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PSNI officer who beat locked-in syndrome is crowned Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year

Inspirational policewoman and artist whose family was hit by farm slurry tragedy among those celebrated in night of glitz and glamour

by Cate McCurry

Published 17/06/2016

Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Clodagh Dunlop (second right) with Chris Nelmes (left) of sponsors The Outlet, Belfast Telegraph Editor Gail Walker and Clodagh’s husband Adrian
Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Clodagh Dunlop (second right) with Chris Nelmes (left) of sponsors The Outlet, Belfast Telegraph Editor Gail Walker and Clodagh’s husband Adrian
Shauna McCarney-Blair (left) receives the Businesswoman of the Year trophy from Grainne Hughes of sponsors Almac
Joint winner of the Inspirational Woman of the Year award Emma Spence (right) with the Belfast Telegraph’s Sarah Little
Woman of the Year in Hair, Beauty and Fashion Sara O’Neill with Adrian McNally of sponsors the Culloden Hotel

A police officer who confounded doctors with her remarkable recovery after being left with locked-in syndrome has been crowned our woman of the year for 2016.

The Belfast Telegraph Women of the Year Awards, in association with The Outlet Village, Banbridge, were held at the five-star Culloden Hotel in Holywood last night.

At our annual celebration of women from all spheres of life here, 36-year-old Clodagh Dunlop scooped the top prize as well as being named joint winner of the Inspirational Woman of the Year gong.

Our judging panel was impressed by Clodagh's determination after she became a prisoner in her own body and could only communicate through blinking after suffering a massive stroke last April.

Miraculously, Clodagh has learned to walk and talk again and credits her devoted partner Adrian's love and support for giving her the strength to come back from the brink.

Last night, she displayed that unimaginable recovery by walking onto the stage at the glittering ceremony.

She shared the Inspirational Women of the Year accolade with Emma Spence at the gala event, which celebrates women from all walks of life.

Emma faced tragedy when her family was engulfed by one of Northern Ireland's worst ever farming accidents.

Her father, Noel, and brothers Graham and Nevin, a gifted Ulster Rugby player, died after they tried to rescue their pet dog and subsequently each other from a slurry tank on their farm near Hillsborough in September 2012.

Emma almost died after she battled to save them and had to be rushed to hospital when she too was overcome by the poisonous fumes.

The talented artist turned to her paints and earlier this year she launched an exhibition of 31 oils on canvas, entitled Their Fields, a powerful evocations of their family farm.

The evening kicked-off on a high note with Belfast YouTube sensation Holly McCoubrey (17) singing a number of songs from her charity CD.

Other winners of the night included Jennifer Small, who was crowned Woman of the Year in Education.

Killinchy Primary School's Ms Small was described as a special teacher whose impact on a child "lasts a lifetime".

Event host and broadcaster Wendy Austin, told the crowd: "With 30 boys and girls in her class, Jennifer has a gruelling schedule but doesn't let that stop her from making every child in her room feel special and ensuring their all-important formative years are memorable."

Mum of the Year went to Co Londonderry woman Christina Glenn, who suffered every parent's worst nightmare when she lost her daughter, Sorcha, to cervical cancer in 2014.

Sorcha was refused a smear test by doctors who advised her that routine testing was not available to women under 25. Sorcha and her mother knew that an earlier diagnosis could have made a huge difference to her battle with the disease, so they campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of cervical cancer among young people.

Christina has continued to work for the Team Sorcha campaign since her daughter's death and has raised more than £25,000 in her memory.

The judging panel was made up of Belfast Telegraph editor Gail Walker, commercial director Sarah Little, Dame Mary Peters and actress Bronagh Waugh from BBC's The Fall. Each winner received a trophy from Belleek Living as well as a piece of jewellery from the firm.

Chris Nelmes, centre manager at The Outlet said: "This year marked the fourth year of The Outlet Banbridge as the title sponsor of the Belfast Telegraph Women of the Year Awards.

"The event is the perfect partnership for The Outlet Banbridge as it celebrates impressive women from across Northern Ireland."

The full list of our award winners

Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year in Education

Sponsored by Belleek Living

Winner: Jennifer Small

Woman of the Year in the Voluntary Sector

Sponsored by Recruit NI

Winner: Valerie Duff

Sportswoman of the Year

Sponsored by Active Financial Life

Winner: Lynne Hanna

Woman of the Year in Health

Sponsored by You Slim

Winner: Liz Atkinson

Mum of the Year

Sponsored by Harvey Norman

Winner: Christina Glenn

Inspirational Woman of the Year

Sponsored by Northern Woman

Joint winners: Emma Spence and Clodagh Dunlop

Businesswoman of the Year

Sponsored by Almac

Winner: Shauna McCarney-Blair

Woman of the Year in Hair, Beauty and Fashion

Sponsored by the Culloden Hotel

Winner: Sara O'Neill

Woman of the Year in the Arts

Sponsored by Allianz

Winner: Shannon Yee

Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year

In association with The Outlet

Winner: Clodagh Dunlop

Belfast Telegraph

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