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Posted on Thursday 24 November 2022
Pictured left to right are Netwatch Connacht Family Carer of the Year Martina O’Leary from Bealnamulla, Co. Roscommon; Netwatch Ulster Family Carer of the Year Harriet Hill from Creighanroe, Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan; Netwatch Munster Young Carer of the Year Cara Darmody from Ardfinnan, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary; Netwatch Brand Ambassador Mick Galwey; Netwatch National and Munster Family Carer of the Year Colette O'Shea from Lisnagry, Co. Limerick; Netwatch Leinster Young Carer of the Year Hugh Hilliard from Clara, Co. Offaly; Netwatch Leinster Family Carer of the Year Olive Duffy from Cahanagh, Co. Longford; Netwatch Ulster Young Carer of the Year Andrew McEleney from Clonmany, Co. Donegal and Family Carers Ireland Head of Communications and Policy Catherine Cox. Photo: Mark Stedman
Thursday 24th November 2022: Colette O’Shea from Lisnagry, Limerick has been named Netwatch Family Carer of the Year at a national awards ceremony held in The Westin Hotel, Dublin and hosted by broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan.
The Netwatch Family Carer of the Year Awards seek to recognise and shine a light on the love, sacrifice and extraordinary commitment of the more than 500,000 family carers across the country who provide crucial care at home to loved ones with additional needs.
Colette cares for her husband Kieran who has Motor Neuron Disease and frontal lobe dementia. She advocates tirelessly for Kieran and is his voice as they navigate the pain, stress and financial hardship associated with a progressive life-limiting condition. Colette also cares for their son Luke (11) who was diagnosed in 2016 with advanced Crohn’s Disease and his treatment and care means regular, long journeys by bus from Limerick to Dublin.
Her aim for the future is ensure her husband and son receive the best care possible and to make life as normal and comfortable as possible for both, while also raising her other two children, Haydn (10) and Caoimhe (8).
Pictured are Netwatch Family Carer of the Year Colette O'Shea with husband Kieran; sons Luke and Haydn; daughter Caoimhe and awards host Miriam O'Callaghan. Photo: Mark Stedman
Four remarkable young carers were also honoured at the event.
Hugh Hilliard (17) from Clara, Co. Offaly is the Netwatch Leinster Young Carer of the Year. Hugh’s mother passed away in 2020 after being diagnosed with a tumour and since then he’s taken on the role of being his sister, Ellen’s primary carer. Ellen has autism and requires significant support. Hugh helped his dad, David, get to know Ellen’s routine and how to look after her care needs.
Hugh has been a strong advocate for young carer supports and, speaking at the Young Carers Forum on Young Carers Action Day in March 2022, he encouraged other young people with caring responsibilities to link in with Family Carers Ireland for support.
The Netwatch Munster Young Carer of the Year is Cara Darmody (12) from Ardfinnan, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. Cara helps care for her two brothers Neil (9) and John (5), both of whom are severely autistic. She has recently grabbed the national headlines for her incredible advocacy work in calling for improved supports and services for families of children with additional needs and for her fundraising efforts.
Cara sat the Junior Cert maths exam in June to raise funds for therapy services for children with additional needs and having achieved a remarkable 97% grade, she is planning to sit the Leaving Cert maths exam next year to again raise funds for essential therapies with the support of Family Carers Ireland, AsIAm, Scoil Chormaic Special School in Cashel and Ardfinnan National School in Clonmel.
Sarah Ann Buday (13) from Tuam, Co. Galway has been named the Netwatch Connacht Young Carer of the Year for going above and beyond for her young siblings and baby sister Esther (18 months) who has Trisomy21 and AVSD.
Sarah was thrilled when Esther was born, as she had longed for a sister. She plays with her every day, helps with her speech and language therapy exercises and also helps her younger brothers with their homework and getting ready for bed.
Sarah is an active member of Family Carers Ireland’s Young Carer Online Support Group and has supported young carer research. Sarah loves art, music and horse-riding.
While the Netwatch Ulster Young Carer of the Year is Andrew McEleney (13) from Clonmany, Co. Donegal who helps to care for his brother Jack, who needs 24/7 care. Jack is non-verbal, suffers seizures and has an intellectual disability.
From an early age, Andrew always included his brother in games and activities even when it meant the games had to be changed to suit Jack's needs. He helps with his daily routine and is always trying to teach him new things. Last summer, Andrew saved Jack’s life by contacting the emergency services and administrating life-saving medication.
His mother Jenny says the family would be lost without Andrew and that they are immensely proud of him.
Pictured are awards host Miriam O’Callaghan with Netwatch Young Carers of the Year, from left, Andrew McEleney (Ulster); Cara Darmody (Munster); Sarah Ann Buday (Connacht) and Hugh Hilliard (Leinster). Photo: Mark Stedman
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Policy, Family Carers Ireland, said:
“Although these awards highlight the remarkable dedication of a few, we’re really honouring all of Ireland’s family carers who go the extra mile every day in caring for their loved ones at home. Their stories are ones of love, kindness, empathy and selflessness. As a society, we must ensure that we listen to those stories, that we recognise the essential contribution made by family carers and that they are truly supported to care safely at home.
“As a charity, we firmly believe that no one should have to care alone. We want family carers to know that they are not alone and that we are here to help them no matter where they find themselves on their caring journey.”
Mick Galwey, Netwatch Brand Ambassador, said:
“Everyone nominated for this award has done something special, and is someone special, who goes above and beyond what is expected of them. We have been so humbled today to hear of the many examples where family carers go to extraordinary lengths to care for their loved ones and we are grateful for the opportunity to help recognise and celebrate those individuals.”