New Year Honours: First NI female firefighter is appointed MBE

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Heather SmartImage source, NIFRS
Image caption,
Heather Smart received the Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)

Northern Ireland's first female firefighter has been honoured in the New Year Honours List.

Heather Smart was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

The oldest person from across the UK to receive an award is Robert Lingwood, 100, a World War Two veteran from County Tyrone.

Ulster Unionist MLA Andy Allen, who lost his legs in a bomb while serving in Afghanistan, is also honoured.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Gregg made 25 appearances for Northern Ireland between 1954 and 1964

Former Northern Ireland and Manchester Utd goalkeeper Harry Gregg and former British and Irish Lions captain Willie John McBride both feature on the list for a second time while Northern Ireland and Rangers defender Gareth McAuley is also honoured.

Ms Smart, from Ballyclare, County Antrim, became the first woman to work as a firefighter in Northern Ireland when she joined the then Northern Ireland Fire Brigade in 1991.

She retired earlier this year after 27 years service.

Ms Smart has been recognised for her role in advocating a career in the fire and rescue service to women. The Northern Ireland fire service now employs 62 female firefighters.

She said she was "excited" to receive the honour, but that it was "hard to take in".

'Passionate advocate'

"I think because I was the first female firefighter that made an impact, it let other people see that they could do the job," she added.

"If you have the physical ability, if you have the right frame of mind, you can do the job.

"It was really letting other women know that they can do this job too, and I hope I did that."

Alan Walmsley, interim Chief Fire and Rescue Officer at the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said Ms Smart "was a passionate advocate and ambassador for female firefighters" and the award was a "fitting recognition".

Image source, Pacemaker Press
Image caption,
Andy Allen received an MBE for services to veterans and their families in Northern Ireland

Ulster Unionist Andy Allen has become an MBE for services to veterans and their families in Northern Ireland. He is an MLA for East Belfast and a former Royal Irish Regiment soldier.

He was 19 when he had his right leg blown off and left leg badly injured by a makeshift bomb while on patrol in Afghanistan in 2008.

Mr Allen said he felt "humbled and privileged" that he had been put forward for the honour.

"I see this honour as being very much in recognition of my colleagues and volunteers at AAVS (Andy Allen Veterans Support)," he said.

"They are the individuals who work very quietly behind the scenes and make things happen, because if it wasn't for them then this honour would not have come to fruition.

Image caption,
Finlay Spratt received an MBE for public service

"My family have also been immense from the day and hour I was injured in Afghanistan, right through to the present day."

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said: "The award of an MBE is further recognition of the selfless work that Andy does on a daily basis for the betterment of others, and it will be the source of great pride amongst Andy's friends and colleagues in the Ulster Unionist Party and far beyond. He truly is an inspiration to us all."

The former head of the Prison Officers Association, Finlay Spratt, has also been appointed MBE for public service and charity.

Children's writer and storyteller Liz Weir has been appointed MBE for services to the arts and education.

Former Ireland and British Lions captain Willie John McBride is now a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to rugby union.

Mr McBride, who previously was appointed MBE, played 63 Tests for Ireland including 11 as captain, and toured with the Lions five times finishing with 17 Lions Test caps.

Image source, BBC Northern Ireland
Image caption,
Willie John McBride celebrates after captaining the Lions to win the test series in South Africa in 1974

He captained the most successful ever Lions side, which toured South Africa in 1974, and said he was "absolutely thrilled" with the accolade.

"It is lovely to be remembered after all this time, because I have not been involved with rugby for a long time," he added.

"To me, the Everest of my career was captaining the Lions in 1974, when we had that unbeaten run against the Springboks and beat them for the first time ever in a test series.

"I would like to think this honour would be shared with those guys, because they were absolutely terrific.

"Sometimes I felt that I had travelled with 29 brothers."

Image source, PA
Image caption,
It was a second honour for Harry Gregg

Former Northern Ireland and Manchester United goalkeeper Harry Gregg was appointed OBE, adding to the MBE he was appointed in 1995.

Mr Gregg survived the 1958 Munich air disaster and was praised for staying with the burning plane to help passengers to safety.

He made more than 240 appearances for Manchester United during his career.

Northern Ireland and Rangers defender Gareth McAuley has become an MBE for services to football in Northern Ireland, while Crusaders FC manager Stephen Baxter received a British Empire Medal (BEM).

Former Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) president, Andy Crawford, was also appointed MBE.

Commanders of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)

Nicholas David George Coburn

Bryan Keating

David Noel Livingstone

William James McBride

John Christopher McCrudden

Edward Mark McGuckin

Malcolm Howard Beatty

Patrick Joseph Doherty

Carol Ann Graham

Henry Gregg

Charles John Henning

Deirdre Houston

Brian Ingram

Alma Mary Loughrey

Adrian McAllister

James Charles McElnay

Marie Roulston

Peter Newton Acheson

Andrew Joseph David Allen

Maureen Allen

Declan George Billington

Zoe Alexandra Boreland

Alan Boyd

Sarah Roberta Brownlee

Melanie Elaine Christie-Boyle

William Harold Connor

Celine Collette Craig

Derek Andrew Crawford

Henry James Crawford

Patricia Louise Donald

Thomas Watters Perry Donaldson

William Nigel Dougherty

Colin Harding

Frances Hardy

Hugh Mervyn Herron

Rosemary Frances Leech

Jacqueline Locke (Gorman)

Thomas Ernest Long

Christopher John Lynn

Gareth Gerald McAuley

Imelda Mary McGucken

Neil Edward McKittrick

Pairic O'Brien

Claire Louise O'Hanlon

Wilfred Pyper

Mary Roulston

Sheila Elizabeth Simons (Boden)

Gerard Skelton

Heather Carolyn Smart

Finlay Spratt

Elizabeth Ann weir

Jacqueline Weir

James Anderson

Stephen John Baxter

Eithne Marian Begley

Evelyn Elizabeth Bennett

Margaret Wilson Brown

Anthony Richard Clarke

Thomas Martin Dillon

Elizabeth Eileen Doherty

Robert Norman Espie

John Stuart Faulkner

James Ferguson

Elizabeth Fielding

Daniel Joseph Gallagher

Elizabeth Jane Glass

James Lowry Grant

Desmond John Gregg

David Henry Hammerton

Jemima (Ina) Henry

Muriel Irwin

Hugh Kennedy

David Edward Knox

Robert Leonard Lingwood

George Henry McAlpin

Jane Alison McAlpin

Anne Marie McComb

Glenda Rodgers McCormick

Joseph Gabriel McCurry

William Joseph McKelvey

William Frederick Francis Mills

Colin Andrew Moffett

Sharon Patterson

Leonard Francis Quigg

Gretta Reid

Joanne Elizabeth Rock

Ernest Carson Smyth

Gwen Katherine Smyth

Sarah Renee Starbuck

Eveline Margaret Strange

Teresa White

Peter Wilson

Ross Logan Hayes Wilson

Det Insp Billy Cross

Det Const Kimberly Hegarty

Supt Brian Thomas Kee