And the award goes to…my top five ‘everyday’ heroes!

The onset and the advance of this pandemic has forced us to dramatically change our lives, with the fallout leaving us feeling weary, fed up, short-changed and angry.

  However, throughout all of the stress, the uncertainty and the confusion, there have been those who have, through their hard work, their hope, their bravery and their dignity, managed to become an inspiration for each and every one of us.

  Therefore, when we get through this crisis, (and we will), I’ve got no doubt that history will record the following five courageous people/groups as being the very ones who influenced us, motivated us, encouraged us, and lifted us up during these devastating times.

And the award goes to…

Vicky Phelan: This extraordinary CervicalCheck campaigner has gone through agonising and heroic lengths to stay alive and see her beautiful children grow into adults. However, heartbreakingly, this lady recently revealed her decision to cease chemotherapy in order to see in the festive season with her family, disclosing that while she’s not ‘frightened of death’ on the days she’s feeling well, she worries ‘about how it’s going to end’, when she’s feeling ill.

  It’s for this and many, many more reasons, that this soul-steering, exhilarating, wondrously brave legend gets my number one vote for ‘Person of the Year’.

Frontline/healthcare/emergency personnel: These titans have been asked (and expected) to treat massive amounts of people in what is a precariously shifting landscape without question and, very often, without proper rest and conditions.

  Despite the fact these medical professionals have undergone years of training, it’s blatantly clear that no amount of tuition could ever have prepared them for an event such as this pandemic. Neither were they properly equipped with the skills needed to deal with the reported 34,000 assaults levelled at them over the past seven years! It’s for that reason these angels need to be recognised and rewarded for going above and beyond in trying to keep us all healthy and alive during these uncertain times. Thank you!

Our local Gardaí: As a direct result of this pandemic, extra pressure has been placed on our Gardaí. During lockdown, as they made sure the public adhered to travel restrictions, our boys and girls in blue were often forced to stand in appalling weather conditions, with some receiving disgusting abuse from irate (and ill-mannered) motorists; all for just for doing their jobs.

  Who can forget the shocking image of a hoodlum firing a rocket in the direction of the head of one Garda during an anti-lockdown protest in Dublin last spring? According to local TD Denis Naughten, ‘Garda manpower has hit an all-time low in the Roscommon Garda District’, therefore I’d have to assume that so too has overall morale. For that reason, these courageous people deserve, not just our respect, they also deserve our support and our gratitude.

Finn Ryan: The sight of this beautiful boy ringing the bell to celebrate being cancer-free on this year’s Late Late Toy Show had me in floods of tears. Finn (8) not only accidentally broke the bell; his sweet nature, his cheeky grin, his cherubic little face and his courage nearly broke me too.

  According to the Irish Cancer Society, around 200 children are diagnosed with cancer in Ireland each year. While there’s absolutely nothing like hearing the ‘C’ word to strike terror into anyone’s heart, I can only imagine the fear, the dread and the panic that every parent goes through when told their child has a life-threatening condition.

  To that end, Finn, and every single child who has rung that bell, (and who is about to ring that bell), serves to remind us that there’s always hope. Finn, my darling, I wish you and your family a happy and healthy Christmas; your bravery has won the heart of the entire nation.

Kellie Harrington: Following a year of Covid-infused bad news, I was thrilled when fellow Dubliner Kellie Harrington made history by bringing home the Olympic gold medal for boxing, making her one of our nation’s ‘most bankable’ world champions!

  However, it’s not just Kellie’s sporting prowess that impresses me, this woman’s appeal reaches way further than being an Olympic champion. Long before her Tokyo success, Kellie auctioned off her 2015 National Elite belt and Irish vest to raise funds for her neighbour who lost their home to a fire. She also advocates for a number of charitable causes including homelessness, the rape crisis centre, and cancer charities etc.

  Since winning the gold, down-to-earth Kellie insisted ‘it’s not all about the money’, and, shunning offers to turn pro, she opted to remain in amateur boxing. In fact, within days of her returning to a hero’s welcome in Portland Row where she lives, this inspirational sportswoman clocked in at her job as a cleaner in St. Vincent’s Psychiatric Hospital in Fairview…what a champ!