Mary Hagan, a mother of two from Bunlahy, has been honoured for her dedication to her children at the Family Carers Ireland (FCI) Longford Carer of the Year awards for 2019.
The award presentation took place in the Longford Arms Hotel on Monday, October 21, with Mary chosen as this year’s winner due to her tireless commitment to the care of her children, Luke and Clodagh.
Clodagh and Luke (both aged five) were born in 2014 and were diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder three years later. Caring duties for the twins are split between Mary and her husband, Sean.
Cassandra Heffernan, Carer Support Manager FCI, said, “Mary stood out because of all of the nice words about her and because of the high number of nominations there was - nine in total.”
Before Mary received her award, which included a hotel break away, flowers courtesy of Blooms florist and a Newbridge silverware clock, her two sisters-in-law had some kind words.
First up was Tríona, who praised Mary and Sean for the way in which they dealt with every challenge.
She stated, “Both of them accepted the cards they had been dealt with love, courage and great understanding.”
Before adding, “Mary and Sean both make huge sacrifices every day to make sure Clodagh and Luke have the best care that is available to them.
“Mary, you are a shining example to every special needs mother out there.”
These sentiments were shared by Mary’s sister-in-law Eileen.
Eileen said, “It has been an eye-opening and heart wrenching journey, but in spite of the trials and tribulations, Mary has continued to fight for her children’s progress.
“Mary is an amazing mother. Her courage and devotion to the twins is an inspiration to us all.
“Her motto has always been that you ‘just have to get up and get on with it’, a motto we could all use.
“There are so many carers out there doing wonderful work, but we as a family are delighted to see Mary getting this well-deserved recognition.”
Upon receipt of the award award, Mary issued a special thanks to her husband, Sean, and her family on both sides for their constant support.
“I want to thank everyone that voted for me. It means so much to get this award, because some days are very hard in our house. But what else can you do but just get on with it?
“From the time we got them diagnosed, Sean has been in the middle of it too. It is really a two-team job.”
Mary then used her new role as ambassador to encourage other carers to make the most of the services available to them, such as those offered by FCI.
She said, “In the beginning we didn’t really have any support, whereas now, there is a lot of awareness surrounding autism. People are now more understanding.
“Even through FCI on Facebook, it is great. All of the other parents support each other.
“It is like a forum to help other parents, and somewhere they can talk openly without being judged.
“If you’re stuck or need a bit of help, there is a website where you can go or a number you can call for advice.”
Caroline Poole, Regional Manager FCI, thanked all who support the awards.
“Thank you to Blooms for donating flowers and to Netwatch for sponsoring the awards. And of course, the Longford Arms Hotel,”
In conclusion Dorothy Finnane of FCI, informed people of the ongoing petition to highlight FCI's dissatisfaction at the failure of government to address the current homecare crisis. This went side-by-side with a Carers Against Government Exploitation (CAGE) protest which was held outside Leinster House on Wednesday, October 16.
Dorothy said, “The petition goes through to government and the more signatures we get, the better.”
People can sign the petition via familycarers.ie, where they can also find further information on services provided. The freephone helpline is 1800 240724.
Family Carers Ireland offer support on issues such as entitlements, dementia and legal issues, while also offering counselling, advocacy services, access to carers groups and training.
Pictures - Declan Gilmore