Searching for unsung heroes

Brian O�"Kane, Specsavers NI Chairman, launches the 2017 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with UTV presenters Pamela Ballantine and Marc Mallet.
Brian O�"Kane, Specsavers NI Chairman, launches the 2017 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with UTV presenters Pamela Ballantine and Marc Mallet.

The 2017 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers have just been launched and judges are looking for who you think best captures the Spirit of Northern Ireland in 2017.

This annual awards ceremony, which will again be televised by UTV, seeks to honour all those who make a difference across Northern Ireland.

Last year’s overall Spirit of Northern Ireland winner was Davitt Walsh, from the Derry/Donegal border. Davitt rescued a baby from tragically drowning when the family’s car slipped off the pier in Buncrana after a day out. His quick thinking and immediate action enabled Davitt to rescue baby Rioghnach-Ann from the water when sadly five other members of her family drowned. This year organisers want your nominations for who you think deserves a Spirit of Northern Ireland Award, by selflessly serving others and being an inspiration to us all.

The unique Northern Ireland-wide search will give recognition to those whose good deeds have previously gone mostly unnoticed - ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things to help others and people whose uplifting stories of selfless acts will touch the hearts of all who read them.

Store Director of the Magherafelt and Cookstown Specsavers stores, Brian O’Kane, said: “We are delighted to be sponsors of the fabulous Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards for the seventh year running. Each year we are humbled and inspired by the incredible stories that are received and I have no doubt that this year will be no different. These awards celebrate all that is good about Northern Ireland and give us the opportunity to champion these amazing people and to give them the recognition they so rightly deserve.”

Judges are searching to honour winners across 10 categories in total which are now open for nomination. This year’s categories are: Unsung Hero, Overcoming Adversity, Spirit of Youth, 999 Hero, Charity Champion, Spirit of Health, Spirit of Education, Caring Spirit Award, Spirit of Sport and Overall Spirit of Northern Ireland Award.

Whether for demonstrating a spirit of compassion, neighbourliness, charity, enterprise, courage or devotion, all nominations are welcome. All those who submit nominations will automatically be entered into a prize draw to win a £150 eyecare voucher and a VIP experience at the awards, including an overnight stay at the Culloden, courtesy of Specsavers. The grand final for the Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers will take place on Friday, June 16 at the luxurious five-star Culloden Estate and Spa resort in Holywood.

Hosting the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers this year again will be UTV’s Marc Mallett and Pamela Ballantine, and just like previous years, the audience will be filled with many local celebrities supporting the event and eager to hear the finalists’ incredible stories.

Soap and drama fans had their pick of household names at last year’s event from the likes of Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Holby City, Game of Thrones and The Fall.

Entertainment on the night of the awards this June will be provided by Boyzlife – the band formed by Boyzone singer Keith Duffy and Westlife’s Brian McFadden.

To make a nomination, simply explain in 50-100 words why this person is worthy of a Spirit of Northern Ireland Award and email to or fill in a form available at a local Specsavers store.

The closing date for nominations is Friday, May 5.

Tickets for the gala awards ceremony cost £65 which includes dinner, table wine and entertainment and can be purchased from JComms, Sylvan House, Belmont Office Park, 232-240 Belmont Road, Belfast, BT4 2AW; by phone at 028 9076 0066 or emailing: