Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway today represented the Government at the presentation of the Tipperary International Peace Award to the White Helmets in honour of their lifesaving work.
The Syrian Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, have saved more than 100,000 people, while 192 of the unarmed volunteers have lost their lives.
Previous recipients of the Tipperary International Peace Award include including Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, John Kerry and Ban Ki Moon.
Senator Conway said: “I am delighted that the work of the Syrian Civil Defence, better known as the White Helmets, is being recognised.
“The organisation and its 3,000 courageous volunteers are extremely deserving recipients of the Tipperary International Peace Award.
“These ordinary Syrians – once students, accountants or engineers, men and women, young and old – have taken upon themselves the extremely hazardous work of saving lives in the most challenging and dangerous circumstances – and they are estimated to have saved over 100,000 to date.
“Every day, when bombs, shells and explosives are dropped on schools or hospitals, when civilians are tragically hurt, these brave volunteers rush towards the danger to help their fellow citizens.
“They search for survivors among the rubble, knowing that the area is unsafe – that the building could collapse or the attack may not be over and could resume at any moment.
“The White Helmets put their own lives at risk to save others in the most difficult of circumstances. Their motto, inspired by the Koran is: “To save a life is to save all of humanity.” It is a reminder to all of us that individual actions, local actions, can reverberate much more widely than we might dare imagine.”
“The search for a peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict, and assisting those affected by the conflict are among the top international priorities for Ireland.
“Since 2012, Ireland has contributed €87.5 million to the humanitarian response to the Syria crisis – which is Irish Aid’s largest response to a single crisis in recent years.
“We also support the EU’s humanitarian response to the Syria crisis through our annual contributions to the EU, and are proud that the EU and its Member States are collectively lead providers of international aid in Syria and the region, having provided more than €9.4 billion to the region to date.
“In addition, in 2015 the Government established the Irish Refugee Protection Programme as a direct response to the refugee crisis caused by conflict in the Middle East and Africa. Under this programme, the Government pledged to accept a total of 4,000 refugees and asylum seekers.
“To date Ireland has received over 1,200 refugees and asylum seekers under this scheme, with another 800 due to arrive by the end of the year. Over 90% of those who have already arrived are Syrians, who with the help of their local communities they are beginning to rebuild their lives here.
“Tragically, many Syrians will not have opportunity to recover and rebuild their lives in this way. An estimated 500,000 have lost their lives in the conflict so far, and this number could be even higher were it not for the excellent work of the White Helmets.
“I would like to recognise again the excellent work of the White Helmets, and I hope that today’s presentation of the Tipperary International Peace Award helps to highlight their example, their courage and their heroism, and will show that the voices for peace in Syria are much stronger than the voices for war.”