‘Mothers Against Drink Driving’ founder honoured with supreme road safety award

Gertie Shields, founder of Mothers Against Drink Driving (MADD), was recognised for decades of road safety campaigning when whe was presented with the Supreme Award at this year’s Road Safety Authority (RSA) ‘Leading Lights in Road Safety’ Awards held today in Farmleigh, Phoenix Park.

A total of 29 awards were presented at the awards ceremony by RSA Chairman, Mr Gay Byrne. Hosted by Ray D’Arcy and attended by almost 200 award winners, the awards celebrate the outstanding efforts of individuals and groups throughout the country who help promote road safety in their communities.

Hundreds of nominations were submitted to this year’s ‘Leading Lights in Road Safety’ Awards and among the winners were individuals and groups from the business, media, education, emergency service and public sectors. Out of all the winners, one supreme winner was selected for demonstrating a sustained commitment and contribution to road safety in Ireland. The winner of this year’s Supreme Award is Gertie Shields who lost her daughter in a road traffic collision in 1983 when the vehicle she was travelling in was hit by a drunk driver. Since then, she has tirelessly campaigned for legislative and social change in relation to drink driving. Hers was a lone voice in road safety at a time when over 400 people were dying annually on our roads each year.

Speaking about Supreme Award winner, Gertie Shields, Mr Gay Byrne said:

“I must make special mention of Gertie Shields who has given over so much of her life to making Irish roads a safer place. Her work has contributed to the sea change in attitudes towards drink driving in Ireland, as well as changes in the legislation on blood alcohol levels and dangerous driving. For the past two decades, driven by the personal tragedy of the loss of her 19 year old daughter Paula, Gertie Shields has unrelentingly campaigned to rid this country of the scourge of drunk driving.”

“Gertie first came to my attention when she made an appearance on the Late Late Show in the 80’s, and since then has become one of the most recognised and admired campaigning names against drink driving as she took her message to the airwaves and print media across the country and across generations. To look back now on her ideas and recommendations in the early years of Mothers Against Drunk Driving is to see many of the measures that have, at last, been introduced in recent years.”

Due to the significant number of entries received this year, the RSA chose to present an additional 9 ‘Special Recognition’ awards to individuals and groups demonstrating special commitment to road safety, including the RSA’s Road Safety Ambassadors. The Leading Lights Awards also introduced two brand new categories this year, ‘Education (Special Schools)’ and ‘Emergency Services’.

Among the Leading Lights winners this year was an innovative reflective ‘L’ plate project called ‘Visu-L’ by Mount St Michael secondary school, Claremorris, who wanted to make the roads safer for learner drivers following the death of a fellow student; an initiative called ‘Operation Safe Home’ run by the teachers of Scoil Chlochair Mhuire, Carrigtwohill to ensure all pupils make it home from the school grounds safely; and a road safety action by Road Safety Officer Seamus Storan, who staged a simulated two-car collision in UCD raising awareness with students about the consequences of using a mobile phone while driving.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Mr Gay Byrne, Chairman of the Road Safety Authority expressed his gratitude and admiration for the ‘Leading Lights’ winners:

“I am extremely proud and honoured to be here today to present these awards to individuals and organisations who tirelessly and selflessly given of their time to promote road safety. And I think I can speak for the other members of the judging panel when I say that this year, we found it extremely difficult to choose a winning entry in each category, such was the standard of entries we received.”

“Sitting here before me today is a group of incredibly determined people doing vital, life-saving work around the country to support the efforts made by the RSA and other road safety stakeholders. This is a moment to be proud of yourselves and what you have achieved. But more than that, it’s a day for me and the RSA to say thank you. Thank you for your support, commitment and effort to road safety, not just for yourselves but for each and every one of us who uses the roads I urge all of you to continue this life-saving work and help us to become the safest country in the world.”

This year, ‘Leading Lights in Road Safety Awards’ were presented in the following categories: Approved Driving Instructor, Business, Education (Special Schools Education, Community, Preschool, Primary, and Secondary), Emergency Services, Media, Road Safety Ambassador, Road Safety Officer, Public Sector, CPC Training Organisation of the Year and CPC Trainer of the Year. The winners were as follows:

• Approved Driving Instructor (Car) – Diane Harvey
• Approved Driving Instructor (Bus) – Charlie Simpson
• Approved Driving Instructor (Truck) – Philip Rice
• Approved Driving Instructor (Motorcycle) – Jonathan Coburn
• Business – Shell E&P Ireland Ltd
• Education (Community) – Mizen Rovers GAA Club
• Education (Pre-School) – Learn Early Montessori Academy & Creche
• Education (Primary) – Scoil Bhríde, Athgarvan, Kildare
• Education (Primary) – Scoil Chlochair Mhuire, Carrigtwohill, Cork
• Education (Secondary) – Mount St Michael School, Roscarberry, Cork
• Education (Special School) – Paul Ryan: Cope Foundation
• Emergency Services – Rescue Organisation Ireland / Eagraíocht Tarrthála Éireann
• Media – Irish Examiner
• Road Safety Ambassador – Gertie Shields
• Road Safety Officer – Seamus Storan
• Public Sector – 2 Artillery Regiment
• CPC Training Organisation of the Year – Musgrave Retail Partners Ireland
• CPC Trainer of the Year – Benedict Maguire

An additional 9 awards were presented in a new ‘Special Recognition’ category. These awards were presented to rally drivers Toni Kelly and Craig Breen, Kinsale Community School and Dave Byrne of Newport Special School, as well as Road Safety Ambassadors Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, Ray D’Arcy, Keith McErlean, Rick O’Shea, Eoin Kelly, and Pat Spillane.