Awards founder calls for national scheme
The Mallow man who established and organises the hugely successful Cork Person of the Year Awards has called for the introduction of a state-sponsored awards scheme for Ireland similar to those operated in other countries.
Manus O'Callaghan said that, in the absence of a state honours system, Cork has been leading the way for the past 26-years with "one of the best honours schemes in Ireland".
Each month a person from the city or county is selected for a Cork Person of the Month award and, at year's end, the Cork Person of the Year is chosen from these monthly winners by the chief executives of Cork City and Cork County Councils.
"This is one of the few award schemes where the winners come from all sectors of society - community, sport, arts, business or even just a good friend or neighbour. Some winners have high profiles already, whilst others come very much from below the radar," said Mr O'Callaghan. "Anyone can nominate a person or persons to the award judges by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org," he added.
The Cork awards also present an 'Honorary Corkperson' gong to a person from outside Cork, the most recent winner being Ireland head rugby coach Joe Schmidt. A special 'Hall of Fame' category also honours the achievements of respected Corkonians, with the 2018 inductee being journalist and BBC special correspondent Fergal Keane "People are inspired by people and, hopefully, by honouring achievement and celebrating success, others may be inspired to follow. Our award scheme celebrates Cork's greatest asset - our people," said Mr O'Callaghan.
He said that while Cork was not afraid to honour the people that have honoured Cork, Ireland seemed afraid to have a national honours scheme in case it would be abused or seen to be too much like England.
"Ireland is one of the few European countries that does not recognise its own citizens, instead leaving it to others to recognise people such as Seamus Heaney, Terry Wogan, Bono, Bob Geldof, Peter Sutherland and many others. Cork will keep its award scheme, which it's proud of, but Ireland deserves one too," said Mr O'Callaghan.
He said the Office of Active Citizenship at the Department of the Taoiseach did recommend that Ireland establish a national honours system a number of years ago, but nothing ever came of it. "I do appreciate that people fear cronyism or politicising an award scheme, and no Government should proceed without all-party and full Dáil support. Some form of Independent Commission would have to be established to recommend people deserving of these awards," said Mr O'Callaghan.