The news, it must be said, is often bad. There are several reasons for this, but mostly it comes down to the fact that people will usually react more strongly to bad news than good news. Bad news is generally more emotionally impactful.

But good news matters, too. Every day, Irish people, and people the world over, are doing things to make the world a better place, or simply inspiring us by achieving great things with talent and hard work. It would simply be impossible to mention, or highlight, all their stories, but human achievement should be celebrated, when possible, and in the Christmas spirit, here are five Irish people who inspired us in 2019:

 

Shane Lowry

It is no insult to Shane Lowry to say that he is not one of Golf’s global superstars. Before this year, few would have considered him as much more than a good, solid, hard-working professional golfer. Before this year’s Open Championship, an anonymous punter in Las Vegas put $150 on him to win the tournament – at odds of 105/1. Lowry did not just win that lucky person a full $16,000 – he did it with style.

Shane Lowry is an example of somebody who worked hard at his craft and extracted the very maximum from his ability. He’s an example to us all, and every Irish person should be very proud that he is one of us.

 

Vicky Wall

Vicky’s daughter, Liadan, was diagnosed in-utero with a life-limiting condition, and passed away shortly after her birth in 2014. Vicky has taken that crushing loss, and turned it into tireless motivation to help other families who are faced with that same awful tragedy. Her work with “Every Life Counts”, a charity that works to support families facing the knowledge that their child will likely pass away shortly after birth, was recognised this year when she won a butterfly award in the United Kingdom. Here she is, talking to our own Tim Jackson. She’s a heroine

 

Killian Foley-Walsh

This might be the first, and last, time, that a President of Young Fine Gael appears on anyone’s list of “most inspirational people of the year”, but Killian Foley Walsh deserves it. This website covered the controversy when Killian and some colleagues attended a political conference in the United States. They were roundly condemned in the Irish media, including by senior members of their own party. What makes Killian inspirational, though, is not that he attended a conference. It was his resignation speech, some months later, when he calmly, and without a hint of bitterness, explained to an audience that included the Taoiseach exactly the impact that the coverage had had on his mental health. Self-harming is still a taboo subject in Ireland, particularly amongst young men. To speak about it so openly remains one of the bravest single acts to take place in Ireland this year. Killian Foley-Walsh, we salute you.

 

John Connors

John Connors has emerged as one of the most important voices in bridging the significant gap that still exists between Irish settled people, and the traveller community. In an era when so many people try to heighten divisions, Connors has relentlessly focused on tackling discrimination by highlighting the ways settled and traveller people are alike, rather than different. In an era of grievance culture, he is notable for rejecting simplistic solutions that take away our freedom, like hate speech laws, and instead trying to promote a genuine understanding of the issues travellers face in Irish society. He is one of the most distinctive and original voices in Irish society, and in an industry that rarely rewards diversity of thought, has shown considerable bravery as well.

Sinéad Fidgeon

Co. Cavan’s own Sinead Fidgeon recounts how, after giving birth to her daughter Grace, who was born with Downs Syndrome, “the negativity started straight away”. Parents of children with Downs Syndrome, Sinead says, often find that the joy of their birth is instead greeted with “sorrow and commisserations”, and that the happiest of occasions is treated by others as a font of misery. After her own experience, Sinead set out to change that. Since 2016, her charity “The Perfect Gift” has given over 400 hampers filled with gifts to new mothers of children born with Downs Syndrome.

As she said to Evoke.ie earlier this year:

“Sinéad also includes a letter which she sends with every gift.

‘Each basket is individual so we write a letter to the mum to congratulate her on the birth of her beautiful, perfect child and then we invite them to the online support group Down Right Perfect.’

The baskets have gone to homes all over the country and Sinead is proud to send a message of hope.

‘It’s somebody saying ‘we’re here for you. We’re here, your life is going to be fantastic and we promise you that,’ she says.”

What a woman.