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People of the Year: Michael Burney and Lough Neagh Rescue shortlisted for Emergency Services Hero

In a year which saw our emergency services play a lead role in what will become an extraordinary story for generations, we wanted to pay homage to those heroes who were faced with little or no choice but to help others.

This year we have introduced the Emergency Services Hero of the Year award, proudly sponsored by The Mortgage Shop, Portadown & Banbridge

No matter the weather or the occasion, Lough Neagh Rescue and its band of dedicated volunteers have been there through thick and thin…quite literally.

During the height of the pandemic last year Lough Neagh Rescue gave up their New Year’s Eve to help bring nurses to sick patients in the snow.

In 2021, they responded to, on average, almost a call a week. While they are particularly busy in summer months, they are also needed in some of the harsher months, making their work – all voluntary – even more incredible. When they get the call, they drop everything to help others.

They have rightly been described as “hidden heroes” by the family of County Armagh woman Dolores Hughes, who tragically died in 2019. Lough Neagh Rescue were instrumental in the month-long search and subsequent recovery of Ms Hughes’ body.

This year alone, adults, children and dogs have all been rescued from broken down or marooned vessels, capsized skis and even a man trapped inside a digger which had fallen into the water– distressing for anyone involved in these types of situations.

Without these volunteers and their selfless actions and response there may well have been so many different outcomes over the years. They are heroes.

Our second nominee is Michael Burney, an an ED Doctor with the Royal Victoria Hospital who gives up his spare time to be a leader with St John Ambulance.

Through his volunteering, Michael helps to train the Youth Cadets in Armagh.

Nominated by one of the group’s parents, they said: “Michael is always on hand to answer questions and pass information to parents through the many Whatsapp groups he sets up and manages.”

Michael is described as being happy, friendly, professional and approachable a perfect fit for the St John Cadets programme.

The nominator told Armagh I: “The cadets love him and his lighthearted approach to learning make the sessions enjoyable. My son loves attending the cadets programme and, despite his own learning and physical difficulties, he feels welcome and accepted.

“He sees the importance of the work St John’s do and selflessly dedicates so much time and energy to ensuring their work continues.”

Michael has also recently put his time into trying to recruit new adults members due to severe shortages in the Armagh area.

“His work is vital and he should know how much he is appreciated,” said one parent.

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