Ciara Kelly: We should have Irish honours system for outstanding contributions

Proposals would see people given the title of Gradam an Uachtaráin, and allow recipients to put the initials 'GU' after their name
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

07.51 15 Jun 2023

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Ciara Kelly: We should have Ir...

Ciara Kelly: We should have Irish honours system for outstanding contributions

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

07.51 15 Jun 2023

Share this article

Ireland should introduce an honours system for outstanding contributions to society.

That's according to Newstalk Breakfast host Ciara Kelly, who was speaking as legislation was introduced into the Seanad on Wednesday.

Under the proposals, a maximum of 12 people a year could be honoured and would be given the title of Gradam an Uachtaráin - 'The President's Honour.'


It would allow recipients to put the initials 'GU' after their name.

The Private Members' Bill says it would recognise "the exceptional achievements" of citizens and "the outstanding contributions of others."

It has been put forward by Senators Sharon Keogan, Victor Boyhan, Rónán Mullen, Tom Clonan and Gerard Craughwell.

Ciara  said she believes there is a need for this system.

"There are people who do outstanding things, and the idea that they get just a cup of tea in the Áras because of that I don't think it's enough," she said.

"If you look at the very tragic story in the UK, in Nottingham, Grace O'Malley Kumar - the girl who was killed - her father has an MBE because he saved three teenagers in a knife attack in 2009.

"I think rightly so".

'Légion d'honneur'

Ciara said other republic's have similar honours in place.

"France is a proud republic - they have the Légion d'honneur," she said.

"They have a system whereby ordinary citizens can be marked as having [distinction].

"I don't think it would create this two-tier [system] - I don't think the GUBUs, or whatever they'd be called - I don't think we'd all be walking around doffing the cap and throwing our capes over puddles for them.

"I think there are certain times that people do things: they are upstanding members of our Republic, upstanding citizens, and I think why not?"

'Definition of success'

Shane Coleman said it would unlikely celebrate everyday people.

"It celebrates a narrow definition of success," he said.

"It's Conor McGregor or Imelda May - I'm just picking these names off the top of my head - and they've been successful.

"What it doesn't celebrate is the single mother in a working-class estate who works two jobs.

"It doesn't celebrates ordinary people... the real heros in life tend to be everyday people.

"Not some guy who's won a golf tournament or played for Ireland or won a grand slam.

"I think we live in a republic: everybody should be seen as equal and treated equally," he added.

'Constitutional issues'

The Government has suggested there are Constitutional issues with the bill as it currently stands.

There are also concerns with the limited nature of the proposed Awarding Council, as it's not clear how the proposed restricted 'vocational' membership would be justified.

The Government has said a number of award schemes already exist to recognise merit, distinction or bravery.

These include Gaisce, Aosdána, the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad, and the Comhairle na Míre Gaile National Bravery Awards bestowed by the Ceann Comhairle.

"The position of many recent governments has been that all-party support is required before considering any such awards scheme," a statement from the Department of the Taoiseach said.

"The Government will therefore not oppose the 2023 bill, but that does not mean acceptance of the Senator’s proposal," it added.

Main image: Split-screen image shows Ciara Kelly speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, and a medal of the Legion of Honor (Légion d'Honneur) during a ceremony in 2017. Picture by: Newstalk/Associated Press/Alamy Stock Photo

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Awarding Council Ciara Kelly GU Gerard Craughwell Gradam An Uachtaráin Irish Honours System Newstalk Breakfast Outstanding Contribution Ronan Mullen Seanad Sharon Keogan Tom Clonan Victor Boyhan

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