Four Diaspora ambassadors to be awarded prestigious Tip O’Neill Award

The 2017 recipients of the prestigious Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Awards were announced recently at a special reception in the County House in Lifford.

This year’s recipients are Mr. Marty Meehan, President of the University of Massachusetts, Boston, Barbara Koster, Senior Vice President and Global Chief Information Officer for Prudential Financial and Board Chair of Pramerica Systems Ireland Ltd., Packie Bonner, former Republic of Ireland goalkeeper and Frazer Doherty, Super Jams. They will be presented with the Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award at a special ceremony on Friday 20th October.

Speaking at the reception An Cathaoirleach Cllr. Gerry McMonagle said “this year Donegal County Council is recognising four members of the broad Irish Diaspora in recognition of their achievements and their interest in, and support of the Irish community abroad. Their achievements speak for themselves and I am delighted that we in Donegal County Council, through the Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award, are in a position to honour their outstanding contributions”.

The Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award is an initiative of the Donegal Diaspora Project in Donegal County Council and was initiated in 2012 on the centenary of the birth of Thomas P. Tip O’Neill. Tip O’Neill whose maternal grandparents hailed from the Inishowen Peninsula in Co. Donegal, was an American Politician and Statesman who served as Speaker of the US House of Representatives from 1977 until 1987.

Former recipients of the award include well known US broadcaster and political commentator Chris Matthews, former President of Massachussets State Senate Therese Murray, Irish New York based journalist and publisher Niall O’Dowd, former Governor of Montana Brian Schweitzer and US philanthropist Loretta Brennan Glucksman.

Also speaking at the reception Cllr. Nicholas Crossan, chair of the Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Awards Committee said “I am delighted that each of this year’s recipients have already committed to taking time out of their busy schedules to visit Donegal to accept the award and to take part in a packed schedule of events over the weekend. All four recipients are very proud of their Donegal connections and take every opportunity to raise the profile of Donegal in each of their chosen fields”.

Donegal County Council in partnership with the Ulster University at Magee, Letterkenny Institute of Technology and International Partners have been working together to put in place an action packed itinerary on Friday October 20th where each of the recipients will hold individual workshops at Magee University revolving around their area of expertise. These workshops are open to the public and free of charge but booking in advance is essential.

The weekend will conclude with the inaugural Tip O’Neill Golf Challenge which will be held on Saturday October 21st in the award winning Ballyliffin Golf Course. A number of college teams from across America have already signed up to participate in the competition together with Tom O’Neill, Tip’s son, who visits Donegal annually to support the event.

Speaking at the reception Chief Executive Seamus Neely said that he was very much looking forward to welcoming these special guests to Donegal and to continuing to build relationships to expand the Donegal Diaspora project to the mutual benefit of Donegal people at home and abroad.

The Gala Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Awards Ceremony will be held in An Grianán Hotel, Burt on Friday October 20th 2017 and tickets can be purchased HERE

To book your place at any of the Workshops in Magee University – please click HERE

For further information please contact Joanne Kilmartin, Donegal Diaspora Project Executive on 074 9160735 or email:

Barbara Koster: Barbara is Senior Vice President and Global Chief Information Officer for Prudential Financial, Inc. She is based in Newark, New Jersey, USA. Barbara is the Board Chair of Pramerica Systems Ireland Ltd and is one of the founding members of Pramerica along with noted Irish Americans Bill Friel and Bob Golden. Barbara’s commitment to Pramerica and to Donegal has been steadfast for over 17 years. Since announcing the launch of Pramerica in 1999 and opening in 2000 Barbara has been committed to the on-going development and growth of Pramerica in Donegal which now employs over 1,200 staff. The Tip O’Neill weekend will coincide with the official opening of Pramerica’s new plant in Lettekenny.

Packie Bonner: A former Donegal Sports person who had a long career as goal keeper with Celtic in Scotland and with the Irish team. Packie made more appearances for Celtic than any other goalkeeper and for a time held the record for the number of goalkeeping appearances for Ireland. He put in many memorable performances for Ireland and was idolised by a generation of young soccer fans. He lives in Glasgow and is an extremely proud Donegal man and takes every opportunity to promote his native County.

Frazer Doherty: Frazer Dohety MBE is the founder of the 100% fruit jam company – Super Jam is based in Scotland. He started the business at the age of 14 using his Donegal Grandmother’s recipe. Super Jam was launched nationally in Waitrose 11 years ago and has since gone on to sell millions of jars through thousands of stores around the world. The brand has become one of the most popular brands in counties such as South Korea. More recently, he founded Beer 52, the world’s largest craft beer club with more than 150,000 customers. It is one of Scotland’s fastest growing companies. He was awarded an MBE by the Queen in 2015 for his service to business. He is a regular motivational speaker at conferences around the world.

President Martin “Marty” Meehan: Marty Meehan was appointed President of the University of Massachusetts in 2015. He served in the U.S. Congress from 1993 to 2007. During his congressional career he was deeply involved in the Northern Ireland peace process. During his time in UMass Lowell, he established the Centre for Irish Partnerships in 2009. The Letterkenny Institute of Technology was an early partner of the Centre for Irish Partnerships and one that continues to thrive.