An internationally recognised peace campaigner was feted in her hometown when Adi Roche was honoured with a civic reception by Clonmel Borough Council.
Adi, the founder of the Children’s Chernobyl Project International, was described many times on Friday evening as “inspirational” for her work in helping the people affected by the world’s worst nuclear disaster. The council unanimously supported a motion to honour Adi for her ‘outstanding humanitarian work for the children of Chernobyl.’
Following the Chernobyl disaster in 1985 Adi began the project that was to become her life’s work. In 1991 she officially set up Chernobyl Children’s Project International - even though she had no Russian, no money, no staff and no resources, as described by Mayor Siobhan Ambrose. The UN now recognises Chernobyl as the worst nuclear disaster the world has ever seen. Four million children have been affected and through the Chernobyl Childrens Project E85 million has been given to the area.
“I am absolutely delighted and deeply moved by this incredible civic reception in my native town of Cluain Meala. I can’t say how much it means to me in my heart,” a visibly touched Ms Roche said, adding she was accepting the honour for the people affected by the Chernobyl tragedy that have been relegated to history by the rest of the world, but not Ireland, and also for the tremendous volunteers who alleviate the pain of the victims of the disaster. “Right from the beginning the people of Clonmel rose to the occasion, came behind me and became the life blood of the organisation.”
She especially thanked Carol Morrissey, chairperson of the Clonmel branch of the Chernobyl Children’s Project; local Civil Defence volunteers Eddie Cooney and Dolores Fahey; her family, including her husband, her siblings Len and Conchubair who were present, and committee members who make themselves available year after year. “The citizens of Clonmel are the ones who open their hears, minds, homes and purse strings to the very, very vulnerable children, welcoming them year after year, giving the gift of life and happiness,” Adi said. “They go back to their families with something they never experienced before - pure and utter love.”
Adi said she especially loves to meet the children who have been to Clonmel. “We have an extra connection. This is the place I grew up, where I was loved, motivated and educated. The place that gave me the confidence that I may be able to play a role in the life of another human being.” She said growing up she learned from her parents, the late Chris and Sean Roche of Western Park, that ‘neighbour’ didn’t have to be attached to your house or on the other side of the road but someone who needs a helping hand out or up. They introduced her to the spirit of activity, to do, transform and make something better. In the Presentation she learned that advocacy is what decent human beings do. Her introduction to volunteerism in those formative years were what took her on her life’s journey, Adi said. “We live in the shadow of each other and are dependent on each other in the community.”
“In the 25 years since Chernobyl hundreds have become refugees in their own country, taken from towns like Clonmel that no longer exist because of radioactivity. These people will never be able to return to the birthplace of their ancestors. I think God that when I get a phone call from my sister and we are homesick for Clonmel we can visit. The people of Chernobyl can never do that. That’s why I feel so special tonight. Thank God I can come home to the beautiful place where I was formed, grew up and was raised.”
Adi said the event was an opportunity to rededicate to the innocent victims of Chernobyl. “We will not let these people down, we will not be put back by economic recessions. While we are never rich in our bank accounts Carol and I know true wealth lies in people who do what we do best with a wonderful passion for life and ability to transform that into compassion. That is where there is hope for our country into the future.”
In a heartfelt tribute, Carol Morrissey said that when Adi speaks they are inspired. “We are eternally grateful to her and we love her very much. I am so glad we still claim her in Clonmel.”
“For the last 25 years Adi has given of herself. Adi - you are an inspiration to us all,” the mayor said. Cllr Darren Ryan read a message of congratulations from Tanaiste Eamonn Gilmore in which he said Aid “stands out as a prime example of all that is best in Ireland’s contribution to Europe and the world.”
Adi was presented with a painting of the Main Guard, that the mayor said will remind her of her home place and how much she is loved there, every time she looks at it.
Clly Billy Shoer said Adi had inspired the people of Ireland to open their hearts and their pockets to the children of Chernobyl. Cllr Richie Molloy said few people can say they truly made a difference but Adi is one of those people. “You could truly be described as the Mother Theresa of Clonmel.” Cllr Brian O’Donnell said the work done to bring the children to Ireland every year is “just tremendous - when you see the children with the smiles on their faces its fantastic.” Cllr Joe Leahy said Adi had brought people together in Clonmel in their support of the Project. Cllr Niall Dennehy paid tribute to what ‘a child of Clonmel has done for the children of a town so far away.’ Cllr Gabrielle Egan paid tribute to the local people who work with the group. Cllr Theresa Ryan said Adi displays “vision, fortitude and dignity.” Cllr Helena McGee said that she was inspired that “if someone from the Western Road can do it then we can do it too.”