Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Features

'Losing Enda still hurts, but this award is recognition of overcoming adversity'

Two inspirational NI teenagers have been honoured with Diana Awards for their bravery in overcoming challenges. Una Brankin finds out more

Northern Ireland teens Garreth Brown and Dervla Dolan received two of the annual Diana Awards on Thursday night from the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry at St James's Palace London, in an event established to celebrate the memory of their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

The royal brothers were making their first joint appearance at an event run by the Diana Awards, which were established to promote the late princess's belief in the positive power of young people.

The 20 young winners were recognised for their efforts in creating positive social change in their communities and countries.

Here, the local recipients tell us their incredibly inspiring stories.

Dervla (18), from Omagh, has been the inspirational force behind the setting up of The Enda Dolan Foundation, named in memory of her brother who was killed by a drink-driver in Belfast. Student Enda had been at Queen's University for just three weeks when he was run over by David Lee Stewart in October 2014.

The 18-year-old was walking home when he was hit by Stewart's van and dragged for half-a-mile.

Devastatingly for his family, even after stopping and seeing Enda, Stewart and his passenger William Casement drove away down the Malone Road.

The personal challenges that Dervla has faced have been enormous - but she has persevered to shine a light of hope, strength and love in her brother's memory and honour.

Dervla lives in Omagh with her parents, Peter and Niamh Dolan, and younger brothers Ben (15), Andrew (11) and Adam, eight. Dervla says:

E nda would have thought it was surreal, me ending up at St James's Palace with the Princes. We were really close. He's been dead two and a half years but it doesn't get easier with time - in a way that's what the awards are about; how it doesn't get easier but you have to look on the bright side.

Enda died on the night of my 16th birthday. It was a school night for me so we weren't going to have a party until the weekend, but the party never happened, obviously.

Instead, on the night of my birthday, my grandparents came over and we had a family dinner. Later, mum and dad woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me what had happened to Enda.

I don't know how I got through it but I still feel that Enda's around all the time, every day. I feel he's all right now. I still talk to him when I'm feeling down. I had my GCSEs a couple of weeks after Enda died. I don't know how I got through them. I suppose they were a distraction; something to concentrate on. I got three A stars; four As and two Bs. Enda was so smart, he did even better in his.

He wanted to be an architect. I want to be a primary school teacher. He was a really positive person, like me. The award was to recognise overcoming adversity and seeing the positive side of life. My teacher nominated me because I'm seen as a role model for younger students. I started a running club because running improves physical and mental health. Enda was such a good role model and I have to be one, too, for my younger brothers. I feel hurt and anger towards the man who killed Enda. It's hard to feel positively toward him and I don't know if I can forgive him, but there's no point in dwelling on it. I don't have to see him again.

You realise that everything happens for a reason, and you remember the positive things.

The award ceremony was an amazing experience, really good and sort of surreal. The princes were really, really friendly. They knew all about each one of us and made the time for all of us. They were very genuine and seemed to admire us, too.

Both the princes were taller than I expected and very thin as well. Harry was being told to move on but he came over to us and made the effort to chat. I can see the attraction for Meghan Markle!

William realised that we were all under 20, so we were born after Diana died. He asked me did I know about her, and how did I know about her. I said 'the media and school and stuff'. He was surprised we were taught about her and seemed very pleased.

In the presentation, he said we were all similar to Diana in different ways.

I didn't make it over in time for the dinner the night before because I was sitting my history A level, so I didn't get to meet everyone in advance, but I met all sorts of aristocrats and people from all over the world at the lunch after the awards.

The award means the world to me. It's recognition of how I've managed to deal with what happened to Enda. Prince William said there were 1,000 people nominated for the awards and that was cut down to 163, and then the final 20. It's amazing to think I made it that far.

‘Enda would have been so proud of Dervla too’

Dervla Dolan was accompanied to the Diana Awards ceremony on Thursday by her parents, Niamh and Peter. Niamh says:

Thursday was a very moving occasion for us. When they showed a presentation of videos and pictures for each award winner, we were fighting back the tears. We're very proud of Dervla and the way she has coped since Enda died.

He was killed on her 16th birthday, on October 14, 2014. My birthday's on October 12. It's awful having to deal with the memory on her birthday every year; that's the way it will be for the rest of her life.

It was horrific. We had to go and wake her in the middle of the night and tell her Enda was dead. She had her GCSEs soon after and she managed to do brilliantly. I have incredible admiration for her ability to concentrate and do her exams.

She's a quietly confident person, and very strong. She started volunteering with youth clubs and she became deputy head girl at her school, Loreto Girls' in Omagh. It's lovely for her to be recognised for what she has achieved.

Enda would have been 21 this year, and he would have been so proud of her too. It has been a big year all round - Peter's 50 this year and it's Andrew's First Communion tomorrow. I've had to buy lots of outfits!

The Diana Awards was a great experience, incredible. It was more informal than the awards ceremonies carried out by the Queen. It was also a great opportunity to meet the families of the other award winners and to hear their stories.

'Garreth never lets things hold him back ... he's so supportive'

Garreth Brown (16), from Londonderry, who lost both his parents in the same year, has been a pillar of support to his older sister and two younger brothers, to ensure their family stays together. He also selflessly helps other children in the charity Kinship Care, by talking about his family's experience in a positive way. He says:

Despite losing both his parents in 2013, Garreth Brown (16) from Shantallow, Londonderry, was described in his nomination for a Diana Award, as "giving hope to everyone he meets".

Garreth's father died suddenly, in tragic circumstances, only six months after the death of his mother from breast cancer.

Ever since, Garreth has been a pillar strength for his older sister Nicole (26) and two younger brothers, Matthew (15) and Daniel (13), to ensure the family stays together, despite the hardship they have had to face.

"He has never let anything hold him back," says Nicole, a mother-of-one who helps take care of her siblings in the family home, with the help of her partner.

"He (Garreth) has been so supportive. Our brothers have learning difficulties and he helps take care of them."

In addition to supporting his siblings, Garreth helps other children in Kinship Care by talking openly and positively about his family's experience.

The Diana Award recognised the maturity and bravery he has shown by facing his own emotions and troubles in order to help younger children work through theirs.

It also noted that he goes above and beyond, helping in the community by volunteering every night at his local youth club and boxing club.

Staff at Kinship Care have been awestruck, watching Garreth help and support children with disabilities, and less confident members of the group, who, without his encouragement and kind words might have given up at an extremely difficult time in their lives.

They describe him as "a remarkable young man who gets up every day with the intention of making his family proud and others happy, despite his own heartbreak".

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph