Paralympics Ireland honours greats

The Irish Paralympic Order was presented to three individuals at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland. 05 Oct 2013
2013 Paralympics Ireland award winners

All of the Irish Paralympic Order recipients and Hall of Fame inductees posed after receiving their awards in Dublin, Ireland.

ⒸParalympics Ireland
By Paralympics Ireland

“We started these awards last year after the team came home from London and from there we realised that we had a lot of people going back to the beginning of the Games in 1960 who had done a lot of good work and that needed to be recognised in some way."

Paralympics Ireland made a number of key award presentations on Friday night (4 October) at the official dinner of the European Paralympic Committee (EPC) General Assembly and Conference in the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.


With RTÉ’s Eamon Horan acting as MC, the awards followed speeches from European Paralympic Committee President John Petersson, and Paralympics Ireland President, James Gradwell.


Chief amongst the presentations was the awarding of the Irish Paralympic Order. This is the highest honour Paralympics Ireland can bestow as it is a merit award for outstanding service to the Paralympic Movement in Ireland. Candidates have also illustrated the values of excellence, integrity, teamwork, community, accountability, respect and commitment throughout that service.


There were three winners, who were presented with their awards by John Petersson, James Gradwell and International Paralympic Committee President, Sir Philip Craven.


Jimmy Byrne

Jimmy Byrne has dedicated his life to involving people with a physical disability in sport from beginner level right through to the Paralympics. From influencing policy-makers to coaching first-time participants, Jimmy has promoted Paralympic sport for many years at all levels.

He worked closely with Anne Ebbs in coordinating all Irish Paralympic activities prior to the full time establishment of the Paralympic Council of Ireland and was involved in the formation of the first Paralympic committee in the mid-1980s.

Jimmy was (and is) involved in Paralympic activities across a number of roles down through the years. He introduced many athletes (former and current) to Paralympic sport, coordinated a wide range of activities relating to many Paralympic cycles including training, coaching, logistics and team management, and was chef de mission of the Irish team for the Beijing Games in 2008.

Jimmy is still actively involved in supporting Paralympic sport. He currently coaches a number of Paralympic athletes and is regularly seen at development events introducing new members to various Paralympic sports. His remarkable dedication and commitment to Paralympic sport is something which deserves to be acknowledged at the highest level.


Tony Guest

Tony Guest was involved in Irish Blind Sports for 35 years as a guide runner, before becoming a national coach/team manager at events.

He then went on to become the Irish Blind Sports representative on the Paralympic Council. In 2001 he became the Paralympic Council president and held that position during the Athens and Beijing Paralympic Games cycles.

Tony has been an exceptional servant to Paralympic sport in Ireland and is deserving of Paralympics Ireland’s highest honour.


Brenda Green

Brenda Green founded Cerebral Palsy Sport Ireland in 1978, as there was no group providing sport specifically for people with cerebral palsy, and became its first chairperson. She started the regular Thursday Sports Club in Sandymount and provided regular training weekends and annual participation at the Nottingham School of Sport, which continued until her retirement as a physio from Enable Ireland in 2001.

Brenda was responsible for introducing the sports of football 7-a-side (1980) and boccia (1986) to Ireland, sports which proved richly fruitful for many years at the Paralympic Games. She led many Irish teams over the course of her career and was an official on the Irish Paralympic team at four Paralympic Games. She also became heavily involved in classification of CP athletes and was an official classifier at the Barcelona 1992 Paralympics.

Brenda has been involved with the governing body of Paralympics Ireland since its inception as a coordinating body in 1987. She has held many roles within the organisation and acted as honorary secretary for the last eight years until stepping down during the summer. The most fitting tribute came from Paul Cassin when he said “On behalf of all of us with CP, you changed our lives”.


Three deserving individuals were also inducted into the Paralympics Ireland Hall of Fame, which ensures that a permanent record and institutional memory is kept of the top Irish Paralympic athletes of all time. It honours performers who have achieved a high and sustained level of success, or have given notable service, consistently displayed a spirit of fair play, and generally made a positive contribution to the Irish Paralympic Movement.


Michael Cunningham

Michael Cunningham competed with great distinction at eight Paralympic Games from 1972 in Heidelberg to the 2000 Games in Sydney. He won gold in the javelin in the 1976 Toronto Games.

Mick was an All-Star and international basketball player, as well as being the only wheelchair athlete to represent Leinster in table tennis. Overall, he was a hugely talented athlete who excelled in track, field, basketball and table tennis and he remains active in basketball as a coach. He attended the London 2012 Games as assistant table tennis coach.


Bridie Lynch

Bridie first represented Ireland at the 1983 European Athletics Championships in Varna, Bulgaria where she won discus bronze at the age of 17. She went on to represent Ireland in four subsequent Paralympic Games (New York in 1984, Barcelona in 1992, Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000), winning gold in the discus at Barcelona. Bridie has also won Paralympic silver and bronze at shot putt and pentathlon.


Oliver Murphy

Oliver Murphy is the last living member of the first Irish Paralympic team in 1960. Oliver was one of a small team of people who, following his accident, quickly realised the importance of sport in the lives of people with a disability. Indeed he was a patient of the father of the Paralympic movement, Sir Ludwig Guttmann and was inspired by the power of sport.

Upon returning from the Games in 1960, he was a founding member of the Irish Wheelchair Association and his legacy has been the formation of a 20,000 member organisation that has a network all over Ireland.

Oliver competed at the 1960, 1964 and 1968 Paralympic Games. For his huge vision with his team mates on the first team and their efforts to improve the rights of people with disabilities, he is a deserving inductee.


Paralympics Ireland President, James Gradwell said that it was an honour to be able to honour such servants to Paralympic sport in this country.

“We started these awards last year after the team came home from London and from there we realised that we had a lot of people going back to the beginning of the Games in 1960 who had done a lot of good work and that needed to be recognised in some way. I think it’s very important to do that. In terms of the Hall of Fame, Michael Cunningham is a legend, who could pick up any sport and be good at it. He’s a natural and he is so good at bringing people on. Bridie Lynch will be remembered forever for her gold medal in Atlanta. And Oliver Murphy is the sole survivor from our very first team in 1960. He’s a fellow Drogheda man so that one in particular gives me great pride.”


“The Irish Paralympic Order is our highest honour and again, I am very pleased to be in a position to honour this particular trio. Jimmy Byrne has been involved for so long, developing athletes and he’s still training young prospects. He was a great help to me too over the years so I’m delighted he is being honoured. Tony Guest is a past president, so he’s been there and done that. Brenda Green has 35 years involvement from grassroots level right up to the Paralympics, until her retirement this year. They are all very deserving and for me as president, because I know them, it’s an honour to be involved in recognising them for their work on behalf of the Paralympic Movement in Ireland.”

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