Sr Mary Sweeney from Dungloe has tonight been awarded The Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad for 2016.

The intimate ceremony took place tonight in Áras an Uachtaráin, with President Michael D. Higgins, Sabina Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and Joe McHugh, Minister of State for the Diaspora and Overseas Development Aid all in attendance to celebrate the work of Irish people abroad.

Sr Mary was honoured for her missionary work in promoting peace, reconciliation and development

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.