Celebrating a Legacy of Exceptional Achievement
The Mary Redmond Award is a new national honour, bestowed by The Wheel’s board of directors on a person who has made an extraordinary contribution to civil society in Ireland. The award is named after Dr Mary Redmond, the late academic, lawyer and founder of The Wheel and the Irish Hospice Foundation.
The winner of the inaugural Mary Redmond Honorary Award for 2019 was presented at the Charity Impact Awards at the Mansion House in Dublin on 10 December.
2019 Winner: Dr Bernadette Mac Mahon
The inaugural Mary Redmond Award was presented to Dr Bernadette Mac Mahon, D.C. for her outstanding contribution to deepening our understanding of the root causes of poverty and social exclusion in Ireland, and her pioneering work on the concept of a minimum essential standard of living.
Dr Mac Mahon has been the Director of the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice (VPSJ) since its establishment in 1995. The VPSJ is a NGO working for social and economic change tackling poverty and social exclusion. She is a member of the Living Wage Technical Group in the Republic of Ireland and the Irish representative in the EU pilot project on the development of reference budgets for EU member states.
In 1995, she established a ground-breaking voter education programme for disadvantaged communities. The programme has been facilitated with approximately 800 community groups in 23 counties with very positive results.
Dr Mac Mahon was instrumental in establishing many community and voluntary organisations, including St Francis Hospice and The Wheel. She was also Chairperson of The Wheel and was Chairperson of the Board of Marino Institute of Education and Head of the Department of Education at the Mater Dei Institute of Education (1970 – 1985).
With this award, the Board of The Wheel would like to acknowledge Dr Mac Mahon’s immense contribution. By virtue of her belief in collaboration, and her selfless contribution to the advancement of social justice, Dr Mac Mahon has played a very significant role in the development of the community and voluntary sector in Ireland. Her spirit of solidarity and inclusion continues to inspire.
An appreciation of the late Dr Mary Redmond by Deirdre Garvey, CEO of The Wheel (first published in the Sunday Independent in April 2015)
The late Dr Redmond brought her sharp intellect to bear in her role as one of Ireland’s top employment lawyers. She had extensive experience of employment law and industrial relations and was a member of the Labour Relations Commission during two consecutive terms. She advised a wide range of clients on Irish and EU employment law and is author of the standard text Dismissal Law (2007) which has seen three editions, and co-author with Tom Mallon of Strikes – An Essential Guide to Industrial Relations (2010) and of numerous other publications and articles in Ireland and the UK on employment law.
She was also an astute academic. Dr Redmond completed her law degrees (BCL and LLM) at UCD, and at age 19, she became the first woman to be a lecturer in that university’s Law Faculty. She went on to study at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. In 1981, she was made fellow of Cambridge University (Christ’s College), and in 2004 she became Honorary Fellow. Last year, Trinity College conferred her with an honorary Doctor in Laws Honoris Causa in recognition of her contribution to legal scholarship and social entrepreneurship.
Her profound sense of compassion and entrepreneurial spirit found expression after her father’s death in 1985, which was the catalyst for her to found two national charities each of which became game-changing leaders in their respective fields.
In the case of the Irish Hospice Foundation, which she founded in 1986, Mary focused on the creation of a national hospice movement, as opposed to setting up a new hospice. The Irish Hospice Foundation has since forever changed how we think of and deliver end of life care in Ireland and it is at the forefront of developments in this field.
“One of the most distinguished Irish citizens of her generation.”
Founding The Wheel
In the second instance, it was the practical difficulties she experienced when setting up the Irish Hospice Foundation as a charity which brought home to her that setting up and running a charity well is complex and difficult. At that time, there was no equivalent to an ‘enterprise body’ to help start-up charities. Her innovative solution would change the voluntary sector in Ireland forever.
Dr Redmond’s vision was of a national network of charities, community/voluntary groups, social enterprises, clubs and associations that would come together to celebrate and nurture what they have in common; share learning and experiences; support high standards of practice; and foster collaborative working. This vision found form in the establishment of The Wheel, founded in 1999, which today does all of this and more. It is now the leading representative and support body for all charities and has grown to have 1,100 members. Mary also served on The Wheel’s board of directors from 1999 through to 2006.
Mary had the confidence to break with so-called perceived wisdom in any given situation. She was a fiercely independent thinker who saw solutions where others saw problems. She was a compelling and charismatic leader and visionary. Mary had an enormous intellect that she carried with utmost humility and she had a vivacious and ever-present sense of fun, humour and appreciation of wit. She also had a refreshingly childlike belief in the goodness of people, and consequently, I’ve seen those who came into contact with her become better versions of themselves, almost as if as to live up to her expectations.
At her core, she had an abundance of compassion – particularly for those to whom life was harsh, and she was inexorably drawn to helping others. Her life demonstrates what active citizenship means when put to the service of the common good. She was truly one of Ireland’s most distinguished citizens of her generation.