07 Dec 2021

National Bravery Award presented to Donegal woman

Jane Friel's quick action saved lives at Portsalon beach in July 2020

National Bravery Award presented to Donegal woman

Jane Friel receiving her National Bravery Award medal and certificate from the Ceann Comhairle

Jane Friel from Castlefin was the worthy recipient of a National Bravery Award this afternoon in Dublin.

The Bravery awards were set up in 1947 to recognise those who risked their lives to save others and are administered by Comhairle na Míre Gaile – the Deeds of Bravery Council – which is chaired by the Ceann Comhairle. 

On the afternoon of July 28 2020, a woman in distress ran up to some people looking for a lifeguard as her family were being swept out to sea off Portsalon Beach in Donegal. 

Jane Friel overheard this and noticing that there were no lifeguards in that area ran towards the water to help.


She was given a life ring by a person on the beach and she ran into the water still wearing her jeans and swam out to sea. Initially, she couldn’t see them as they were quite far out but eventually reached them.

She found a father and his three daughters, ranging in age she thought between eight and 13, in a distressed state trying to stay afloat on two body boards in very deep water. As she approached them, she asked them to try and remain calm.

Jane then asked what appeared to be the youngest child to take hold of the life ring and told those remaining that she would be back to get them. 

Jane asked the young girl to kick as hard as she could and managed to get her close enough to shore. This allowed someone on the shore to wade into the water and bring her ashore. Jane then returned to the three remaining people. Jane got another one of the girls to come towards her with her body board asking her to also kick as hard as she could, and she would get her to safety.

The girl did this and Jane got her to the shore safely. Jane then turned to go back for the other two but at this stage the father and daughter had copied what Jane was doing and they managed to get themselves safely to shore. 

For her actions Jane Friel was awarded a Bronze Medal and a Certificate of Bravery.

Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD, presented National Bravery Awards to 25 people from Counties Cavan, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Kildare, Kilkenny, Offaly, Sligo, Tipperary and Waterford, and from the United States of America, for 17 acts of bravery. 

The Ceann Comhairle said: “The deeds we honour here are exceptional acts of bravery. They mark the moments where people saved the lives of others through their actions, risking their own lives doing so. What these awards celebrate is the noblest impulse within a human being, to risk their life in order to save another. We honour people who leaped into stormy seas, who braved swollen rivers, climbed down cliffs, assisted at road traffic collisions and performed other remarkable deeds. Through their actions there are people alive today, who would undoubtedly have died. 

“I am of course conscious that we mark these deeds at a time when the world is still under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. This virus has brought great pain to many families throughout the country and our hearts are heavy for the loss suffered over the last 20 months. But the exemplary service given by our doctors, nurses and frontline workers across the health service, the fire and rescue services and An Garda Síochána has brought great hope and also pride, to us all. 

“Today we rightly acknowledge the brave acts of heroism that our honoured guests have performed. But it also a day for remembering and acknowledging the very many acts of bravery carried out day in and day out throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. However small or big those acts were and continue to be, collectively they contribute to keeping us all safe during an unprecedented time in our lives. 

“The collective sense of good and indeed bravery displayed nationwide from many walks of life throughout the pandemic rightly allows us to be both proud of our communities and grateful for their existence. An Irish language expression whose literal meaning is 'It is in each other’s shadow that people live' but which, more broadly, invokes a sense of community and interdependence is most apt for the times we live in – Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.” 

The Deeds of Bravery Council includes the Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann, the Lord Mayors of Dublin and Cork, the Garda Commissioner, the President of the Association of City & County Councils and the Chair of the Irish Red Cross.

The Council may award Gold, Silver or Bronze medals as well as Certificates of Bravery.  

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