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Ceann Comhairle presents 25 National Bravery Awards for 17 Acts of Bravery

12 Nov 2021, 16.27

The Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD, today (Friday November 12th) presented 25 National Bravery Awards to individuals who risked their own lives to aid others in peril.

Today’s ceremony at Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, brought recipients together to receive their Certificates of Bravery for 17 Acts of Bravery. There were also nine Bronze Medals for Bravery awarded, while another six recipients received Silver Medals for Bravery.

The awards honour people from Counties Cavan, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Kildare, Kilkenny, Offaly, Sligo, Tipperary and Waterford, and from the United States of America.

The annual honours are awarded by Comhairle na Míre Gaile – the Deeds of Bravery Council – which was founded in 1947 to enable State recognition of exceptional Acts of Bravery. The Council is chaired by the Ceann Comhairle and includes the Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann, the Lord Mayors of Dublin and Cork, the Garda Commissioner, the President of the Association of City & County Councils, and the Chairman of the Irish Red Cross.

The Ceann Comhairle said: “The deeds we honour here are exceptional acts of bravery. They mark the moments where people saved the lives of others through their actions, risking their own lives doing so. What these awards celebrate is the noblest impulse within a human being, to risk their life in order to save another. We honour people who leaped into stormy seas, who braved swollen rivers, climbed down cliffs, assisted at road traffic collisions and performed other remarkable deeds. Through their actions there are people alive today, who would undoubtedly have died.

“I am of course conscious that we mark these deeds at a time when the world is still under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. This virus has brought great pain to many families throughout the country and our hearts are heavy for the loss suffered over the last 20 months. But the exemplary service given by our doctors, nurses and frontline workers across the health service, the fire and rescue services and An Garda Síochána has brought great hope and also pride, to us all.

“Today we rightly acknowledge the brave acts of heroism that our honoured guests have performed. But it also a day for remembering and acknowledging the very many acts of bravery carried out day in and day out throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. However small or big those acts were and continue to be, collectively they contribute to keeping us all safe during an unprecedented time in our lives.

“The collective sense of good and indeed bravery displayed nationwide from many walks of life throughout the pandemic rightly allows us to be both proud of our communities and grateful for their existence. An Irish language expression whose literal meaning is 'It is in each other’s shadow that people live' but which, more broadly, invokes a sense of community and interdependence is most apt for the times we live in – Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.”

The recipients, as listed in order of citation, are:

Ms Sarah Courtney – Waterford.                             Certificate of Bravery and Silver Medal
Mr Ronan Flanagan – Waterford.                             Certificate of Bravery
Mr Adrian O’Hara – Waterford.                                Certificate of Bravery
Mr Aaron Hyland – Galway.                                     Certificate of Bravery
Mr Walter Butler – Virginia, USA.                             Certificate of Bravery
Mr Declan Butler – Virginia, USA.                             Certificate of Bravery
Mr Eoghan Butler – Virginia, USA.                            Certificate of Bravery
Mr Alexander Hugh Thomson – Virginia, USA.           Certificate of Bravery
Caiden Sweeney – Donegal.                                    Certificate of Bravery
Mr Shane Maloney – Cork.                                      Certificate of Bravery  

Ms Beth Darrer – Cork.                                          Certificate of Bravery and Bronze Medal
Ms Niamh McMahon – Cork.                                   Certificate of Bravery and Bronze Medal
Garda Caroline O’Brien – Kilkenny.                          Certificate of Bravery and Bronze Medal
Mr Gerard Tyrrell – Dublin.                                      Certificate of Bravery and Bronze Medal
Mr James Melia – Offaly.                                         Certificate of Bravery and Bronze Medal
Ms Jane Friel – Donegal                                          Certificate of Bravery and Bronze Medal
Garda Jeremiah Sheehy – Offaly.                             Certificate of Bravery and Bronze Medal
Garda Roisin O’Donnell – Donegal.                           Certificate of Bravery and Bronze Medal
Garda Keenan McGavisk – Dublin.                            Certificate of Bravery and Bronze Medal 

