Pictured at the Westin Dublin are l-r: National Netwatch Family Carer of the Year Karen Smith; Netwatch Brand Ambassador Mick Galwey; Head of Communications and Carer Engagement at Family Carers Ireland Catherine Cox; and broadcaster and awards host Miriam O’Callaghan. PHOTO: Mark Stedman

Four remarkable young carers also recognised at national awards ceremony

Karen Smith from Co. Louth has been named Netwatch Family Carer of the Year at a very special awards ceremony held in The Westin Hotel, Dublin and hosted by broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan.

Now in their 15th year, the Netwatch Family Carer of the Year awards seek to recognise and shine a light on the remarkable contribution of Ireland’s forgotten frontline who go the extra mile every day in caring for loved ones with additional needs.

Karen, who is from Drogheda, is mother of two boys and two girls (24, 20, 18 and 13), three of whom have additional needs such as ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, sensory processing disorder, ODD and dyspraxia. Karen also cares for her father who has developed blindness due to diabetes and her mother who has emphysema.

She was nominated by her youngest daughter Megan who describes her mother as both “a legend and hero.” She said her mother has looked after them all their lives and, despite her own health issues, “she never complains and always puts her children and the community first.”

Along with being a family carer, Karen is also a driver for Cú Chulainn Blood Bikes, volunteers with the East Meath Defibrillator Unit and is a keen photographer, offering her skills free of charge to local worthy causes.

Evan Corbally (17) from Hollystown, Dublin is the Leinster Young Carer of the Year. He cares for his two younger sisters Rose and Aoibhín who both have ASD. He also has a five-month-old baby brother.

The Munster Young Carer of the Year is Clodagh Bennett (18) from Rosbrien, Limerick who cares for her two sisters Niamh and Saoirse and brother Aidan – all three are on the ASD spectrum.

Zoe Gilmartin (13) from Bonniconlon, Ballina, Co. Mayo has been named the Connacht Young Carer of the Year for going above and beyond for her little brother Ryan who has Down Syndrome.

While Alex Barr (11) from Drumadooey, Birdstown, Co. Donegal is the Ulster Young Carer of the Year. He had just started Junior Infants when his mother Samantha became unwell and has cared for her ever since.

Young Carer of the Year Winners

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Catherine Cox, Head of Communications and Policy, Family Carers Ireland said:

“Caring is a demanding and emotional job, and all our finalists are shining examples of people who go the extra mile. They are selfless in their service of others. Nobody asks to become a carer and yet, for those who do, they take on the responsibility with kindness, love and dedication. We, as a society, must ensure that this love is not taken for granted and that family carers are not only recognised but truly supported to care safely for their loved ones. After a year and a half like no other, we must continue to champion them, ensuring they know how much their contribution is worth and, most importantly, reminding both Government and society of their enormous value in our communities and health services.”

Colin Hayes, Netwatch Head of Business, Ireland & UK said:

“We are honoured to partner with Family Carers Ireland in sponsoring these awards which recognise the tireless efforts of thousands of people across the country. There is always something heart-warming about this annual event and this year is no exception. All of the family carers honoured today and those working day in, day out to care for their loved ones around Ireland are truly remarkable people and nothing short of inspirational.”