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Late Trócaire stalwart and mother of Berkeley balcony collapse victim among recipients of 2019 Presidential award



Sally O’Neill Sanchez (Trocaire/PA)

Sally O’Neill Sanchez (Trocaire/PA)

Sally O’Neill Sanchez (Trocaire/PA)

A VETERAN Irish aid worker who died in a car accident abroad earlier this year has been named as one of this year's recipients of a prestigious Presidential award.

Sally O'Neill Sanchez, who worked for Trócaire for over 30 years, is one of 12 Irish people awarded in the Presidential Distinguished Service Awards for the Irish Abroad for 2019.

Ms O'Neill Sanchez was central to the international exposure of  the massacre of civilians in El Mozote in El Salvador in 1982 where she travelled with President Michael D. Higgins – then a T.D.

She died following a car crash in Guatemala in April 2019, and will be awarded under the 'peace, reconciliation and development' section of the award.

Jackie Donohoe, the mother of one of the six students who died in the Berkeley balcony collapse, will receive an award for Irish community support.

Her daughter Ashley Donohoe was one of six people killed and a further seven suffered life-changing injuries as a result of the tragedy in 2015.


Irish mother Jackie Donohoe giving a testimony, and (inset) the six who died in Berkeley

Irish mother Jackie Donohoe giving a testimony, and (inset) the six who died in Berkeley

Irish mother Jackie Donohoe giving a testimony, and (inset) the six who died in Berkeley

Since her death, her mother Jackie has lobbied to make substantial changes to California building regulations regarding balconies. As a result, two major pieces of legislation were passed and subsequently signed into law by Governor Brown last year.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said that Ms Donohoe "directed her incredible energy, drive and determination to ensuring that such a tragedy would not befall any other family in California".

"Throughout the process Jackie embraced and exhibited the awful pain of losing a daughter, while always making thoughtful, rational and forceful arguments that ultimately won the day," they said.

"Jackie Donohoe’s determination and perseverance in making improvements to California building regulations has given enormous service, not only to the Irish community, but to all Californians."

Also among the list of 2019 awardees is Paul Drechsler, originally from Dublin, who moved to Britain in 1978 and has been President of the Confederation of British Industry since 2015.

Michael Kenneally and Rhona Richman Kenneally will receive a business and education award for promoting Irish educational interests in Canada, most notably through the foundation of the School of Irish Studies in Concordia University, Montreal.

Fr. Patrick Clarke, a Spirtan missionary in Brazil and Bernard Lynch, a HIV/AIDS campaigner, will be awarded for their charitable works.

While world renowned astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Dr William Howlett, noted internationally for his ground breaking research on the neurological elements of HIV/AIDS, will receive awards for their contributions to science technology and innovation.

Writer Ian Gibson, who lives in Spain and founders of the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York, Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly, will be awarded for arts and culture contributions abroad.

Commenting on the awards, Tanaiste Simon Coveney said that the award "remains a very important opportunity to acknowledge those who have contributed to realising Ireland’s place as an island at the centre of the world."

"The contribution of the Irish Abroad, in so many countries and in so many ways has been immense, and the range of their experiences and the contributions they have made can be seen in the diversity of this year’s award recipients," he said.

“In their own separate ways, each of these individuals have made a remarkable contribution to Ireland and our international reputation. I am deeply grateful for their service and commitment to this country.”

Online Editors