The Hidden Hearing Heroes Awards

Des O’Callaghan and Marcus Conroy show off their awards at the Alexander Hotel. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

The Hidden Hearing Heroes Awards were presented to nine deaf or hard of hearing people who have made a significant contribution to Irish society, their community, workplace, family or through sporting excellence.

The awards, run by Hidden Hearing and the Irish Deaf Society, were presented to:

– Orla O’Sullivan, workplace award winner, is a deafblind pianist who teaches music to deaf and hearing pupils.

– Dublin teenager Killian McDonnell, student award winner, recently made history as the first deaf student with Down Syndrome to pass his Leaving Cert. He also volunteers with several organisations.

– Freelance journalist John Cradden, Kildare, the media award winner, has forged a successful career despite serious hearing issues. He has written extensively on the subject of being deaf and is currently writing a book about his experiences of a cochlear implant.

– Gene Barry from Birr, grandparent award winner, recently lost his daughter to cancer. He and his wife are helping ro raise their young grandson, with their son-in-law, and have raised €17,000 in aid of cancer care.

– Social contribution award winner Dominic McGreal, from Dublin, has volunteered with numerous deaf organisations throughout the country over the last 20 years.

– Nine-year-old Marcus Conroy, from Roscommon, won the youth award. Marcus has been hard of hearing all his life yet it has not stopped him from getting involved in a range of activities, winning medals in judo, football and swimming.

– The sportsperson award went to Eoin Nolan. The Wexford man has represented his country at both junior and senior levels at water polo.

– The Irish Deaf Women’s Group celebrated its 20th anniversary by winning the organisation award for bettering the lives of Irish Deaf women.

– The Lifetime achievement award went to Des O’Callaghan from Dublin who has devoted his whole life to working for and helping the deaf community in Ireland. The former treasurer for the Deaf Club now spends his time in St Joseph’s House for Deaf Adults looking after others, helping them with their shopping and interpreting at Mass.

Kevin Mulqueen, chairman of the Irish Deaf Society, said: “As an organisation, we want to see a society where deaf people have full and unrestricted access to all walks of life thus becoming equal citizens, contributing and participating freely.

“The Heroes Awards demonstrates the outstanding achievements by those within our community and the excellent contributions they make to all aspects of Irish life.”

The youngest winner, nine-year-old Marcus Conroy, got the day off from Glanduff National School in Kiltoom, Roscommon, to collect his youth award for his involvement in a range of activities and winning medals in judo, football and swimming.

Proud mother Sharon said the youngster never lets his high frequency deafness hold him back.

“He has gone through so much and battled through so much,” she said.

“He doesn’t let anything hold him back. He is always in the middle of playing with everyone and doesn’t let anything deter him.”

Meanwhile, pensioner Des O’Callaghan was given the lifetime achievement award for devoting his life to working for and helping the deaf community in Ireland.

The 75-year-old was treasurer for the Deaf Club for many years until he moved to St Joseph’s House for Deaf Adults, where he spends his time looking after others in the home, helping them with their shopping and interpreting at Mass.

Mr O’Callaghan, from Dublin, was recently presented with the Benemerenti Medal from Pope Benedict XVI in recognition of his great service to the deaf community and the Catholic Church.

“I am going to Rome next month and I am hoping to meet the pope – it would be nice to meet him,” he said through a sign language interpreter. “I’d have a lot to say. I would like to talk to him about myself. Maybe he doesn’t know a lot about deaf people.”

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