New Year Honours: Omagh bomb was my first major crisis says retiring humanitarian worker

A charity worker, who retired from his post with the British Red Cross yesterday, was given a timely send-off in the shape of a British Empire Medal.

By Graeme Cousins
Friday, 31st December 2021, 10:30 pm
Norman McKinley is to receive a BEM
Norman McKinley is to receive a BEM

Norman McKinley, 59, who joined the Red Cross in 1997, has clocked up nearly 25 years service with the humanitarian charity, most recently supporting the organisation through the pandemic.

He said: “I was working in London when my wife called me to say a letter had arrived about an MBE. I thought she was joking. When it eventually sank in, I couldn’t believe that someone had been so thoughtful and kind to nominate me.

“But I don’t feel that this award is just for me. This is for the thousands of volunteers across the country that have worked tirelessly during the pandemic.”

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Reflecting on his early days with the Red Cross, Norman said: “The Omagh bomb was my first experience of a major crisis. I was at my daughter’s birthday party at home in Belfast when the bomb went off. Still relatively new in role I wasn’t entirely sure what I would need to do, or how best to manage our response to such a traumatic event.

“I soon discovered that whatever I may have lacked by way of preparation or experience, we made up for with speed, agility, teamwork, and kindness. That’s been my experience throughout so many different crises over the years.”

On the day of his retirement, Norman said: “I’m proud to have been part of a story where ordinary people do extraordinary things together. And not just during the recent pandemic. From the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, the 2005 London bombings, the Manchester Arena Bombing, the Grenfell Tower disaster, and the global pandemic – the Red Cross is a unique and enduring force for good, able to mobilise people from all walks of life to be active humanitarians and provide vital emergency help where it’s needed most. It’s been a privilege to play my part.”

Norman plans to continue his volunteering work as a driver with a local food bank in Belfast and with the Independent Monitoring Board, as well as spending some much deserved time-off with his grandchildren.

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