Queen’s Birthday Honours: Carrick Learning Disability Pride organiser ‘humbled’

The main organiser of Carrick’s Learning Disability Pride event has been named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Friday, 11th June 2021, 10:52 pm

Thomas Haighton receives the BEM for services to adults with learning and physical disabilities.

He is a among a number of people from east and south Antrim recognised today (Friday).

Also included on the list is Northern Ireland international Julie Nelson, from Larne, who receives the BEM for service to women’s football.

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Thomas Haighton.

And Valerie Peacock is similarly honoured for services to the Glengormley-based Children’s Hospice.

Meanwhile, Glengormley resident and Ballymena United manager, David Jeffrey is made an MBE for services to football and community relations,

Thomas, who began helping with Carrickfergus Junior Gateway when just 13 years of age, said: “I am both honoured and humbled to receive a British Empire Medal for services to people with a learning disability. I am privileged to work with adults with a learning disability and to be honest I get so much more from them than they do me. I have a real passion for the work I do and will continue to advocate for those I care for.

“We have come so far in raising awareness for people with a learning disability and ensuring they are seen as valued members of our society, but there is a lot more work to be done. Unfortunately, the pandemic has seen people with a learning disability lose out on so much and become isolated with little or nothing to do, not to mention the additional pressures put on parents and carers.

Julie Nelson. Presseye/Stephen Hamilton

“Now we are starting to come out the other side of Covid, I will ensure people with a learning disability once again have their voices heard and rights upheld.”

Progressing from volunteer to Gateway leader, Thomas eventually chose a career in the sector, starting at Castleview Nursing Home, Carrickfergus and then to the Northern Health and Social Care Trust as a support worker in Hawthorns Adult Centre, Carrickfergus, where he is now registered manager.

Thomas added: “My experience and knowledge gained have enabled me to make positive changes for those with a learning disability and one of my main highlights was Carrickfergus Senior Gateway hosting the first every Learning Disability Pride event held in Carrickfergus in 2017. This was a day that brought thousands of people together to support those with a learning disability and to show that they are valued members of society. This was such a huge success we then hosted the second event two years later.

“I take great pride in what I do and in everything I am involved with but I couldn’t do all this on my own; my biggest support comes from my amazing family and also from those that work alongside me in all learning disability services. I am pleased to accept this award on behalf of all of them.”

David Jeffrey. Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

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Click here to read: Letter from Prime Minister ahead of Learning Disability Pride in Carrickfergus

Click here to read: Northern Ireland football captain Julie Nelson joins exclusive club

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