Honouring Cork women

Ahead of the Cork Person of the Year awards later this month, we profile the inspirational women who are up for the honour.
Honouring Cork women
Gold medalist Ireland's Sanita Puspure smiles during the medals ceremony of the Women's Single Skulls at the World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

A WOMAN who has been helping victims of sexual violence for the past 35 years, a rowing world champion, a medicinal cannabis campaigner, a critically acclaimed writer and an award-winning scientist are among the females up for Cork Person of the Year.

The awards ceremony take places on January 18, organised by Manus O’Callaghan and hosted by Claire Byrne.

Of the 12 nominees for Cork Person of the Month, five are women. Here we find out more about the female nominees...

Pictured at the award presentation l/r: Manus O’Callaghan, Awards Organiser; Niamh Lehane, Lexus Cork; Mary Crilly, Cork Person of the Month; Ann-Marie O’Sullivan, AM O’Sullivan PR; Pat Lemasney, Southern. Pic by Tony O’Connell Photography.
Pictured at the award presentation l/r: Manus O’Callaghan, Awards Organiser; Niamh Lehane, Lexus Cork; Mary Crilly, Cork Person of the Month; Ann-Marie O’Sullivan, AM O’Sullivan PR; Pat Lemasney, Southern. Pic by Tony O’Connell Photography.

MARY CRILLY

For 35 years, Mary Crilly has been to the fore in helping the victims of sexual violence in Cork.

She was the first person in Cork to introduce counselling and support to women, men and teenagers who have experienced sexual violence or child sexual abuse.

Through the Sexual Violence Centre in Cork city, she and her team also engage in research, provide training and education and work with government, statutory and voluntary agencies in order to influence social policy.

The services to the survivors of rape and sexual assault are free of charge and provided by highly experienced professional staff.

As the Director of the Cork Sexual Violence Centre, Mary is calling for separate courts to fast- track sexual assaults and rape cases. She is also calling for mandatory sentences.

She also wants to see a commitment by An Garda Síochána to prioritise investigations into child sexual abuse, where digital technology is a factor.

Vera and Paul Twomey pictured with daughter Ava on their return from Amsterdam to Cork Airport.Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Vera and Paul Twomey pictured with daughter Ava on their return from Amsterdam to Cork Airport.Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

VERA TWOMEY

Campaigner Vera Twomey is being recognised for her courageous fight for her daughter Ava to receive treatment for a rare form of epilepsy.

Ms Twomey rose to national prominence during a three-year campaign to secure access to medicinal cannabis to treat Ava’s rare form of epilepsy, called Dravet Syndrome. The condition is potentially lethal, and has previously pushed Ava into cardiac arrest and into an eight-day coma.

Her campaigning included two 260-kilometre walks from Cork to the Dáil to capture the government’s attention to Ava’s struggle. She also mounted a very successful social media campaign and husband Paul had to live abroad with Ava to guarantee supply of her necessary medicine.

Ms Twomey successfully campaigned for Health Minister Simon Harris to grant a special licence which allows Ava to receive medicinal cannabis treatments.

Ms Twomey also successfully lobbied the government to include the cost of Ava’s €12,000 a year treatment under its long-term illness scheme.

Vera continues to campaign for others around Ireland who are in need of medicinal cannabis.

Louise O'Neill. Picture: Cathal Noonan
Louise O'Neill. Picture: Cathal Noonan

LOUISE O’NEILL

Critically acclaimed writer and columnist Louise O’Neill from Clonakilty has also been nominated. Her books include Asking For It, Only Ever Yours, Almost Love and The Surface Breaks.

She also writes a weekly Irish Examiner column, which often covers such topics as gender politics, women’s rights and challenging subjects like anorexia and bulimia.

“Louise is a feminist and very politically engaged. She is one of Cork’s bravest and most honest writers as well as being a great writer. Her work is important for both young and old alike and for both male and female.” said awards organiser Manus O’Callaghan.

