Philanthropist Chuck Feeney and Notre Dame game head Donald Keough are among the ten recipients of the Irish Government’s first annual Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad.

Feeney has donated $1.5 billion to Irish universities. Keough brought Coca Cola to Ireland when he was president of the company and also led the effort to bring the Notre Dame game to Dublin. He is founder of the Keough/Naughton Irish Institute at Notre Dame.

Other Irish Americans acknowledged were Loretta Brennan Glucksman, head of the American Ireland Funds and a dedicated philanthropist, and Boston-based Sister Leena Deevey, head of the Boston Irish Immigration Center. Canadian Irish leader Pat Kelly from Ottawa was recognised, as was the late Dublin-born Australian Rules footballer, Jim Stynes.

Community Support  awards were won by community worker Sally Mulready (Britain) while a priest, Father Michael Kelly, was recognized for his work on HIV and AIDs in Zambia.

In a statement, President Michael D Higgins said: “Each of the awardees has distinguished themselves by the long-standing service they have given to Ireland and to the Irish community abroad.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore stated that he had made a commitment at the 2011 Global Irish Economic Forum to establish the award system. “The award will now be presented on an annual basis,” he said.

Nominees must be habitually resident outside the island of Ireland and have rendered distinguished service to the nation and/or its reputation abroad.

The scheme is managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and nominations were made by Irish communities abroad through Ireland’s network of diplomatic missions. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in Áras an Uachtaráin on November 15th.