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Youth volunteers get Hillery awards

FIVE people, who between them have given 105 years of voluntary service to a youth awards programme, were honoured with an inaugural Dr Patrick Hillery Medal yesterday.

The 'Hillery Medal' was introduced this year to honour people who have given 21 years of service to the President's, or Gaisce, awards.

The award was introduced to mark the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the youth awards, and to commemorate its founder, and former President of Ireland, Dr Patrick Hillery.

Dr Maeve Hillery, the widow of the late Dr Hillery, was among the guests at Dublin Castle yesterday, along with President Mary McAleese who presented the recipients with their awards.

A total of 67 civic merit awards were also presented to President's Award Leaders (PALS) -- teachers and youth leaders who give of their time voluntarily to help young people attain a Gaisce award -- to acknowledge five years of their commitment to the programme.

Among the medal recipients was Majella Killeen from Galway, who is regional director with the Order of Malta.

She was the first ever Gaisce gold awardee back in 1988.

"It is unbelievable being back here today. When I first received my gold award back in 1988, President Hillery inspired me to continue on with the programme, and to help other people achieve their award. So to be back here 21 years later is fantastic," she said.

President McAleese said: "Dr Hillery set up the Gaisce awards at a time when Ireland was in the throes of a very deep recession, but rather than bow to it, he saw this as a challenge to build a bridge to a certain kind of future."

Irish Independent