Garda Michael Joseph Lee – Cavan.                          Certificate of Bravery and Silver Medal
Mr Scott McQuaid – Kildare.                                     Certificate of Bravery and Silver Medal
Ms Susan Hackett – Tipperary                                  Certificate of Bravery and Silver Medal
Ms Zoe Lally – Sligo.                                                Certificate of Bravery and Silver Medal
Mr Demitrios Paraskevakis                                        Certificate of Bravery and Silver Medal
Mr Chris Steel – Donegal                                          Letter of Commendation 

For more information on the National Bravery Awards: 



CITATION No 1 – Sarah Courtney, Ronan Flanagan, Adrian O’Hara, (all Waterford) and Aaron Hyland (Galway)

On 27 March 2021, 70 nautical miles west of Bantry Bay with high winds and a very heavy swell, a fishing vessel under tow by the Irish Naval Service vessel LE George Bernard Shaw lost power and was in grave danger of sinking. In fading light and worsening conditions Rescue 117 successfully evacuated the crew of seven (7) from the vessel in force 9 gales and 10-12 meters seas. Without doubt the lives of the 7 crew on board the fishing vessel were saved due to the collective bravery and physical efforts of crew of Waterford-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 117 – Sarah Courtney, Ronan Flanagan, Aaron Hyland and Adrian O’Hara. In particular winchman, Ms Courtney deserves special credit. On this occasion her individual bravery and physical effort in such arduous conditions showed her to be an individual of immense capability and significant courage.

For their actions Sarah Courtney (Winchman), Ronan Flanagan (Pilot), Aaron Hyland (Pilot) and Adrian O’Hara (Winch Operator) are awarded Certificates of Bravery and for her actions Sarah Courtney is also awarded a Silver Medal.


CITATION No 2 – Walter Butler, Declan Butler, Eoghan Butler and Alexander Hugh Thomson (all Virginia, USA)

On 22 July 2019, Walter Butler, Declan Butler, Eoghan Butler and Alexander Hugh Thomson, from Arlington, Virginia, USA, were on Portmarnock Beach, Co Dublin, when they heard a man screaming that his daughter was on an inflatable toy that was being swept out to sea by strong currents and wind. The four rushed into the water to swim out to the young girl. Walter then decided to swim back to the beach so that he would be in the best possible position to provide first aid, as he is a health services technician with US Coast Guard. Declan, Eoghan and Alexander swam for twenty minutes, almost a mile in total to reach the girl who was struggling to keep her head above water. When they managed to get to the girl, they took turns carrying her as they swam and brought her safely back to the shore.

For their actions Walter Butler, Declan Butler, Eoghan Butler and Alexander Hugh Thomson are awarded Certificates of Bravery.


CITATION No 3 – Caiden Sweeney (Donegal)

At approximately 10pm on 25 November 2020 Maria Sweeney accompanied by her three children was driving along the road at Castlefinn in Donegal when a car failed to stop at a stop sign and collided with their car. The car struck the rear passenger side of Maria’s car and caused the car to end up on its roof. The driver failed to remain at the scene of the collision. Maria’s eight-year-old son Caiden managed to free himself from the upside-down car. Caiden didn’t panic as the others were screaming and crying and was able to run down the dark road barefooted to get help for the others trapped in the car.

For his actions, Caiden Sweeney is awarded a Certificate of Bravery.


CITATION No 4 – Shane Moloney (Cork)

On 6 January 2018, Shane Moloney was working with his father in their back garden in Donerail, Co Cork. They were moving a boat that his father had purchased. The mast of the boat came into contact with the overhead power line. His father was pulled towards the power line by the force of the power going through the mast. Shane’s mother saw what was happening and shouted at Shane not to go near him, without a thought Shane pulled his father away from the boat. Both Shane and his father were thrown to the ground with force. Shane’s father at that time was going into Cardiac Arrest. Shane and his mother commenced CPR on his father which ultimately saved his life.

For his actions, Shane Moloney is awarded a Certificate of Bravery.


