FRIENDS, family and colleagues of recently-retired Director of Services at the O’Neill Centre, Lucy Dooley gathered for a civic reception in her honour at the Town Hall on Wednesday evening.
Mayor of Kilkenny David Fitzgerald described it as ‘a great pleasure’ to welcome everyone to the reception which was held to acknowledge the contribution made by ‘one of Kilkenny’s finest citizens, servants and best friends’. “It is a great honour to say a few words about this extraordinary woman who has led a quiet revolution and who has touched the lives of so many people in Kilkenny and beyond,” he said.
Chairman of Enable Ireland, Donal Cashman said it was ‘a very special occasion’. “She has given great service to the city and who has guided the ship at the O’Neill Centre for the past thirty years. It is no accident that Henry Shefflin and Ducksie Walsh raise the flag for Enable Ireland. This lady gently persuaded them and how could you refuse her. I want to thank you for your massive service that the children of Kilkenny have got from you and the wonderful care and I wish you many years of happy volunteering and other work,” he said.
The founding chairman of the O’Neill Centre, Dr Joe Sweeney thanked the Mayor for holding the civic reception. “It is a great pleasure to be involved and I have great memories of all of those involved in the O’Neill Centre. In December 1980 the first public meeting was organised by the social worker Mary O’Neill. A committee was formed in 1980 by social worker Mary O’Neill and that remained intact until 2000 when it took on a different form.
“The efforts of the committee were incredible. From the first public meeting the centre had three great advantages: the first was Mary O’Neill who was a wonderful person who was dedicated to the people of Kilkenny, the second was the strength and determination of a group of parents who wanted services close to their home and the third was Lucy Dooley who in 1982 started to work in the centre. Her vision was evident from day one and she developed and expanded the services. She was caring and open to parents, children and staff and I wish her a long, happy and deserved retirement,” she said.
Councillor Malcolm Noonan described Ms Dooley as ‘a social entrepreneur’. “Lucy and her team were responsible for bringing about positive change and what has happened in the last thirty years has been transformational,” he said. He also paid tribute to Eamon Cleere who he said was ‘an incredible force’. “I got involved in Rockfall and one day Eamon asked me to come up and see the centre and I was blown away by it and by the wonderful spirit of friendship and collaboration. This was done in no small part by Lucy Dooley. Today is a day to reflect on this exceptional chapter in your life. You have made a unique contribution to help create a more inclusive and compassionate society,” he said.
Mrs Dooley told the guests that it must have ‘been a case of mistaken identity’. “I want to thank you for the honour and privilege of what you have shown me today. The staff at the centre make it what it is today. I have loved my work and I am leaving behind a strong core of staff,” she said and also thanked her family and the team of volunteers at the centre.
Mayor David Fitzgerald presented Mrs Dooley with a Mayoral award to recognise her long service and selfless dedication and to acknowledge the significant contribution she has made to the community for over thirty years.