The Presidential Distinguished Service Award was established by the Irish Government a number of years ago as a means of recognising the outstanding contribution of Irish people living overseas who have rendered distinguished service to the nation and/or its reputation abroad.
Mary T. has been recognised under the charitable works category in acknowledgement of a career spent caring for and supporting those affected by illness, drought, conflict and poverty across several developing world countries.
Announcing this year’s recipients, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, said that the 10 people to be honoured “have provided a sustained service and commitment to Ireland and Irish communities abroad”.
Mary T. has more than 27 years’ experience working to improve the health of the poor in the developing world, specialising in areas such as healthcare, nutrition, HIV and AIDS, mother-and-child healthcare, and gender equality.
Currently employed as Refugee Programme Manager for GOAL in Ethiopia, she is responsible for the set-up, overall planning, implementation and operational management of our large-scale emergency refugee programmes that cater for tens of thousands of South Sudanese and Eritrean refugees.
During the Ebola crisis in 2015, Mary T. spent two separate stints in Sierra Leone directing and managing GOAL’s Ebola response programme. A hugely significant and critical role, her work included the management of a fully-equipped and functioning Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC). Staffed by more than 450 international and national aid workers, this ETC treated more than 600 Ebola patients during its operation.
Following a decade working and training as a staff nurse in the special care and intensive care units of Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin, Mary T. joined GOAL in 1994 as a medical co-ordinator in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where she helped respond to the refugee crisis precipitated by the Rwandan genocide. Her achievements here included supporting the establishment and development of medical facilities for approximately 27,000 refugees.
From 1997 to 2007, she held the post of Programme Co-ordinator in Burundi for the US NGO, International Medical Corps (IMC), where she was responsible for the overall management and development of IMC’s nutrition and health programmes across a number of provinces.
Mary re-joined GOAL in 2008 and has held several high-level humanitarian-related positions, before taking up her current role in 2013.
The award itself will be presented by President Michael D. Higgins later this year.
Nine others will receive this year’s Presidential Award, including actor, Liam Neeson; artist Bernard Canavan; Nobel prize winner, William Campbell; and former Ambassador of Canada to the US, John de Chastelain, in recognition of his role in the Northern Ireland peace process.