The National Bravery Awards were established in 1947 to provide suitable recognition by the State of deeds of bravery. Deeds of Bravery Awards are given to people from all walks of life and all sections of society who have saved a human life involving personal risk to them.
The Council who adjudicates on who should receive an award is called Comhairle na Míre Gaile. It is chaired by the Ceann Comhairle and includes the Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann, the Chairman of the Irish Red Cross, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, the Lord Mayor of Cork, the President of the Association of Irish Local Government.
Current Council members
- Ceann Comhairle – Sean Ó Fearghail, T.D.
- Cathaoirleach, Seanad Éireann – Senator Mark Daly
- Chairperson, Irish Red Cross – Mr. Pat Carey
- President, Association of Irish Local Government – Cllr. Mary Hoade
- Lord Mayor of Dublin – Cllr. Hazel Chu
- Lord Mayor of Cork – Cllr. Joe Kavanagh
- Garda Commissioner – Commissioner Drew Harris
The first meeting of Comhairle na Míre Gaile was on Wednesday, 14th May, 1947 at 11am in the Ceann Comhairle’s Room, Leinster House. The Committee then consisted of Pronnsias Ó Fathaigh (Chairman and Ceann Comhairle), Alderman John McCann TD (Lord Mayor of Dublin), Senator Seán Goulding (Cathaoirleach an tSeanaid), Michael J Kinnane, LL.B (Commissioner of An Garda Síochána) and Tomás Ó Cundúin (Chairman of the General Council of County Councils).
The work of the Comhairle was documented each year in their annual report, which was published and presented to the Minister for Justice annually until 1981. In 1947, the Comhairle’s first year in operation, they reviewed 83 reported rescues and made awards in respect of 29 of them. 23 awards were made in respect of “rescues from drowning”, 3 for rescues from “runaway horses”, one for extrication from machinery and two were marked as “miscellaneous”. Back then, certificates, bronze medals and silver medals were presented by Lord Mayors and Justices of the District Court while gold medals were presented by the President.
In 1956, the first ever gold medal was awarded by the Comhairle to Brendan Merrifield from Donegal. At the age of 14, Mr Merrifield dived 30 feet from the edge of a small island off the coast of Bundoran into a rough, treacherous tide and rescued a 19 year old woman who had gotten into difficulty while swimming. Mr Merrifield remained the sole recipient of a gold medal until 1992.
Since then, 11 gold medals have been awarded by the Comhairle, many of them awarded posthumously. The most recent was awarded to Caitriona Lucas, a member of the Irish Coast Guard, who tragically lost her life when searching for a missing person off the coast of north Clare.