Dia dhibh go léir a chairde, cuireann sé fí or áthas orm a bheith in éineacht libh anocht chun na duaiseanna seo a bhronnadh. Good evening everyone, I am delighted to be here tonight at the Inaugural Nursing Homes Ireland Awards. I thank Tadhg Daly for inviti ng me to be a part of this important event which marks the achievements of people who rarely make the headlines but whose relentless work on behalf of Ireland’s elderly citi zens who are in residenti al care is being recognised tonight.

Martin Luther King once said ‘Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness’. In these sobering days, Ireland is struggling to come to terms with the consequences of the poor decisions and bad practices of those who were driven by hubristic impulses. However, these people are vastly outnumbered by the caring and creative altruists who everyday infuse goodness into Irish life in a million acts of generosity, kindness, graciousness and care. So, tonight we are focussing on those whose special vocati on of care is to the 20,000 of our senior citizens who are now in residential care. They and their families rely on people like our nominees to create a ‘home from home’, a place where they are nurtured, safe, contented, respected, treated with dignity, where they can socialise, make friends, learn new skills, practi ce old talents and live life to the fullest possible in a trusted place among trusted people. Our nominees are men and women who honour that trust by earning it and renewing it each day.

The past few years have brought significant challenges to this care sector. There have been heartbreaking scandals about neglect and abuse in some residential care facilities which have rightly provoked considerable changes in practice and in levels of accountability and oversight. For those who take this vocation as seriously as you do, there must have been days when morale was dented but you are the people who set the standards that do not falter, who deliver the first-class care we would all want for ourselves if we were the service users. So many nursing homes in this country are good places to be thanks to you and so tonight the spotlight falls on those who get it right, all day, every day and who will never sett le for anything less.

For our nominees the delivery of great quality care is more than about doing their profession proud but about doing humanity proud. Those in their care are men and women who are feeling the limitations and implications of ageing. They no longer have the independence they once enjoyed. Important things in their lives have changed. They are no longer able to live in their own homes - a massive change in a life. The old neighbours, family and friends are not right next door. Spouses and siblings may be dead and gone. The choices they can make about how they will live their lives have become very restricted in the nursing home.

Some are happy to be there, some resistant, some resigned. Some have problems seeing, others problems hearing. They carry with them a lifetime of likes and dislikes, of elements that make up their characters and personalities. They have an accumulation of experience and wisdom, talents and skills. They have lived through tough times and better times. They know the nursing home may be their last address. They need a lot of love, reassurance and patience and they need it consistently, from one changing shift to another. Among them are men and women who really brighten up life for everyone, for staff and residents alike, who help turn a bunch of strangers into a community of mutual care and joyful curiosity about life. So it is great to see their contributi on recognized in the Nursing Home Resident Achievement Award.

I acknowledge the good work of the judging panel, chaired by Professor Brendan McCormack. You were impressed with the calibre of the nominees and challenged by the high standards presented for your deliberation. I congratulate everyone who made the shortlist for that is an achievement in itself and a wonderful witness to our society of the good work that is done so quietly and thoughtfully every single day. To the winners of tonight’s awards, I offer the warmest congratulations and hope that in the pride you feel, in the admiration your win has generated for you and your workplace, there is a deep sense of fulfillment and a vindication of all that you do to make each day the best you can, not for the self - but for others.

Finally, I would like to conclude by thanking you all for your warm welcome and wishing you a very enjoyable evening.

Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.

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