Belfast Telegraph

The Queen's New Year Honours: Boxer Paddy Barnes remains 'proud Irish sportsman' after accepting MBE

Belfast boxer and ex-police chief Matt Baggott recognised in 2015 awards

By Adrian Rutherford

Boxing star Paddy Barnes has said he remains a "proud Irish sportsman" as he prepares to head off to Buckingham Palace after being honoured by the Queen.

The Olympic and Commonwealth Games medallist said he hoped to inspire and unite people after it was announced he had been made an MBE.

Barnes heads a list of more than 80 people from Northern Ireland recognised in the New Year Honours. The 27-year-old is being rewarded for services to boxing and the community.

Barnes, from the nationalist New Lodge in north Belfast, won bronze for Ireland at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

He also won gold for Northern Ireland at the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games. Others recognised in today's list include:

Dame Mary Peters, who becomes the first person from Northern Ireland for more than half-a-century to be made a Companion of Honour.

Ex-PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott receives a knighthood.

Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce is awarded an OBE.

Barnes' name did not appear on the list of Northern Ireland recipients released to the media at a briefing in Belfast yesterday. He explained his name only appeared on a national list released in London at his request.

However, he confirmed he was happy to receive the accolade. He said: "I am a proud Irish sportsman, a proud sportsman from Belfast and I take great pride in representing everyone in Ireland, north and south, in whatever way I can. If my achievements in boxing can inspire others and people can be united through sport, then my efforts will have been worthwhile.

"I am pleased to have been recognised in the Queen's honours list for 2015 for my contribution to the sport of boxing and for my contribution to work in this community.

"I am pleased to accept it on behalf of boxing, my community, coaches, friends and family. I wish everyone a happy and successful 2015."

Dame Mary, meanwhile, joins an exclusive group of just 47 other people from the UK who hold the title of Companion of Honour. She is the first from Northern Ireland to receive the accolade since John Gregg, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, in 1957. One of our greatest ever sports stars, Dame Mary competed in three Olympics and five Commonwealth Games.

However, the 75-year-old is best remembered for her gold medal in the women's pentathlon at Munich in 1972.

Matt Baggott, who served as Chief Constable from 2009 until his retirement earlier this year, is one of two people receiving knighthoods. He said: "This award is an acknowledgement of the courage, commitment and achievements of my policing colleagues without whose immense efforts I would not have been able to fulfil my responsibilities."

Mr Boyce, a former Irish FA president, is currently vice-president of Fifa, world football's governing body.

After being recognised for services to football, he said: "It is a very nice personal honour."

The oldest Northern Ireland recipient is 89-year-old Ferris Herbert Dennison from Bangor, who is made an MBE. Mr Dennison has been involved with the Northern Ireland kidney research fund for more than 40 years. The youngest is Louise Greer (17) who is recognised for services to Riding for the Disabled in Coleraine and Meningitis UK.

Factfile

Our 84 recipients account for 7% of the 1,164 names from across the UK which feature on today's list. The majority (43) are from the community and voluntary sector. Another 13 are recognised for their work in education, eight in sport and six are from an economic background. There are also five civil servants, two from health and one each from the worlds of media, politics and science.

Paddy Barnes: MBE for services to boxing

A product of Belfast’s nationalist New Lodge, he is an unlikely visitor to Buckingham Palace.

But Paddy Barnes’ exploits in the boxing ring — and selfless charity work — have landed him an MBE.

The 27-year-old fighter won consecutive Olympics bronzes in Beijing and London for Ireland and will aim for a hat-trick of medals at Rio 2016.

A household name throughout Ireland and beyond, he is the undisputed champion of the light-flyweight division in Irish amateur boxing.

Barnes receives his MBE for services to boxing and the community.

In 2010 he became a patron of the suicide awareness charity PIPS.

The following year he faced off against Stormont MLA Barry McElduff in a charity bout.

Barnes also formed a close friendship with little Oscar Knox, who battled a rare form of cancer before his death earlier this year.

The prospect of Barnes, a Catholic, accepting an honour from the Queen has been welcomed as another sign of progress in our society.

Former Ireland rugby international Trevor Ringland, who chairs the One Small Step campaign to challenge sectarian attitudes, hailed it as a “mature” decision.

“I think it says everything about Paddy — he wants to represent all the people of Ireland,” he said.

“I am delighted that he is getting the recognition and it is mature and great that he is accepting the award.”

Dame Mary Peters: Order of the Companions of Honour

She’s the golden girl of Northern Ireland sport who is now part of a very exclusive club.

Dame Mary Peters, has been made a Companion of Honour for services to sport and the community.

She is the first person from Northern Ireland to receive the accolade in more than half-a-century. The last was John Gregg, the Archbishop of Armagh, in 1957.

One of our greatest sports stars, Dame Mary competed in three Olympics and five Commonwealth Games.

However, the 75-year-old is best remembered for her gold medal in the women’s pentathlon at Munich in 1972.

Companion of Honour awards were founded by George V in June 1917 in recognition of outstanding achievement.

They are strictly limited to just 47 people from the UK at any one time, plus the monarch. New admissions come only with another’s death and the Queen is said to have a major say in who is given the accolade. Dame Mary said she was thrilled by the honour.

“I am thrilled to receive such a prestigious honour, being one of only 47 Companions of Honour in the UK. It was totally unexpected,” she said.

“Everything I have done in my interesting life has been a gift so there was no need for recognition. I have been so privileged. Representing Her Majesty as Lord Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast for five years was, I thought at the time, the ultimate honour.

“I am delighted to accept this honour.”

Maud Kells: OBE for services to people in Congo

Since 1968 Maud Kells, has volunteered for almost continuous service to the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa, where she works through the auspices of the WEC International mission agency.

 From Cookstown, her work as a nurse and midwife in the remote African jungle has helped save countless lives, often involving complex surgical work.

Now in her 70s, she continues to work tirelessly.

Last year she was dramatically rescued after fears that rebel fighters were set to launch an attack on the hospital where she worked.

Louise Greer: British Empire Medal

Aged just 17, Louise Greer,  is the youngest of this year’s Northern Ireland recipients.

The brave Coleraine teenager has overcome severe disability to raise funds for charity and is even training for the 2016 Paralympics.

Louise lost her legs and part of her left arm to meningitis when she was just two.

She spent over three months in hospital battling against the illness and doctors believed she had little chance of survival.

Since then Louise has gone on to lead a normal life.

She has been a rider with the Coleraine branch of the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) for over 10 years, regularly representing RDA Coleraine at regional championships.

Louise was picked to train with the Irish Paralympics team. She was selected as a member of the team to attend the London Olympics in 2012 — only to be deemed ineligible on the grounds of age because she was just 15 at the time.

Currently, though, she is training for the 2016 Rio Games.

She is involved with the  Meningitis UK charity and was recently chosen as the face of the charity.

Bobby Watson: British Empire Medal  for services to sport

Bobby Watson is recognised for his work in the community, particularly youth sports.

He has been involved with Lisburn Rugby Club for 50 years, including two years as club president.

A member of the Ulster Society of Rugby Referees, he later became a referee assessor. He is honorary secretary of Sport Lisburn, which promotes sport and recognises achievement across the district.

Mr Watson said: “It was a lovely surprise to receive this medal. The first I knew about it was when I received a letter about six weeks ago.

It is very nice to be recognised in this way.”

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