Pope Francis: Church officials have come a long way but have to decide if they are part of the problem or part of the solution.Flickr

Who were the most impressive figures of 2015? Here we name those who are making a massive difference or have done in the past.

1. Pope Francis enthralled America with his simple but beautifully eloquent words of hope and inspiration during his visit here. Rarely has a religious leader touched so many of all backgrounds in such a wonderful way.

2. Maureen O’Hara, the Irish American legend who inspired millions to see the Ireland of “The Quiet Man”died in 2015 but left a powerful legacy behind her. Tourism authorities should build a shrine at every Irish airport to her.

Maureen O'Hara.

Maureen O'Hara.

3. Mark Zuckerberg donating much of his fortune in his lifetime following the path of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates to making philanthropy relevant again.

Mark Zuckerberg. Credit: Wikimedia

Mark Zuckerberg. Credit: Wikimedia

4. Chuck Feeney, the Irish American who created “Giving While Living” which inspired Zuckerberg and the others to give in their lifetime.

Chuck Feeney  Credit: AtlanticPhilanthropies.org

Chuck Feeney Credit: AtlanticPhilanthropies.org

5. The NASA scientists who managed that fly by of Pluto our most distant planet and which sent back incredible photographs. A monument to human genius. 

A first close-up pic of Pluto. Credit: NASA

A first close-up pic of Pluto. Credit: NASA

6. Maggie Doyne (Doyne is the same Irish roots as the name Dunne) is an American philanthropist who has built an orphanage, women's centre and school in the Kopila Valley of Nepal. She won the CNN Hero of the Year Award in November 2015. She started her charity with babysitter money and now looks after thousands of homeless kids.

Maggie Doyne. Credit: Twitter

Maggie Doyne. Credit: Twitter

7. In the Irish American community Dr. John Lahey fearlessly took on the obstructionists who wanted the New York St.Patrick's Parade kept in the 17th century even after Cardinal Dolan had accepted the right of a a gay group from NBC to march. Hopefully 2016 will see the first fully inclusive march and an end to the mockery of the Irish community for living in the past--thanks to Lahey.

Dr John Lahey. Credit: Quinnipiac University

Dr John Lahey. Credit: Quinnipiac University

8. Boston cop John Moynihan---the man they couldn’t kill-- already decorated for bravery for heroism during the Tsarnaev brothers shoot out, narrowly escaped death in 2015  when a felon shot him in the face during an attempted arrest. Somehow Moynihan survived.

John T. Moynihan Credit: Boston Police Dept.

John T. Moynihan Credit: Boston Police Dept.

9. Samantha Power. US Ambassador to the UN has lately has become a key figure in trying to reconcile the factions in Syria so that ISIS can be confronted with a multinational force. Irish-born from Dublin she has been a powerful voice for poorer countries since taking the job. 

Samantha Power. Credit: Wiki Commons

Samantha Power. Credit: Wiki Commons

10. Megyn Kelly. 2015 was the year that Kelly elbowed aside all opposition and became a hugely influential figure in American media. She will be a very important figure in the year ahead covering the presidential race for Fox --as Donald Trump already found out.

Megyn Kelly. Credit: Getty Images

Megyn Kelly. Credit: Getty Images