CITATION No 5 – Beth Darrer and Niamh McMahon (both Cork)

At approximately 2.10pm on 27 May 2020 four young males got into difficulty while playing in the water at Inchydoney Beach in Co Cork. Beth Darrer heard shouts for help, and she urged people along the beach to raise the alarm and grabbed a lifebuoy as she ran towards the water. Beth waded out to one of the young men who was being helped out of the water. He explained that his three friends were still in trouble further out to sea. At this time Niamh McMahon was paddling over to where Beth was, and they began swimming out to the other young men. There was a strong rip tide that Beth and Niamh had to swim around to get to other young men. Niamh had managed to get one of them up onto her surfboard and he was vomiting, and she had another clinging to her surf board. They managed to get to the fourth man and brought all of them back to the shore safely.

For their actions Beth Darrer and Niamh McMahon are each awarded a Bronze Medal and a Certificate of Bravery.


CITATION No 6 – Garda Caroline O’Brien (Kilkenny)

On the morning of 7 July 2019, Garda Aoife Doyle, Garda James McGuill and Garda Caroline O’Brien were on patrol near St John’s Quay, Kilkenny when they saw a young man enter the water. Garda Caroline O’Brien entered the water, swam to the man and brought him to the surface. Garda James McGuill threw a lifebuoy to Garda O’Brien and both then pulled the young man 50 metres to the nearest ladder point on the river wall and the young man was taken from the water by the garda.

For her actions Garda Caroline O’Brien is awarded a Bronze Medal and a Certificate of Bravery.


CITATION No 7 – Gerard Tyrrell (Dublin)

On the 5th August 2019, two young girls were playing in the water on an inflatable floating flamingo when they were blown out to the sea. The alarm was raised and Gerard Tyrrell and three others jumped into the sea and swam out to the girls. Gerard was first to reach the girls and as the girls were unable to swim, Gerard had to drag the inflatable as the tide was heading out and against strong current to bring the girls safely ashore.

For his actions Gerard Tyrrell is awarded a Bronze Medal and a Certificate of Bravery.


CITATION No 8 – James Melia (Offaly)

On the morning of 23 November 2018, at Ardnamullen, Clonard, Co Meath, James Melia’s lorry was hit head on by an oncoming car in treacherous road conditions.  The driver of the car was seriously injured and was trapped in the car. James exited his lorry, acted swiftly and immediately took actions to try and stop the spread of fire by using his own fire extinguisher. This failed to control the fire as the fire was too strong. As a passer-by went to get help, James remained calm and began getting fistfuls of clay and mud from a ditch and stuffing it onto the flames to keep the fire at bay and prevent it from spreading. James selfless actions resulted in extensive injuries to his hands including damage to his fingertips. 

For his actions James Melia is awarded a Bronze Medal and a Certificate of Bravery.


CITATION No 9 – Jane Friel (Donegal)

On the afternoon of 28 July 2020, a woman in distress ran up to some people looking for a lifeguard as her family were being swept out to sea off Portsalon Beach, Co Donegal. Jane Friel overheard this and noticing that there were no lifeguards in that area ran towards the water to help. She was given a life ring by a person on the beach and she ran into the water still wearing her jeans and swam out to sea. Initially, she couldn’t see them as they were quite far out but eventually reached them. She found a father and his three daughters, ranging in age she thought between eight and 13, in a distressed state trying to stay afloat on two body boards in very deep water. As she approached them, she asked them to try and remain calm.

Jane then asked what appeared to be the youngest child to take hold of the life ring and told those remaining that she would be back to get them. Jane asked the young girl to kick as hard as she could and managed to get her close enough to shore. This allowed someone on the shore to wade into the water and bring her ashore. Jane then returned to the three remaining people. Jane got another one of the girls to come towards her with her body board asking her to also kick as hard as she could, and she would get her to safety. The girl did this and Jane got her to the shore safely. Jane then turned to go back for the other two but at this stage the father and daughter had copied what Jane was doing and they managed to get themselves safely to shore. 

For her actions Jane Friel is awarded a Bronze Medal and a Certificate of Bravery.


