Three inspirational ladies from Newry were among the winners at the Northern Ireland Road Safety Awards 2019. Patricia O'Neill, Monica Heaney and Ciara Sands were inspired to campaign for improved road safety after losing loved ones on the roads, PAtricia by setting up a road safety committee and Monica and Ciara who set up campaign group A1 - How Many More Must Die.

Patricia O'Neill

Patricia O'Neill got involved in road safety due to a family member losing their life on the roads in 2014. 

Driven by the desire to see that no other family should go through a similar experience, she helped set up a road safety committee in her council area.  Whilst supported by others, she has been described as the driving force behind the groups.  She ensures the group meets every month, that minutes are recorded and an action plan is delivered.

Award Host Frank Mitchell, with Monica Heaney and Ciara Sands and Jonathan McKeown of event Sponsors CRASH Services.
Award Host Frank Mitchell, with Monica Heaney and Ciara Sands and Jonathan McKeown of event Sponsors CRASH Services.

The group run an impressive array of programmes for vulnerable road user groups and programmes to address the causation factors of collisions.  Just some of their highlights for this year alone include the sourcing and distribution of nearly 3,000 high vis jackets, over 40 local schools participated in their recent road safety poster competition, courses have been delivered for older and young drivers.

To ensure the committee has funds to continue its work, the winner has lobbied local representatives, ran pub quizzes, did bag packs and organised on street collection. The amount of voluntary hours and personal expense incurred would run into the thousands.  It has been said that some large companies wont be as well run as this committee.  Road Safe NI are incredibly lucky that she is involved and all the statutory agencies she works with hold her in the highest regard.

Monica Heaney and Ciara Sands

Monica and Ciara are from the A1: How many must Die? Campaign group

They set up the campaign group following the tragic death of Karl Heaney in May 2018.

Their involvement in road safety extends way beyond this campaign and they play a leading role in their local road safety committee.  Helping to organising events and attending schools talks and group talks.

In addition, they have helped organise a memorial day for road victims on World Day of Remembrance for Road Victims and are the driving force behind a new support group being set up for those have been affected by road fatalities.

Finally they organised a huge fundraising event to raise funds for their work.  This was a superhero day in honour of Karl which saw Armagh and Down GAA legends compete against the other in a charity match. This event raised over £10,000 which was donated to the local Road Safety Committee and Head Injury Support Charities.

 The Awards

The winners at Fridays event, 22 November, included individuals, organisations and special projects from across the voluntary, education, emergency service, public and business sectors. 

The NI Road Safety awards, now in their fifth year, are organised by Road Safe NI Charity and leading accident management specialist, CRASH Services.  A total of 15 awards were presented at an event attended by more than 100 specially invited guests at Cultra Manor, Holywood.

Winner Patricia O'Neill and her sister Rita Bentley
Award Host Frank Mitchell, with Winner Patricia O'Neill and her sister Rita Bentley pictured with Derek Hill and Carol Johnston, Hankook Tyres, Sponsors.

Pat Martin MBE, Chairperson of Road Safe NI said “We had a fantastic response to the awards again.  There is such a vibrant and committed road safety community working all over Northern Ireland.  We are delighted to play our part in recognising those who go the extra mile.   The winning entries really stood out for their efforts over a long period of time and for delivering innovative projects.

“There is so much good work going on across our schools, local communities, emergency services and businesses.  The award winners are an inspiration to others and there is no question their efforts are saving lives on the road. 

Jonathan McKeown, CEO of CRASH Services, said: “As a business with close connections to road users we are honoured to support the NI Road Safety Awards.  We congratulate everyone for their extraordinary commitment to road safety. 

The Winners

Edwards Primary School, Castlederg and Autoline Insurance (Education), Mr Steve Carter, Newtownabbey and Mrs Isabella Collum, Fivemiletown (Lollipop Person), Gavin Sinclair and Ann McKiver (Driving Instructor), Constable Stephen Dickson (Emergency Services), Patricia O’Neill (Voluntary Sector Individual), A1 How many Must Die? (Voluntary Sector Group) P Keenan Roads (HGV/ LGV), Hughes Insurance (Business), Your Choice programme from NI Fire & Rescue Service. Mid Ulster and Fermanagh and Omagh PCSP (Public Sector) and Mr Harry Rutherford (Lifetime Achievement). 

Category sponsors included the Department for Infrastructure, Specsavers, New Driver NI, Hankook Tyres, Applegreen, JMK Solicitors and Drive Tech, part of the AA and TCTS Group

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