Presentation of Spirit of Mother Jones 2022 to Don O’Leary of the Cork Life Centre.

Don O’Leary, director of Cork Life Centre is presented with the 2022 Spirit of Mother Jones award in an emotional ceremony during the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

The award was presented by James Nolan and was followed by a sustained standing ovation from the large number of people present. 

Don O’Leary receives the award from James Nolan.

Don is the first Cork man to receive the award and he commented afterwards that it meant so much to him as Mother Jones was one of his heroes for seeking to prevent the exploitation of children in the mines and mills of America and ensure they received an education and also that he and the Cork Life Centre had been selected by the ordinary people of Cork. This represents the ultimate recognition for his efforts and the wonderful work of the staff and volunteers of the Cork Life Centre.

Don O’Leary and Rachel of the Cork Life Centre with the Cork Mother Jones Committee
Left to Right: Rachel Lucey, Don O’Leary and Sharon O’Neill of the Cork Life Centre.

The Spirit of Mother Jones citation for Don O’Leary and the Cork Life Centre was read. 

For his courage and determination to ensure that children and young people are not left behind by the Irish education system.

For his Trojan efforts and that of the volunteers and staff at the Cork Life Centre to create a positive and practical community of learning which is welcoming, supportive and encouraging of young people.

For his advocacy of human rights and social justice especially in relation to children’s rights and their opportunities to progress to the best of their creative abilities and individual talents which contribute so much to a better community and world.

For his refusal to accept that one size fits all in the Irish education system and for his refusal to compromise in relation to this fundamental student centred approach focused on authentic inquiry and experiential learning and measures success in a radically different way to the standard competitive exam system.

For his practical approach to providing a structured base and a supportive network which has established an educational home for the young people to use their talents and visualize opportunities to fulfil their dreams in life and become productive members of society.

For his encouragement of young people to walk the road of life using their own unique abilities, independence of spirit, critical observation and an appreciation of their own self-worth.  

CORK MOTHER JONES COMMITTEE 2022
Don O’Leary being congratulated by Caitriona Twomey of Cork Penny Dinners.
Left to Right: Don O’Leary, James Nolan and Antoinette Keegan.

A Message from Charlie Bird to Antoinette Keegan for the Spirit of Mother Jones Award 2020

Antoinette Keegan received the following goodwill message from Charlie Bird on the occasion of her visit to the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2022 in Cork.

Charlie Bird message to Antoinette Keegan (by permission of Antoinette).

The Award for 2020 which was to have been presented to Christine Keegan of the Stardust Justice Campaign  was presented to her daughter Antoinette  on Friday 29th July 2022 at the Firkin Crane, by James Nolan on behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee..

James Nolan presents the Spirit of Mother Jones Award 2020 to Antoinette Keegan.

Sadly Christine passed away in July 2020. Antoinette was accompanied by her sisters Lorraine and Suzanne and uncle Frank and Phyllis and Maurice McHugh who lost their only daughter Caroline in the Stardust Fire on Valentine Day 1981. 

Suzanne, Antoinette and Lorraine Keegan.

The Citation reads as follows:

“The Spirit of Mother Jones Award is awarded this year to Ms. Antoinette Keegan of the Stardust Victims Committee for her determination, resilience and longstanding efforts to pursue truth, accountability and justice for the Stardust victims and their families over almost 40 years.   

Antoinette and her late mother Christine and father John have pursued answers to what happened at the Stardust fire on 14th February 1981, where 48 young people lost their lives, including Antoinette’s sisters Mary and Martina. 

In spite of her own injuries, the loss of her sisters, and the failure of the Public Authorities to provide answers, Antoinette has continued to actively campaign to uncover the full truth of the events of that night. She is an inspiration to so many! 

For her bravery, courage and commitment, Antoinette Keegan is a very worthy recipient of the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Award.”

CORK mOTHER jONES committee for antoinette keegan.

They Never Came Home!

