Science students Eilíse Ireland and Simon Meehan have been crowned Cork Persons of the Year for 2018.
Eilíse Ireland, a Regina Mundi School student, Douglas and Simon Meehan from Ballinora and a Colaiste Choilm student in Ballincollig, received a standing ovation from the 300 guests at theCork Person of the Year annual Gala Awards Lunch at Rochestown Park Hotel.
Simon is the BT Young Scientist of the Year 2018 winner, and Eilíse was a winner at the Spellman Clean Tech competition in New York last July.
County Mayor Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy and City Lord Mayor Cllr Mick Finn presented the Cork Persons of Year trophies to the winning students, which was seen as a great vote of confidence for the youth of Cork.
The Persons of the Year were chosen from 12 Persons of the Month selected over 2018. They were classical pianist, Kevin Jansson; sexual violence centre founder, Mary Crilly; legendary GAA figure, Dr Con Murphy; Butter Exchange Band leader, Herbie Hendrick; medicinal cannabis campaigner, Vera Twomey; arts and cultural promoters, Conal Creedon and Liam Ronayne; leading champion jockey, Davy Russell; author and columnist, Louise O’Neill; sound and performance artist, Danny McCarthy; world champion rower, Sanita Puspure; and Liam Miller fundraising committee chairman, Michael O’Flynn.
Other outstanding Corkonians presented with awards included journalist Fergal Keane, winner of the Hall of Fame award, and Joe Schmidt, Irish Rugby Head Coach who was officially dubbed an honorary Corkman.
A special award was also presented to the RTÉ Nationwide team, producer Eoin Ryan and presenters Mary Kennedy and Anne Cassin, to mark their 25th anniversary.
RTÉ’s Claire Byrne was MC of the event, which was attended by representatives of all sectors of Cork society, including senior public representatives Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney TD and Leader of Fianna Fáil, Micheál Martin TD.
Speaking about Joe Schmidt’s award, rugby commentator Donal Lenihan said; "The last five seasons have been a roller coaster of a ride, with Schmidt elevating Ireland from 6th in the World Rugby’s rankings to a current high of 2nd with the potential of reaching the number 1 slot.”
He added that Joe’s retirement will be a massive loss to the game; “Perhaps now that he is an honorary Corkman, with a Republic of Cork passport, I might be able to swing a role for him with Cork Con!”
Hall of Fame recipient Fergal Keane, who holds an OBE for his services to journalism, is a Special Correspondent with BBC and a well-known international correspondent, regarded for his coverage of war zones around the world. His coverage of the Rwanda genocide earned him Amnesty International’s highest honours.
Speaking on his achievement, Cork Person of the Year founder Manus O’Callaghan said “In the year Time Magazine’s own Person of the Year was the “War on Truth”, where journalists who were killed, persecuted and jailed over the last year were honoured, it is fitting that we should honour our own distinguished and brave Fergal Keane too.”
Fergal Keane is son of acclaimed actor, the late Eamonn Keane and nephew of playwright John B. Keane. He was accompanied to the awards with members of his family including his mother Maura O’Shea.
The Gala Awards Lunch marked the 26th year of Cork’s premier award scheme. Speakers included Irish Examiner/Evening Echo Managing Director, Ronan McManamy and RTÉ’s Director General, Dee Forbes.