by phone at 028 9076 0066 or e-mailing:

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