Ordinary women who have achieved the extraordinary were honoured during a night of celebration at the 2011 Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards.
Women from every walk of life who have used their talents and time mostly to enhance life for others had the spotlight deservedly turned on them at a glitzy black tie dinner and awards ceremony in the Ramada Hotel sponsored by Dixons of Coleraine.
There were tears and laughter in equal measures in what was an evening of high emotion as our genuinely humble achievers took to the stage to accept their awards.
Once again our judges faced a tough task in narrowing down the many entries which poured in from an admiring public.
In every category our runners up and winners were worthy award recipients and in every case our audience heard individual stories of great selflessness and achievement.
Our overall winner of the 2011 Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Award, Nuala Kerr, stepped onto the stage to massive applause and a standing ovation and immediately dedicated her award to her son Ronan by simply saying: “I’m very honoured — for Ronan’s sake.”
Nuala was also pleased to take the Mum of the Year Award — again for Ronan with whom she had enjoyed a special bond.
A devastated Nuala displayed great courage and strength when she challenged the terrorists after they killed her 25-year-old son in a booby trap car bomb simply because he was a Catholic who had chosen a career as a policeman.
With the pain of her loss visibly etched on her face, Nuala bravely faced the world’s media the day after her son was killed to plead for his death not to have been in vain.
Mrs Kerr was one of nine women honoured by the Belfast Telegraph in our annual awards which has become one of the major social events of its kind in Northern Ireland.
Barbara Hill, Janet Barr and their mother Joan Dixon, representing the event sponsor fashion retail Dixons of Coleraine, paid a special tribute to our 2011 winner.
Barbara said: “Any right thinking person in Northern Ireland will have been touched by Nuala’s bravery after the murder of her son, especially given what she said about young Catholic men and women not being deterred from joining the PSNI.”
A superb evening hosted by the BBC’s Wendy Austin saw over 300 nominees and their guests enjoy a five-course meal followed by entertainment from mentalist David Meade, a performance by the Festival Band and a fashion show by Menarys.
Belfast Telegraph editor Mike Gibson said: “These awards are about the women of Northern Ireland and they just keep getting better.
“What’s memorable is celebrating the contribution these remarkable women make to Northern Ireland society.”
Another especially moving moment was when Patricia Cardy accepted her award for Inspirational Woman of the Year.
Earlier that day Patricia had sat in court for the sentencing of serial child killer Robert Black who murdered her nine-year-old daughter Jennifer.
Having seen him sentenced to life in prison, she said attending our awards ceremony proved to be an uplifting experience and a happy and fitting way to end a tough day for the family.