Ms O’Neill’s Asking For It examined rape culture in Ireland and the issue of sexual consent. A spin-off play on the book and an RTÉ documentary on the subject has since been produced. A movie is also in pre-production.

Award winning science students Eilíse Ireland and Simon Meehan, picking up their Person of the Month award Pictured front l/r Ann-Marie O’Sullivan, AM O’Sullivan PR; Eilíse Ireland and Simon Meehan, Cork Persons of the Month, John Lehane, Lexus Cork. Rear l/r Tony O’Connell, Tony O’Connell Photography, George Duggan, Cork Crystal, Pat Lemasney, Southern, Manus O’Callaghan, Awards Organiser. Photograph by Martin Collins.
Award winning science students Eilíse Ireland and Simon Meehan, picking up their Person of the Month award Pictured front l/r Ann-Marie O’Sullivan, AM O’Sullivan PR; Eilíse Ireland and Simon Meehan, Cork Persons of the Month, John Lehane, Lexus Cork. Rear l/r Tony O’Connell, Tony O’Connell Photography, George Duggan, Cork Crystal, Pat Lemasney, Southern, Manus O’Callaghan, Awards Organiser. Photograph by Martin Collins.

EILÍSE IRELAND AND SIMON MEEHAN

Eilíse Ireland, a student of Regina Mundi in Douglas, received recognition by discovering a new way to channel rainwater in downspouts to produce electricity. By recycling parts of an old computer she developed a prototype of a water turbine.

Due to her discovery, she was one of the top three award winners at the Spellman High Voltage Electronics Clean Tech Competition in New York. This STEM competition is designed to focus on using clean technology to solve environmental challenges.

Eilíse, who was the only finalist from Europe and Ireland’s first ever finalist, received €5,000 and a trophy for her invention. Following her success, she was invited to the Irish Consulate in New York where she used her invention to light up their library with her self- powered LEDs in the tricolour of the Irish flag.

“When you consider some 550 teams from 40 countries submitted projects, Eilíse Ireland’s success was phenomenal,” said Cork Person of the Year awards organiser, Manus O’Callaghan.

Sharing the joint Cork Person of the Month Award with Eilíse was Simon Meehan from Ballinora, Waterfall, a student of Colaiste Choilm, Ballincollig , who took the top prize at this year’s BT Young Scientist competition and won the Expo Sciences Luxembourg prize at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) in 2018 at the RDS, Dublin.

His project led to the discovery of a potential new antibiotic capable of beating antimicrobial resistant bacteria including MRSA.

Gold medallist Sanita Puspure with her husband Kasper, daughter Dani, age 10 and son Patrick, age 11, on her return from the World Rowing Championships at Dublin Airport in Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Gold medallist Sanita Puspure with her husband Kasper, daughter Dani, age 10 and son Patrick, age 11, on her return from the World Rowing Championships at Dublin Airport in Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

SANITA PUSPURE

Sanita was presented with a Cork Person of the Month Award to mark her achievement in the World Rowing Championship.

Gold medallist and Ballincollig resident Sanita blitzed the opposition at the world single sculls final in Bulgaria. Overcoming a host of obstacles to achieve her gold medal, Sanita was glad that all the hard work paid off at the 2018 world championship.

“We had lots of training to do, lots of training camps and lots of time away from the family,” she said.

Ahead of her race, the Latvian-born gold medallist took inspiration from Cork gold medallists Gary and Paul O’Donovan.

“I found it very emotional seeing the boys win the gold. I wanted the anthem to playing for me as well, so I can’t believe it’s actually happened.”

The Rowing Ireland team exceeded all expectations at the world championships, with Sanita Puspure and the O’Donovans achieving gold medals, and Emily Hegarty and Aifric Keogh finishing sixth in their race.

Rowing Ireland CEO, Michelle Carpenter was thrilled with the results. “It is a very proud time to be part of Irish rowing. I hope every single club and organisation that are involved with us and are part of us will celebrate these recent great successes.”

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