Honoured to have award heroes in our midst
The honours system is criticised by those who believe that it reflects too much wealth, and gives rewards to civil servants and others who have merely been doing their jobs.
That cannot be said of the 55 people from Northern Ireland, who are included in this New Year Honours List for outstanding achievement and community service.
Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke, who have been appointed MBE and OBE respectively by the Queen, have brought great recognition to themselves and to this province by winning two of the most competitive tournaments in golf.
McIlroy dazzled everyone by his remarkable eight-shot victory to win the US Open in June, and Darren Clarke won plaudits everywhere with his popular victory in The Open at the 20th attempt in July.
They completed a historic trio of Ulster golfers who have won major titles, including Graeme McDowell, who won the US Open last year and was duly recognised in the 2011 New Year List. There may well be many more sporting honours for others here in years to come.
McIlroy was the youngest US Open champion for 88 years, and he is the youngest local recipient of an award this time.
However, fame, sporting success and youth are not the only factors involved.
Mrs Ruby Parkes, aged 92, has been recognised for her work in raising funds for the hospice and for the community. She said modestly: "You do the things you've done every year of your life, and I've just helped charity."
There are other unsung heroes from the community and public sectors, who have received an award, and one of the strengths of the system is that for most people, the honour is so unexpected.
This adds to the delight of the recipients, who find that their day at Buckingham Palace can be the experience of a lifetime.
Some who deserve awards are sadly overlooked, but the honours system, with all its flaws, is generally s fair reflection on the achievements and service of people in the community. That is why they are so appreciated.