Belfast Telegraph

Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards: A night of heroes

Andrea Begley will perform at the ceremony
Andrea Begley will perform at the ceremony

By Christopher Woodhouse

The Sunday Life Unsung Hero category in the Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers recognises extraordinary acts by ordinary people.

All of our five finalists in this award section have proved themselves to be an everyday hero in their own individual way.

Our nominees will be treated to a top class

night of great food and entertainment at our grand final in the five star Culloden Hotel on May 30.

As with last year, UTV will again be recording this year's awards for a special TV programme presented by Pamela Ballantine and Frank Mitchell who will also be our hosts on the night. Entertainment will be provided by The Voice winner Andrea Begley and comic John Linehan aka May McFettridge.

In what is also a moving occasion, guests will be introduced to all of our 15 finalists and get to hear their heroic stories.

Winners in the three categories, as chosen by a judging panel headed by TV star Gloria Hunniford, will be announced on the night, as will the overall Spirit of Northern Ireland Award winner, who will receive a £1,000 cash prize from Northern Ireland’s fastest growing care recruitment and domiciliary agency, Peninsula Care Services.

Tickets for the gala awards ceremony cost £60, including dinner, and table wine, can be purchased from JPR, Sylvan House, 232-240, Belmont Office Park, Belfast, BT4 2AW; by phone at 028 90760066 or e-mail:

Fergal Joseph Gormley

Claudy lad Fergal saved his mother’s life after he was woken in the early hours of the morning by a noise coming from the kitchen.

The 11-year-old went downstairs to find his mum Michelle lying face down on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood and he immediately ran to get his father.

Fergal’s quick thinking allowed doctors time to successfully diagnose his mother with a bleed in her brain and to treat the clot in her forehead.

Doctors said that Fergal’s quick reaction led to his mum being treated in the nick of time for a clot and aneurysm, saving her life.

Tracy Carnahan

Tracy’s son, Sean Paul Carnahan, tried to kill himself after taking the legal high China White and was left with serious brain damage.

Tragically, 22-year-old west Belfast lad Sean Paul died after a four-month fight for life during which he battled several infections. Throughout everything his mother Tracy kept a constant vigil by his hospital bed.

Mother-of-six Tracy has been a ceaseless campaigner against legal highs, joining protests against shops selling them and warning young people of the deadly consequences of taking a ‘legal’ drug.

Carol Doey

Carol used her own time and initiative to create a shared space for all at the heart of the community in Cookstown.

The Hub BT80, whose motto is ‘Our place, your space’ provide drama, dance, music and arts and crafts workshops for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Volunteer Carol even opens the The Hub on Christmas Day to give the elderly, lonely and homeless people a Christmas dinner.

Kate Ferguson

When Kate’s husband was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1992, they couldn’t find any organisation in Northern Ireland to turn to for support or advice.

With the help of another patient they set up Brainwaves NI, a charity to help people who have been affected by a brain tumour.

Kate, who lives in Whitehead, has been Honorary Secretary for over 20 years but sadly her husband lost his fight with his tumour in 2006.

Despite her own ill health, Kate still works tirelessly raising awareness, research funding, running the helpline as well as organising events for patients and their families.

Brian McDonagh

Born with glaucoma, Brian was left blind in his left eye from the age of 17, due to an infection.

Just five years later he was then tragically blinded in his right eye after being attacked at a party.

He tried to stop an unwanted guest from getting into the party, the intruder attacked him with the stiletto heel of her shoe, putting it through his right eye.

Despite numerous surgeries, Brian’s right eye unfortunately could not be saved and it had to be removed, leaving him completely blind.

Now five years on and partnered with his guide dog Ennis, Brian, from Omagh, is volunteering with Guide Dogs for the Blind, giving talks, recruiting other volunteers and helping to raise thousands of pounds for the charity.

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