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Euros hero Michael O'Neill and and Rio golden girl Bethany Firth lead Northern Ireland New Year honours list


Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill who received an MBE in the New Year Honours list

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill who received an MBE in the New Year Honours list

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill who received an MBE in the New Year Honours list

History-making football manager Michael O'Neill and Rio golden girl Bethany Firth have been recognised in the Queen's New Year Honours list.

They are among 105 people from across Northern Ireland to receive prestigious gongs.

O'Neill - who managed the national team to its first ever European Championship in the summer - has been awarded an MBE for services to football and the community.

And Co Down swimming sensation Firth, who was Team GB's most decorated athlete at the Paralympics in Brazil, receives the same award for services to swimming.

Capped 31 times for his country, O'Neill led Northern Ireland to this summer's Euro 2016 tournament in France where they reached the knockout stages before going out to Wales in the last 16.

It was Northern Ireland's first appearance at a major tournament in 30 years.

"It is wonderful, and totally unexpected," the 47-year-old said.

"I suppose in many ways I am getting rewarded for what the team and the Irish FA have achieved over the past year, not only at the Euros, but also the past two or three years with the completion of the stadium.

"It is recognition of all that, and I am the fortunate person who gets to pick up this award.

"My family are obviously very proud. My oldest daughter actually thought it was a prank when the letter came to the house. But we are hugely proud, and my family back in Northern Ireland are delighted. It probably hasn't really sank in yet, but any recognition is wonderful and it is a proud day for me and my family.

"It is nice receiving coaching awards, or managerial awards, but this is different."

Northern Ireland football has enjoyed a meteoric rise during O'Neill's time at the helm, progressing from a world ranking of 129th in 2012 to a record-high 25th back in June.

"This is a great way to end 2016, but it is also a great way to start 2017," he added.

Swimming star Firth won three gold medals and one silver in Rio, breaking two world records and a Paralympic record en route to her success.

"I am delighted to receive such a great honour," she said.

"I can't wait to go to the palace to meet the Queen again. I've already met her once at the palace in October.

"I'd like to thank everyone who has been involved in my career so far - they have all been a great support."

Other notable recipients include a knighthood for Queen's University professor John McCanny.

The internationally renowned academic, who was awarded a CBE in 2002, has been recognised for services to higher education and economic development.

Prof McCanny (64) helped establish Queen's Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) at the fledgling Science Park in 2004 as a vehicle through which to forge closer links between academic research and commercial activity.

"Obviously I am very pleased and not just personally - the work at ECIT is not just done by one person, it's done by a very strong team of great people," he said of his knighthood.

Victims' campaigner Alex Bunting was awarded an MBE.

Mr Bunting lost a leg and suffered other serious injuries when a booby trap bomb exploded under his taxi in 1991.

The former director general of the Northern Ireland Prison Service Sue McAllister (left) has been made a Companion of the Order of the Bath, as has senior civil servant Leo O'Reilly, currently the permanent secretary at Stormont's Department for Communities.

Limavady woman Stella Cummings, who has volunteered for the British Red Cross for 37 years, was awarded an MBE.

Four awards for Police Service

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has been recognised with four awards in the Queen's New Year Honours list.

Retired Detective Superintendent Graham McCrory has been awarded an MBE for Services to Policing and the Community.

Mr McCrory recently completed 31 years of police service, serving as a uniformed officer and a detective.

His most recent position was Detective Superintendent in Crime Operations Department prior to his retirement earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Queen's Police Medals (QPM) have been awarded to Detective Chief Inspector Anne Marks, Inspector Robin Gouk and Sergeant Sam Hoey for Services to Policing in Northern Ireland.

MBE: Bethany Firth

Awarded for services to swimming

"It came as a shock when I found out but I am thrilled to receive this award. It has been a wonderful year for me in 2016, but it wouldn't have been made possible without the great team I have behind me, including my family and my coach Nelson Lindsay.

"Swimming is a great sport to be involved in, and I am just grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way."

BEM: Aidan Campbell

Marie Curie fundraiser, honoured for services to patients with cancer

"This has given me a lift and it'll keep me going. I do what I do quietly but it's very nice to be acknowledged for what I'm doing.

"I started to write local history books (which I've been doing for 11 years now) to raise money for Marie Curie although I've widened it out to include other charities over the years. To date I've written 14 books, given 400 talks and raised £135,000."

MBE: Simon Dougan

Chef and MD, The Yellow Door Ltd. Honoured for services to hospitality and catering.

"I am absolutely delighted with this award, and I think it is recognition for the success of the hospitality and catering industry in Northern Ireland.

"I have always been a passionate supporter of local produce, and the excellent food we have right here on our own doorstep.

"I am just thrilled to receive an MBE ...the challenge has been keeping it quiet."

MBE: John Allen

General Secretary of Athletics NI. Services to Athletics

"I'm very pleased - not that I got involved in athletics in order to get an MBE. I've been involved in athletics one way or another for 50 years.

"The first 20 or so was as a competitor (a runner) but I've been involved in athletics administration for 30 years. I was the race director of the world cross country championships when they were in Belfast in 1999. It's good for sport to get nominated.

BEM: Tom McKenna

Chairman, Crewe United Football Club. Services to football and cross-community reconciliation

"I am delighted, if somewhat surprised, to receive this honour. I think it is a reflection of the work done over the past 25 years. Crewe United is much more than a football club. We have also done a lot of charity work. We always like to put something back into the community. So this honour is recognition of all the hard work put in by the entire club."

BEM: Robert McGonigle

Parish Administrator, Saint Columb's Cathedral. For services to built heritage

"I am absolutely thrilled. I was involved in the restoration of the Cathedral around 2008/09 when I helped out in my spare time, and watching it be restored to its former glories was fantastic.

"I have also been Treasurer for 19 years and Parish Administrator since 2013. It is a part-time job, but I don't regard it as work. It is a labour of love, and is something I hope to keep doing."


Belfast Telegraph