Honour for Paralympic skier
A visually-impaired skier from Northern Ireland who won Great Britain’s first Winter Paralympic gold has been named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Kelly Gallagher, 29, triumphed in the super giant slalom event at Sochi in March.
She and her guide Charlotte Evans become MBEs for services to sport for people with a visual impairment.
Gallagher has oculocutaneous albinism, a condition with affects the pigment in her hair, skin and eyes.
The sportswoman from Bangor in Co Down started skiing for the first time when she was 17 on a trip to Andorra and began working with Evans, from Kent, in late 2010, just months after finishing fourth in the Giant Slalom at the Vancouver Games with previous guide Claire Robb.
The pair communicate on their way down the slopes via bluetooth headsets as they travel at speeds of up to 100km/h.
Since linking up, they have won silver and bronze medals in the 2011 and 2013 World Championships as well as World Cup honours.
Also named on the honours list is retired deputy chief constable Judith Gillespie, given a CBE for services to policing and the community in Northern Ireland.
Mrs Gillespie, formerly the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s highest ranking female officer, left after 32 years in policing within the PSNI and its predecessor, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).
She said: “I see this as recognition for my 32 years, including service in the RUC. I served for a long time in the RUC and that gave me the foundation.”
She already held an OBE and this latest award is also in recognition of her role over the past decade in helping the force shift focus towards the community despite the dissident republican threat.
She has led recruitment campaigns and chaired the World Police and Fire Games 2013 Board, the largest multi-disciplinary sports event ever to come to Northern Ireland. The Games’ chief executive John Tully was awarded an MBE.
Ms Gillespie joined the RUC in 1982, the year after the republican hunger strikes when tensions were close to boiling over and bombings and shootings were commonplace.
She said: “When I compare policing when I joined to now, while we are not totally trouble-free and there are all sorts of challenges today, they are very different to the challenges then, patrolling with the army, security was first and foremost.”
A total of 95 people from Northern Ireland were recognised in the honours list, fairly evenly split between women and men. Half the list involved people working in the community, some within the economy and some within the education and health sectors.
Among those honoured were Jenny Bristow, the chef and broadcaster from Ballymena in Co Antrim, for services to broadcasting and the food industry.
She hosted a World Nutrition Conference Masterclass in Belfast in 2012 and has supported charities for the elderly and those with cancer.
Local businessmen recognised included Howard Hastings, managing director of Hastings Hotels Group which includes the Europa, once one of the most bombed in the world, for services to tourism and hospitality.
He spearheaded the NI2012 Our Time Our Place campaign which promoted Northern Ireland abroad and has played important roles in the Tourist Board.
Also recognised was Bill Wolsey, who owns the luxury Merchant Hotel in Belfast and whose Beannchor Ltd group runs 50 hotels and pubs and employs 600 people.
For every restaurant that opens the group plants 2,000 trees and donates four days’ profits to charity.
Dr Glynis Henry, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council for Nurses and Midwives received the CBE for services to health care.
She is from Fintona in Co Tyrone and played a key role as a nurse in dealing with casualties and deaths from the Real IRA 1998 Omagh bomb which killed 29 people.
Democratic Unionist Party councillor Sammy Brush, from Ballygawley in Co Tyrone, received an MBE for services to the community in the county.
Mr Brush was shot in an IRA gun attack in Aughnacloy, County Tyrone, in 1981 while working as a soldier and has supported victims and survivors of terrorism.
Mr Brush said: ‘I am shocked but delighted to have been awarded the MBE. Whilst I have served the community for many years, whether that was delivering post, within the Ulster Defence Regiment or more recently as a district councillor, I never anticipated that I would be given an honour of this nature. I am obviously now looking forward to visiting the palace to receive the award.
DUP Leader Peter Robinson said: “Sammy has faced not just an attempt on his life, but also faced a series of attacks on his home. He has demonstrated enormous bravery right throughout this and served the community for the last decade as a councillor.
“He is hugely deserving of this honour and I am delighted that he is being recognised for the positive contribution he has made to the community.”
Gallagher said the recognition meant a lot.
“Without sounding arrogant, I know how much work we put into this and it is really nice to be recognised by people from outside our sport,” she said.
“The coverage we have received means so much to us because it means people have recognised that commitment, and it proves to others that they are capable of achieving great things whatever their goals are in life.”
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