10th Annual Carers of the Year Awards –

Pictured Seunfunmi Solanke and her brother Moyo

Ireland’s Carer of the Year & Four Young Carers of the Year Announced

25 family carers from across Ireland honoured for their caring roles

Wednesday 16th November: Family Carers Ireland today hosted its 10th annual Carers of the Year Awards. Carers play a vital role in society and they are at times the forgotten workforce. The awards celebrate the dedication and commitment of the 200,000 family carers across Ireland.

Twenty-five regional family carers were presented with special awards and Dorothy Meaney from Dooradoyle, Limerick was revealed as the overall winner and she was declared Ireland’s Carer of the Year 2016. For the first time four regional Young Carers of the Year were chosen, Craig McSweeney (16 years old) was awarded Munster Young Carer of the Year, Sean Collins (13 years old) awarded Ulster/Connaught Young Carer of the Year, Seunfunmi Solanke (16 years old) awarded Leinster Young Carer of the Year and Úna Mc Nicholas (17 years old) awarded Dublin Young Carer of the Year. They were each presented with their awards by broadcasters and patrons of Family Carers Ireland, Mary Kennedy and Marty Whelan.

Dorothy Meaney, Ireland’s Carer of the Year, provides full time care to her daughter Zondra (31 years old) who has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome which affects all the systems of the body. Zondra’s illness has progressed a lot in the past three years, and Dorothy gave up work to look after her daughter and Zondra’s 9-year-old son (Dorothy’s grandson). One of the most difficult things about Zondra’s disorder is the fact there are no specialists in Ireland who can treat her, and so Dorothy and Zondra travel to the UK every 12 weeks for treatment. Dorothy was also caring for her own mother who sadly passed away and is being buried today, therefore Dorothy was unable to attend the awards ceremony. Laura Fitzgerald (who is a friend of the family) collected Dorothy’s award on her behalf.

Family Carers Ireland received a high volume of entries for the awards in 2016, with the figures rising year on year.  As with the trend in other years, six out of the twenty-five regional award recipients are male, and this correlates with the census breakdown of carers, showing approximately 25% male and 75% female. Almost one third of award recipients in 2016 are 65 years or older and half of the group have been caring for more than 10 years with some providing care for more than 40 years.

In 2015, Family Carers Ireland saw a significant increase in the volume of entries for Young Carer of the Year and therefore decided to honour four regional Young Carers of the Year in 2016.

Munster Young Carer of the Year – Craig McSweeney is from Wilton in Cork, he has three brothers, and his oldest brother Cillian (26 years old) is severely physically disabled. Craig’s Dad passed away in 2015 and since then Craig has been an amazing support to his Mum, Angela, and has taken over the role of helping her with Cillian’s care. Craig is constantly at Cillian’s side, and has become his mother’s right arm so to speak. Angela said without his help life would be so much more difficult. Craig has had a tough year since his dad died, and he also has Tourette’s syndrome, but has an amazing attitude towards it as he tries not to let it interfere with his life.

Ulster/Connaught Young Carer of the Year – Sean Collins is from Smithboro, Co. Monaghan and he helps his parents Annette and Donal care for his sister Catherine. Catherine has profound intellectual disabilities; she is a member of Special Olympics Ireland and Sean attends the club each week to assist her with the activities. Sean’s mother, Anette, is currently undergoing cancer treatment and Sean is a wonderful support to both his parents even finding time to fundraise during the summer raising over €2000 for Catherine’s school.

Leinster Young Carer of the Year – Seunfunmi Solanke is from Slane, Co. Meath and she provides care for her younger brother Moyo who has Down Syndrome. She is always helping her brother in all aspects of life from speech lessons, Special Olympics training, advocating for him and educating family and friends about Down Syndrome. Seunfunmi has great patience and kindness.

Dublin Young Carer of the Year – Úna Mc Nicholas is from Lucan, Co. Dublin and has been caring for her older sister Elizabeth for over 8 years. Elizabeth is living with severe brain and spinal injuries and has developed a sleeping disorder and Adrenal Insufficiency which is a life-threatening condition. Úna has learned how to manage these conditions. As well as caring for her sister Úna also cares for her Dad who has been very ill after having several heart attacks. What makes her even more special is the fact that Úna herself is living with a serious disability which not only affects her mobility but also causes her a lot of pain.

Speaking at the awards, Catherine Cox, Head of Communications at Family Carers Ireland said “We’re delighted to announce the 2016 winners of the Carers of the Year awards. This is the tenth year of the awards and once again we received a huge volume of entries. Throughout the past ten years we have been touched by so many remarkable people and while it is only a small gesture in comparison to the work they do, it gives us great pride to be able to honour carers from across the country.”

 “Carers are invaluable to our society, and they contribute around 6.2 million hours of unpaid care each week, saving the State €4billion each year. Being a carer means you almost always put the needs of others before yours, and at times it requires 24-hour support, there is no such thing as being off duty. The Carers of the Year awards seeks to recognise this incredible commitment and unwavering dedication carers provide to their families and loved ones.”

 Ms Cox continued, “As always we received a high volume of entries this year. Once again we noticed a strong trend where carers find themselves ‘sandwiched’ in the caring role, this is where they are caring for not just one but sometimes two or more family members. We also saw that in the case of many carers they have a long history of caring, with over half of the winners providing care for 10 years and some providing care for 40 years or more. We also noticed that a high percentage of carers are caring for loved ones with rare disorders, and this in itself presents many challenges in terms of accessing information and supports on their condition, not to mention treatments.”

Sponsored by Tunstall Emergency Response, the Carers of the Year Awards 2016 presented commemorative certificates to all nominees with 25 regional/local Carers of the Year honoured at today’s ceremony.

James Doyle, MD of Tunstall Emergency Response, Ireland’s leading provider of telehealthcare services to over 35,000 Irish customers said, “It is a privilege to be involved with the Carers of the Year awards. The work provided by these incredible people can sometimes go unnoticed, and its hugely important that we take a moment to acknowledge their devotion. Family Carers Ireland has a shared ethos with our company, as we both strive to improve the lives of those being carer for and for carers.”

Family Carers Ireland is a national voluntary organisation providing a range of vital supports and services to Ireland’s 200,000 family carers.