CITATION No 10 – Garda Jeremiah Sheehy (Offaly)

At approximately 3am on 27 of April 2020, Garda Jeremiah Sheehy and Garda Virgina Doona met a man walking along Main Street in Banagher, Co Offaly. The man would not engage with them as he walked in the direction of the bridge at the Westend. The gardaí turned back a few minutes later to see where the man had gone. Unable to locate him they started to search the Marina carpark beside the bridge and found the man had scaled a disused loading crane and was now dangling unconscious from a crossbeam 18-20 feet off the ground. Both gardaí went to the man’s assistance. Garda Sheehy scaled the crane and pulled the unconscious man back towards the crane. This was extremely difficult as the man’s weight was close to 18 stone and he was now dangling over the water’s edge.

Garda Doona immediately sought assistance from other Garda members and the fire and ambulance services. Garda Doona managed to get a knife and Garda Sheehy succeeded in cutting the ligature. This caused the full weight of the man to fall onto Garda Sheehy’s foot which was now trapped against the steel structure. The man was held in place for approximately 10 minutes until Garda Ken McDonald and Garda Michael Rosey arrived and were able to scale the crane and take the weight of the man. Garda Sheehy was in pain and discomfort, but the Gardaí present were unable to free Garda Sheehy’s trapped foot. Fire and ambulance services arrived 10 minutes later and were able to take the man to safety and free Garda Sheehy’s trapped foot.   

For his actions Garda Jeremiah Sheehy is awarded a Bronze Medal and a Certificate of Bravery.


CITATION No 11 – Garda Keenan McGavisk (Dublin) and Garda Róisín O’Donnell (Donegal)

At approximately 1.30am on 30 March 2020, members of An Garda Síochána responded to reports of a man in difficulty in the River Dee at Cappocksgreen, Ardee, Co Louth. Garda Róisín O’Donnell accompanied by Garda Keenan McGavisk and Garda Conor Tuite arrived to the scene and climbed down an embankment and searched along the river in torchlight. They observed the man in the water who was being swept downstream in the strong current. There were signs that the man was in significant distress.

Garda Tuite immediately ran in search of a lifebuoy while requesting on his radio for the assistance of the Fire Brigade and Ambulance Services.  Garda O’Donnell and Garda McGavisk navigated difficult terrain, and both entered the water without hesitation or concern for their own safety. Both waded into fast flowing water in the river in order to reach the man and encountered extremely difficult conditions underfoot, coupled with the strong fast flow of the river. Garda O’Donnell momentarily lost her footing and lost her flashlight to the water in the process, thereby making the endeavour that much more difficult. Both gardaí had to link arms to counter the fast flow of the river and reach the man. They managed to drag him to the riverbed on the far side of the river. They were assisted at that point by additional Garda personnel who attended the scene and later by the Fire Brigade and Ambulance Services.

For their actions Garda Keenan McGavisk and Garda Róisín O’Donnell are each awarded a Bronze Medal and a Certificate of Bravery.


CITATION No 12 – Garda Michael Joseph Lee (Cavan)

On 13 June 1964, Garda Michael Joseph Lee was called to a report of a mother and daughter who had fallen from a cliff near Leenan Fort, Co. Donegal. The mother had slipped and her daughter slipped with her. Both fell and rolled towards the sea. An outcrop of rock saved them from going out into the sea. Garda Lee was lowered on a rope, held by some local men and reached the pair as a boat from Leenan Quay arrived to assist.      

The men on the boat managed to put the mother onto a makeshift stretcher and take her on board but the girl became hysterical and refused to go on the boat. Garda Lee then held onto her and the rope as he was pulled back up the cliff. Newspaper reports of the time put the drop at between 200 -300ft. Both mother and daughter survived the ordeal, although both had suffered broken bones from the fall.

Garda Lee was wearing his uniform and regular Garda footwear at the time and had no  specialised training in mountaineering or rock climbing. 

For his actions Garda Michael Joseph Lee is awarded a Silver Medal and a Certificate of Bravery.


CITATION No 13 – Scott McQuaid (Kildare)

On 28 February 2021 a father and son got into difficulty when out kayaking on the River Barrow at Ardreigh Lock, Athy, Co Kildare. The kayak overturned in a very cold rapid flowing river which had burst its banks. The father managed to scream for help and keep his nine-year-old son afloat. Scott heard the screams and entered the water. With his lifesaving skills he managed to get to the man and his son. He succeeded in getting the nine-year-old to the riverbank after some 10 minutes of fighting a strong current. At this stage the current had taken the man, and tragically his body was found several days later after a massive search.

