Belfast Telegraph

Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards 2018: We’re looking for your nominations

It’s again time to give our unsung heroes the recognition they deserve as we launch this year’s Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards.

We want your nominations for who you think is worthy of an award in 2018, by selflessly serving others and being an inspiration to us all.

There are 10 categories in this year’s Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers, including awards for Charity Champion, 999 Hero, Spirit of Health, Spirit of Education, Spirit of Youth and Spirit of Sport.

To nominate your unsung hero you can:

Closing date for nominations is Friday, March 16.


The finalists will be honoured at a gala ceremony on Friday, April 20, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Belfast, 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.

The audience will be filled with many local celebrities supporting the event and eager to hear the incredible stories behind the finalists.

Well-known personalities who have supported the awards include, This Morning presenter Eamonn Holmes, Keith Duffy and Brian McFadden of Boyzlife; X Factor judge Louis Walsh; Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and Nathan Connolly; Girls Aloud singer Nadine Coyle; boxers Carl Frampton and Ryan Burnett; racing legend AP McCoy; actors from Coronation Street, The Fall, Emmerdale and Game of Thrones, as well as Northern Ireland football manager Michael O’Neill and his players.

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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th June 2017 - Niamh McGrady and Eamonn Holmes pictured at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers at the Culloden Hotel. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Entertainment on the night of this year’s awards will be provided by hitmaker Shane Filan, who was a member of Westlife and has now carved out his own successful solo career.

He said: “I’m delighted to be performing on the night at such a special event. I’ve often watched the Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards on UTV and it’s an honour to be asked to perform with my band to close the ceremony. I look forward to what promises to be an inspiring night on April 20.”

Sitting on the judging panel again this year will be Eamonn Holmes, who was himself recognised recently for his 38 years of work in broadcasting, when he was awarded an OBE.

Let us know about anyone who should be recognised, blow the trumpet for them. If they have done something that deserves that sort of acknowledgement then show us and raise our expectation of what the Spirit of Northern Ireland really is. Eamonn Holmes

He said: “These awards restore your faith in human nature and that’s wonderful. What blew me away was how many of these people don’t care about money or status, it’s about other people."

Last year’s winners included Coleraine’s Willie Gregg, who has dedicated his life to helping people in need. Willie is well-known across Northern Ireland for his incredible charity work, which has included setting up his charity, Willie’s Orphan Fund, in the wake of the tsunami in Thailand in 2004. He has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for countless charities.

The previous year those recognised included Buncrana pier hero Davitt Walsh who risked his life to save a four-month-old baby after her family’s car went off the slipway in one of Ireland’s worst drowning tragedies.

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, courage or devotion, or going beyond the call of duty in the fields of education, the emergency services, the caring sector, health or sport, all nominations are welcome.

Prize draw

Those who submit nominations will be entered into a prize draw to win a £150 eye care voucher and a VIP experience at the awards, including an overnight stay at the Crowne Plaza.

Specsavers Northern Ireland chairman Sean McCauley said: “We are delighted to sponsor the amazing Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards for the eighth consecutive year. 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’m sure this year will be no different.

“These awards celebrate all that is good about Northern Ireland and gives us the opportunity to champion incredible individuals who are so often modest and quiet about the huge difference they make to other peoples lives. Help us to recognise our local unsung heroes by sharing their stories before the closing date in March.”

Sunday Life editor Martin Breen added: “These awards pay tribute to the real heroes of Northern Ireland. We want people to nominate those who have made a difference to their lives or a difference to the lives of their local community.”

Nominate your hero

  • There are 10 awards in total. You can nominate an unsung hero via our online form, or download the entry form which will also be available in Specsavers stores, or email your nomination to Closing date for nominations is Friday, March 16.
  • The Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers grand final will be held at the Crowne Plaza, Shaw’s Bridge, Belfast on Friday, April 20. 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 £65, which includes dinner, table wine and entertainment from Shane Filan, can be purchased from JComms, Sylvan House, 232-240, Belmont Office Park, Belfast, BT4 2AW; by phone at 028 9076 0066, or emailing:

Award categories

  • Unsung Hero

Someone whose great deed or deeds have previously gone unnoticed, but who will have made a major contribution to your life or to your community.

  • Overcoming Adversity

Someone who has overcome huge personal challenges, whether it is dealing with illness or disability or overcoming problems.

  • Spirit of Youth

Someone under the age of 18 who should be recognised for their special achievements.

  • 999 Hero

A member of the emergency services who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in their job.

  • Charity Champion

Someone who has worked tirelessly for a charity or as a fundraiser for many years.

  • Spirit of Health

A medical professional who has gone the extra mile to improve the health and wellbeing of their patients.

  • Spirit of Education

This award recognises a truly inspirational teacher who has helped children and young people to fulfil their potential.

  • Caring Spirit Award

A person, young or old, who has dedicated their time to caring for a friend or family member.

  • Spirit of Sport

Someone who has made an exceptional contribution to local sport over a number of years.

  • Special Recognition Award

Someone who the judges feel represents the Spirit of Northern Ireland by selflessly serving others and being an inspiration to us all.