Sr Mary Sweeney, a native of Dungloe will be honoured tonight with an award from President Michael D Higgins for her work as a missionary abroad.
Sr Mary’s efforts for peace, reconciliation and development will be recognised as she receives The Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad for 2016.
Mary is Sister of St Joseph of Cluny has been devoted to helping deaf children and the sick, particularly through her role during the Ebola epidemic and calling on the Irish people to respond with their help.
Sr. Mary Sweeney has worked tirelessly for over forty years, often with limited support, in the extremely challenging environment of Sierra Leone.
Through her efforts in establishing the St Joseph’s School for the Hearing Impaired in Makeni, she has given education, skills training and life opportunities to the most vulnerable of people; children with a disability in a developing country.
Notably, she remained in Makeni to keep the school open during the brutal civil war in the 1990s, and more recently she has played a significant role in coordinating much-needed support for the Ebola response in Makeni.
Sr. Sweeney has in recent years widened her ambitions and focussed her energies on promoting the development of a curriculum for the training of teachers for special needs education in Sierra Leone.
The Presidential Distinguished Service Award was established by the Government following the 2011 Global Irish Economic Forum as a means to recognise the contribution of members of the Irish diaspora.
On the announcement of this years’ recipients, Minister for Diaspora Affairs and International Development, Joe McHugh T.D, added:
“This year’s Presidential Distinguished Service Award recipients signify the breadth and richness of our diaspora. They include those working with the most marginalised and vulnerable, those who have become the voice for those who have none. In the very challenging environment of Sierra Leone, Sr. Mary Sweeney has worked tirelessly for local communities and most recently she has played a significant role in coordinating a response to the Ebola epidemic.”