Antoinette Keegan will be formally presented by the Cork Mother Jones Committee with the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Award on Friday 29th July at 3pm at the Dance Cork Firkin Crane theatre.

Antoinette and her late parents Christine and John along with other families and survivors have campaigned for justice and answers as to why 48 young people including Antoinette’s sisters Mary (19) and Martina (16),lost their lives at the Stardust Fire in the northside of Dublin on Valentine’s Day 14th February 1981. Over 200 people were treated in hospital for injuries sustained in the fire.

Christine and Antoinette Keegan (Sam Boal)

In spite of her own injuries, the loss of two of her sisters and the failure of the State Authorities to provide answers, Antoinette has campaigned to uncover the full truth of the events of that night.  What caused this fire and who was responsible?

Her resilience and commitment to pursuing justice for the 48 children who never came home to their families remains an inspiration to many people. 

In 2019, the Attorney General approved the holding of new inquests to establish the full facts. After 41 years of the campaign for justice, the inquests should finally begin this year.

We wish to express our thanks to Antoinette and members of her family for coming to Cork and speaking about the long standing efforts of the survivors to seek the facts. 

All are welcome to the presentation and discussion. 

The Stardust Complex after the fire.

Antoinette Keegan is the Spirit of Mother Jones Award recipient for 2020.

The late Christine Keegan and her daughter Antoinette. Photo courtesy of Sam Boal


The Cork Mother Jones Committee is proud to announce that the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Award will be presented to Antoinette Keegan of the Stardust Victims Committee.

Antoinette and her mother Christine Keegan were due to speak in Cork at this year’s Spirit of Mother Jones Summer school. Sadly, Christine passed away in July after a lifetime of fighting for justice for the Stardust victims.

The Keegan family have been central to the efforts for the past 40 years to investigate the causes of the fire. The recent announcement of a new inquest into the victims of the Stardust Fire is testament to the determination of Antoinette and her family and the Stardust Victims committee to pursue the truth of the night of the 13/14th February in 1981. 

“The Spirit of Mother Jones Award is awarded this year to Ms. Antoinette Keegan of the Stardust Victims Committee for her determination, resilience and longstanding efforts to pursue truth, accountability and justice for the Stardust victims and their families over almost 40 years.  

Antoinette and her late mother Christine and father John have pursued answers to what happened at the Stardust fire on 14th February 1981, where 48 young people lost their lives, including Antoinette’s sisters Mary and Martina.

In spite of her own injuries, the loss of her sisters, and the failure of the Authorities to provide answers, Antoinette has continued to actively campaign to uncover the full truth of the events of that night. She is an inspiration to so many!

For her bravery, courage and commitment, Antoinette Keegan is a very worthy recipient of the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Award.”

The Cork Mother Jones Committee

The award has been presented each year since 2013 by this committee to the person we feel most represents the fighting spirit of Mother Jones, who was born Mary Harris here in Cork in July 1837 and went on to become known throughout the world as Mother Jones. She fought for the rights of workers and the trade union movement and was involved in numerous campaigns

We will arrange to present the award representing The Children of Lir to Antoinette as soon as it becomes safe to do so in view of the current Covid-19 situation. It is hoped Antoinette will be able to come to Cork to speak at the Spirit of Mother Jones summer school in 2021. 

For details of the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival which will take place online between the 27th and the 30th Novembersee www.motherjonescork.com. The full programme of events will appear this coming weekend.

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/stardust-campaigner-honoured-with-the-spirit-of-mother-jones-award-1.4412466?mode=amp

Previous recipients of this award have been

2013, Margaret Aspinall of the Hillsborough Family Support Group.

2014, Gareth Peirce, Solicitor

2015 Fr. Peter McVerry.

2016 Dave Hopper, RIP Durham Miners’ Association

2017 Ken Fleming, International Transport Workers Federation

2018 Mary Manning, (Dunnes Stores Workers)

2019 Louise O’Keeffe.

2020 Antoinette Keegan.