Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards are back... and we’re looking for your nominations

Northern Ireland's most important awards show returns with 10 categories in 2017

The annual search is underway again for Northern Ireland’s unsung heroes in this year’s Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers.

We are looking for your nominations to honour those who have done extraordinary dates for the biggest date in the local awards calendar.

Sunday Life has again teamed up with Specsavers for the annual UTV televised awards ceremony which pays tribute to all those who make Northern Ireland a better place.

We want your nominations for who you think is worthy of a Spirit of Northern Ireland Award in 2017, by selflessly serving others and being an inspiration to us all.

There are 10 categories, including awards for Charity Champion, 999 Hero, Spirit of Health, Spirit of Education, Spirit of Youth and Spirit of Sport.

You can nominate via our online entry form or by emailing

The finalists will be honoured at a gala ceremony on Friday June 16 at the luxurious five-star Culloden Estate & Spa resort in Holywood, which will again be broadcast on UTV. The unique Northern Ireland-wide search will give recognition to those whose good deeds have previously gone mostly unnoticed.

Local celebrities

Like previous years the audience will be filled with many local celebrities supporting the event and eager to hear the incredible stories behind the finalists.

Well known personalities who have supported the awards in recent years include X Factor judge Louis Walsh, Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and Nathan Connolly, Girls Aloud singer Nadine Coyle, boxing champ Carl Frampton, racing legend AP McCoy, The Fall actresses Bronagh Waugh and Niamh McGrady, Game of Thrones star Kristian Nairn as well as Northern Ireland football manager Michael O’Neill and his star players.

Other sporting faces who have attended include Ulster and Ireland rugby stars Rory Best and Craig Gilroy and Olympic boxer Paddy Barnes as well as soap actors from Emmerdale and Coronation Street.

Entertainment on the night of the awards this June will be provided by Boyzlife - the band formed by Boyzone singer Keith Duffy and Westlife’s Brian McFadden.

Speaking at the launch at UTV on Friday, Keith said: “We’re very honoured to be asked to perform at the Spirit Of Northern Ireland Awards, taking place on June 16. We know what a special evening it is and can’t wait to see all of you on the night.”

Brian added: “The Spirit Of Northern Ireland Awards 2017 is going to be a fantastic evening, honouring very brave, special, courageous individuals from across the country. We look forward to seeing you then!”

Louis Walsh, who has sat on the judging panel for the awards, added: “It’s a brilliant night because it’s about normal people with real stories, about them overcoming so many difficulties but who are happy with their lives.”

Overall Spirit of Northern Ireland award

The top honour on the night, the overall Spirit of Northern Ireland award, went to Buncrana pier hero Davitt Walsh last year.

Former Derry City, Lisburn and Ballymena footballer Davitt risked his life to save a four-month-old baby after her father’s car went down the slipway in one of Ireland’s worst drowning tragedies.

The 29-year-old dived into the freezing water at Buncrana harbour and swam out to the sinking car in March this year.

Inside were five members of one Derry family who all perished: Ruth Daniels, 57, her daughter Jodie Lee Daniels, 14, her son-in-law Sean McGrotty, 49, and his sons Mark, 12, and Evan, eight.

But brave Davitt managed to rescue four-month-old baby Rionaghac-Ann by raising her up and swimming back to safety. Rionaghac-Ann is the only surviving member of mother Louise James’ family.

Davitt attended the Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with his partner Stephanie, who helped keep baby Rionaghac-Ann warm before the ambulance arrived on that dreadful day back in March.

A tearful Davitt received a standing ovation as he accepted his award from the then First and deputy First Ministers, Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness.

Whether for demonstrating a spirit of compassion, neighbourliness, charity, courage or devotion, or going beyond the call of duty in the fields of education, the emergency services, the caring sector, health or sport all nominations are welcome.

Prize draw

All those who submit nominations will automatically be entered into a prize draw to win a £150 eyecare voucher and a VIP experience at the awards, including an overnight stay at the Culloden, courtesy of Specsavers.

Specsavers Northern Ireland Chairman Brian O’Kane said: “We are delighted to be sponsors of the fabulous Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards for the seventh year running.  Each year we are humbled and inspired by the incredible stories that are received and I have no doubt that this year will be no different.

“These awards celebrate all that is good about Northern Ireland and give us the opportunity to champion these amazing people and to give them the recognition they so rightly deserve.”

Sunday Life editor Martin Breen added: “These awards pay tribute to the real heroes of Northern Ireland. We want people to nominate those who have made a difference to their lives or a difference to the lives of their local community.”

Spirit of NI Award categories

Unsung Hero

Someone whose great deed or deeds have previously gone unnoticed, but who will have made a major contribution to your life or to your community.

Overcoming Adversity

Someone who has overcome huge personal challenges, whether it is dealing with illness or disability or overcoming problems.

Spirit of Youth

Someone under the age of 18 who should be recognised for their special achievements.

999 Hero

A member of the emergency services who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in their job.

Charity Champion

Someone who has worked tirelessly for a charity or as a fundraiser for many years.

Spirit of Health

A medical professional who has gone the extra mile to improve the health and wellbeing of their patients.

Spirit of Education

This award recognises a truly inspirational teacher who has helped children and young people to fulfil their potential.

Caring Spirit Award

A person, young or old, who has dedicated their time to caring for a friend or family member.

Spirit of Sport

Someone who has made an exceptional contribution to local sport over a number of years.

Overall Spirit of Northern Ireland Award

Someone who the judges feel best represents the Spirit of Northern Ireland by selflessly serving others and being an inspiration to us all.

Nominate your hero

  • There are 10 awards in total. You can nominate an unsung hero via our online form, or download the entry form which will also be available in Specsavers stores, or email your nomination to Closing date for nominations is Friday May 5.
  • The Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers grand final will be at held at the Culloden Estate and Spa on Friday, June 16. All the finalists will be invited to the glittering awards ceremony, which will include entertainment, celebrity guests and will be shown on UTV on June 21.
  • Tickets for the gala awards ceremony cost £65, which includes dinner, table wine and entertainment from Boyzlife, can be purchased from JComms, Sylvan House, 232-240, Belmont Office Park, Belfast, BT4 2AW; by phone at 028 9076 0066, or e-mailing:

>>Download your entry form<<

Closing Date: Friday May 5, 2017

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