For his actions Scott McQuaid is awarded a Silver Medal and a Certificate of Bravery.


CITATION No 14 – Susan Hackett (Tipperary)

At approximately 3pm on 4 June 1995 a group of young people were swimming in the River Suir near Newcastle, Co Tipperary, when two got into difficulty. The strong curling current was making it difficult for them to stay above the water as it pushed them into deeper water of the river. As the two were struggling and fighting to keep above water and shouting for help, 16-year-old Susan Hackett saw the danger the two were in. She jumped from the nearby bridge into the river and swam to their aid. Susan managed to pull them apart and was able to ensure that one was able to swim on their back to safety as she pulled the other to the riverbank and safety.   

For her actions Susan Hackett is awarded a Silver Medal and a Certificate of Bravery.


CITATION No 15 – Zoe Lally (Sligo)

On 29 March 2021, three teenage boys were swept from Easkey Pier, Co Sligo, into the sea by a high wave. Zoe Lally was walking her dog towards the pier and saw the boys swept into the water. Weather and sea conditions at the time were not good with a wind of force 5 and the seas as high as 4 meters at times. Using a ring buoy Zoe was able to pull two of the teenagers to safety from the pier. She then jumped into the water fully clothed and in rough seas swam to the third boy who had drifted out to sea. Zoe brought the boy ashore further down the coast. All three teenagers were

brought to Sligo Hospital following their ordeal and there is no doubt that if Zoe was not present that evening at Easkey Pier, there would have been three fatalities.                        

For her actions Zoe Lally is awarded a Silver Medal and a Certificate of Bravery.


CITATION No 16 – Demitrios Paraskevakis

At approximately 9.25 p.m. on Sunday, 3 December 2000 a serious road traffic accident took place at the junction of Burgh Quay and Tara Street. The accident involved a Scania passenger coach and a Bus Eireann coach. As a result of the accident the Bus Eireann vehicle, crashed through the parapet of the River Liffey on Butt Bridge and ended up with the driver's cab submerged in the water and balanced on the bridge in an upright position.

Demitrios Paraskevakis was driving his car along Tara Street and witnessed the crash. He parked his car on the footpath, took off his jacket and ran over to the coach. When he arrived at the scene the rear of the coach was resting on the demolished parapet wall and the front was resting in the water.

Another man also went to the scene of the accident. Both men climbed up on the back of the coach and opened the emergency exit door on the driver's side. They then climbed onto the coach and began working their way down the steep incline, supporting themselves on the backs of the seats as they went. Fortunately, there were no passengers on the coach. When they got down to the front of the bus the two men were unable to see the driver.

Eventually, they saw his head and arms emerge from the water. Mr Paraskevakis lay across the back of the first seat that was not submerged and grabbed the driver under the arms and, with the help of the other man, removed him from the water. Mr Paraskevakis got behind the driver and placed his shoulder under him and in this way, they worked him out of the water and dragged him back up the steep incline in the bus.

Once the Fire Services arrived a rope was lowered into the bus and Mr. Paraskevakis and a fire officer hoisted the driver up to the back of the bus. The fire brigade personnel broke the back window of the bus and the driver was taken away. The driver was unconscious when taken from the water but later made a full recovery.

For his actions Demitrios Paraskevakis was awarded a Silver Medal and a Certificate of Bravery.


CITATION No 17 – Chris Steel (Cork)

On 24 April 2020 a fire broke out in the house in Ballysaggart, Co Donegal, of an elderly man of about 81 years old. A neighbour, Chris Steel, who was off work due to Covid, noticed smoke coming from the house at around 11am and broke down the inside porch door in order to access the house. Mr Steel assisted the elderly gentleman outside and prevented him from returning to the house as the thatch roof was not in good repair and likely to collapse. The fire service and ambulance service both attended the scene and the elderly gentleman was brought to hospital.

For his actions, Chris Steel is awarded a Letter of Commendation.