President Michael D Higgins and Fionnula Flanagan, one of the three Irish and Irish Americans nominated for the Irish Presidential Distinguished Service Award.RTE/YouTube

Actress Fionnula Flanagan, Irish American activist and publisher Niall O’Dowd, and human rights humanitarian Dr Kevin Cahill are amongst those to be honored with the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for 2014.

IrishCentral Founder Niall O’Dowd the first Irish-born US awardee stated it was a “great honor” to be selected. “Recognition from Ireland for the Irish abroad is always very special. The Presidential Distinguished Awards are a wonderful way to achieve that. I feel I am in very distinguished company”
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, announced the recipients for this year’s award following a meeting of the Government on Tuesday.
The Presidential Distinguished Service Award was established by the Government following the 2011 Global Irish Economic Forum as a means of recognizing the contribution of the Irish abroad to Ireland and to our international reputation.
Announcing the recipients of the 2014 award, which will be presented in October, Minister Flanagan said “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to these remarkable people for what they individually contributed to Ireland, to the Irish abroad and our international reputation.
“The Presidential Distinguished Service Award acknowledges the many ways in which our diaspora contribute to Ireland. Whether through their charitable work, their support for Irish communities, or their contribution to the arts, their service and commitment to this country is a shining example to us all and I am delighted that they will be honored by the President in such a fitting manner.
“Engagement with the diaspora was a priority on my first official trip to Britain recently. I had very constructive meetings with the Irish community in the United States this week and I look forward to maintaining the strong connection to Irish communities throughout my time as Minister.”
Jimmy Deenihan T.D., Minister for Diaspora Affairs, added “These ten people show the remarkable diversity of Ireland’s reach in the world. For the first time, there are awardees from the UAE, Korea and Russia, in addition to the more expected locations of Britain, the US, Canada and Australia.
“The nominations are made in different categories, but there is enormous overlap. For example, Colm McLoughlin is, deservedly, nominated for his business successes, and using that success to support Ireland’s reputation; but he is equally an unstinting supporter of the Irish community in Dubai.
“They are not all Irish born. Thomas Keneally, the wonderful writer, is first and foremost an Australian; but he is proud of his Irish heritage and has written and spoken about it. Niall O’Dowd has become one of the best known voices of the Diaspora here in Ireland.

Taken together, this group shows diverse talents: cultural awareness, business acumen, humanity, far sightedness and, in different ways, a concern to make the world a better place. I want to congratulate them all and look forward to meeting them when they come to Ireland”.

The recipients of Presidential Distinguished Service Awards in 2014 are:

Arts, Culture and Sport
Fionnula Flanagan (US)
Thomas Kenneally (Australia)

Charitable Works

Fr. PJ McGlinchey (Korea)
Business and Education
Jim Flaherty (deceased,Canada)
Catherine Day (EC)
Colm McLoughlin (UAE)
Irish Community Support

Mary Allen (Britain)
Avril Conroy (Russia)

Peace, Reconciliation and Development

Niall O’Dowd (US)
Kevin Cahill (US)