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Ciaran O’Shea, who received the award on behalf of his father Crohan, with his mother Nancy and Mary Kennedy.

Ciaran O’Shea, who received the award on behalf of his father Crohan, with his mother Nancy and Mary Kennedy.

Dr Dermot Smurfit speaking at the awards ceremony in TCD

Dr Dermot Smurfit speaking at the awards ceremony in TCD

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Ciaran O’Shea, who received the award on behalf of his father Crohan, with his mother Nancy and Mary Kennedy.

Leading businessman Dr Dermot Smurfit has spoken about the shock he experienced at the conditions once endured by young cancer patients in Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, where his son Charlie was treated for leukaemia.

It was this anger at conditions which has sparked Dr Smurfit's passion to improve facilities in the oncology unit at the hospital.

Dr Smurfit is a younger brother of businessman Dr Michael Smurfit and father of the actress Victoria Smurfit.

On Friday night, the Children's Medical Research Foundation (CMRF) honoured Dermot Smurfit and three more of its largest donors at the CMRF Bringing Research to Life Awards Dinner in Trinity College.

"I have to tell you that I was rather shocked by the physical conditions that I saw within Crumlin, which of course I was comparing directly with the hospitals I was used to dealing with in the UK, being Great Ormond Street on the one side and St Mary's Paddington on the other," he told the gathering.

It was the spark which led him to take an active role in improving hospital facilities in Ireland and boosting research.

"I had always believed that Ireland was just as advanced a country as the UK and I have to say I was somewhat angered by the conditions; that oncology patients and their parents were being treated somewhat as second-class citizens."

"I really do wonder how the 'powers that be' who govern us here in this country have allowed that position to develop . . . how did we ever allow the physical facilities of our hospitals to be so poor in relation to our closest neighbour," he said.

Fundraising efforts by the CMRF have led to a vast improvement.

"Anyway, hopefully the monies that we have already raised through the Friendship Ball in the past year have gone some way towards rectifying that position and one can only hope, and trust, that when Crumlin is eventually rebuilt that it will be to the highest standards."

The event also honoured banking executive Charlie McCabe, financial adviser Dick Connolly and London-based developer Crohan O'Shea, as well as Dr Dermot Smurfit, whose generosity helped deliver invaluable funding for Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin and enabled the National Children's Research Centre to carry out a vast number of essential research projects.

Both Mr Connolly and Mr McCabe have been supporting the CMRF for more than 30 years, Mr O'Shea has been on the CMRF board for more than 28 years and Dermot Smurfit began his involvement two years ago.

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Mr Connolly and Mr McCabe have both concentrated on raising funds in the US toward paediatric medical research and Mr Connolly also funded The Connolly Microscopy Centre at The National Childrens' Research Centre. Mr Crohan O'Shea is a central part of a committee of Irish developers and builders in London and the UK who have raised millions for both Our Lady's Children's Hospital and the National Children's Research Centre.

In particular the committee donated £1m (€1.2m) to build a brand new Neurology Department at Crumlin.

Dr Dermot Smurfit, who is chairman of Powerflute, a growing Finnish paper company, was inspired to support the campaign to rebuild a brand new Children's Cancer Ward following the Queen's successful visit to Ireland.

He held a gala London Ball for both Children's Hospitals – Our Lady's and Great Ormond Street, London – raising £1m (€1.2m) which was split 50/50.


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