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Ulster Bank and Sunday Life join forces to search for NI’s Unsung Heroes

Ulster Bank has teamed up with the Sunday Life once again to recognise people who have gone above and beyond for others at this year’s Spirit of Northern Ireland awards.

This is the fourth year Ulster Bank has been the title sponsor of the awards which are all about celebrating ordinary people who have done extraordinary things and made a positive contribution to their family, friends and communities.

Judges are looking for people who have demonstrated a spirit of compassion, neighbourliness, charity, courage or devotion, or those who have gone beyond the call of duty in the fields of education, the emergency services, the caring sector, health or sport.

To mark the opening of the nomination period, Ulster Bank recently held a launch event attended by previous winners, members of the judging panel, sponsors and friends of the awards, where details of this year’s nomination process were announced.

Spearheading the call for entries to this year’s Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards, in association with Ulster Bank, is Derry Girls and Game of Thrones star Ian McElhinney, a veteran member of the judging panel.

He said: “I’m constantly amazed by what various people have done over the years in terms of the community.

“It’s very impressive and very moving, so it’s great to be involved and support it again.

“I’d encourage people to nominate this year because it’s amazing what various people have done. The stories of what people have done, what people are prepared to do, they take your breath away sometimes because you ask yourself, ‘If it were me, could I do that? Would I do that? Would I have the stamina? The strength? The willingness to commit?’.

“I’m always impressed and overwhelmed in many ways by what people do.”

This includes people like last year’s Special Recognition winner Dáithí MacGabhann, who needs a heart transplant and who with his family has campaigned for a change in organ donation laws. And Crumlin man Aidan O’Neill who collected the Spirit of Sport honour in 2022. He is the driving force behind the Run Anon running club and continues to inspire all members, not least because he is fighting cancer.

Aidan said: “Just to be asked to these awards is fantastic. We were there with our club and it was just brilliant, something special to be a part of.”

The achievements of individuals and groups like these are why Ulster Bank and the Sunday Life want people to nominate their local heroes for one of 11 awards ahead of the star-studded gala ceremony.

The awards show will take place at the Culloden Resort and Spa in Cultra on Friday, June 30, with many famous faces in attendance.

A new arrival this year is India Sasha Atkinson, a social media influencer who posts videos about disability.

She said: “I’m so excited to be part of the judging panel.

“This is the whole reason why I got involved with TikTok so seriously in the first place.

“Social media can be a negative place, but I wanted to make it something positive and use my platform for good.

“To be able to get involved in these sorts of things is exactly why I’m doing what I’m doing, and it’s a privilege to be in this position.

“It’s a big deal and it’s doing such good for the community.”

Martin Breen, deputy editor-in-chief of Sunday Life and Belfast Telegraph, said: “The people of Northern Ireland have really taken these awards to their hearts as they celebrate the wonderful people who live here.

“This event has just got bigger and better each year, and that is thanks to the hundreds of people who nominate the unsung heroes in their lives each and every year and all those who help support it, including our overall sponsor Ulster Bank and all the other category sponsors.

“I am always truly humbled and inspired by the stories of those inspirational people we are delighted to honour each year.

“These awards are about the people who are nominated from every corner of Northern Ireland — people who truly deserve but do not seek recognition for their great deeds.

“As a newspaper with a strong community spirit, it is our honour to give them this time in the spotlight. “

Terry Robb, head of personal banking at sponsors Ulster Bank, added: “We are really excited to team up with Sunday Life once again for the Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards, in partnership with Ulster Bank.

“After the success of last year’s event, we are looking forward to growing the awards even further this year as we hit the road with our new nomination booth.

“We want to spread the word across Northern Ireland and give more people the opportunity to shine a light on the inspirational people working hard to make their communities better.

“As a purpose-led bank, supporting our customers and their communities is at the heart of everything we do, so partnering with Sunday Life on these awards is a fantastic way for us to celebrate the many unsung heroes who show us just how powerful community spirit can be and how much can be achieved by helping each other and working together.”

The awards

Unsung Hero: Someone whose great deed or deeds have previously gone unnoticed but who has made a major contribution to your life or to your community.

Overcoming Adversity: Someone who has overcome huge personal challenges, whether it is dealing with illness or disability or overcoming problems.

Spirit of Youth: Someone under the age of 18 who should be recognised for their special achievements.

999 Hero: A member of the emergency services who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in their job.

Charity Champion: Someone who has worked tirelessly for a charity or as a fundraiser for many years.

Spirit of Health: A medical professional who has gone the extra mile to improve the health and wellbeing of their patients.

Spirit of Education: A truly inspirational teacher who has helped children and young people fulfil their potential.

Caring Spirit Award: A person, young or old, who has dedicated their time to caring for a friend or family member.

Spirit of Sport: Someone who has made an exceptional contribution to sport over a number of years.

Environmental Hero: Seeks to recognise an individual or community group that has gone the extra mile to care for and protect the local environment for future generations.

Special Recognition: Someone who the judges feel represents the Spirit of Northern Ireland by selflessly serving others and being an inspiration to us all.

To put someone forward for an award, email with details of why your nominee should be recognised

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