Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

7 year old Bessbrook ‘superstar’ is winner at Spirit of Northern Ireland awards

A young Bessbrook girl described by her family and teachers as a “superstar” has won the Spirit of Youth Award at the 2017 Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers.

Seven year-old Cara McCartan from Newry lives with her parents who are both deaf and do not speak. Cara regularly interprets for them through sign language but back in December last year, Cara helped her mother, who also suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, in another way after she found her struggling to breath. Faced with this frightening situation, brave young Cara kept her cool and managed to phone the ambulance and keep her mother safe until the paramedics arrived.

The Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards recognise and celebrate unsung community heroes – ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things to make a real difference to life in Northern Ireland, touching the hearts of their neighbours along the way.

Over 350 people, including the 10 remarkable winners and their families attended the star-studded bash at the Culloden Hotel, which was hosted by UTV’s Marc Mallett and Pamela Ballantine.

Guests heard that although Cara has faced more challenges than most seven year olds, she always has a smile on her face and leaves a lasting impression on everyone she meets.

She was presented with her award by Eamonn McFadden, from category sponsor Harvey Norman and Lucy Fallon who plays Bethany Platt in Coronation Street.

Celebrities who attended on the night to present awards included veteran broadcaster Eamonn Holmes, who had been on the judging panel along with soap stars from Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

Local actresses Bronagh Waugh and Niamh McGrady were also there to present awards and celebrate the winners’ achievements, as well as other big names including NI football manager Michael O’Neill, new boxing world champion Ryan Burnett, Ulster player Craig Gilroy and Miss Northern Ireland Anna Henry.

Congratulating the winners, Brian O’Kane, Chairman of Specsavers Northern Ireland, said,

“We at Specsavers are so thrilled and proud to be title sponsor of such a special event which celebrates the unsung heroes in our communities across Northern Ireland and we were absolutely overwhelmed to receive over 1,000 entries this year.

“As a judge it was certainly a challenge to choose just 10 winners as there were so many stories which moved us and highlighted the amazing community spirit which is not just alive, but thriving here.

Cara McCartan is congratulated on her award by Lucy Fallon, who plays Bethany Platt in Coronation Street along with Specsavers Ambassadors Alison and Laura Crimmins.

“Each winner has shown incredible courage, grace and strength, putting others’ needs before their own and for that we warmly congratulate them and thank them for the inspirational qualities they have shown.”

Category sponsors of the awards included Lidl which sponsored the Charity Champion and Caring Spirit Awards, Harvey Norman which sponsored the Spirit of Youth category while National Lottery sponsored the Unsung Hero award.

Sunday Life editor Martin Breen, added,

“We’ve been involved in the Spirit of Northern Ireland awards for eight years and I can truly say that each year we continue to be hugely impressed by these very special people who have demonstrated incredible selfless behaviour to improve the lives of others and make our country a better place.

“We had some of the biggest names in entertainment there to enjoy the evening which was fantastic but the true heroes in all our eyes were the winners of these awards. Their stories moved the judging panel immensely and we are delighted to celebrate all their achievements.”

Terry Brennan, Head of News and Programmes at UTV said the channel was delighted to be televising the Spirit of Northern Awards once again this year.

“The awards truly capture all that is good about Northern Ireland, rewarding inspirational people for their achievements and endeavours,” said Mr Brennan. 

“We are very proud to bring the atmosphere and the celebrations of the night to people’s homes, and last year the programme attracted over 200,000 viewers, reflecting its continued popularity among the people of Northern Ireland.”