Irish Person of the Year

Brian Farmer, who recently retired from 21 years as President of the Gaelic Athletic Association in Canada, was honoured as the 2016 “Irish Person of the Year” at a function in Toronto in early March. Over 350 people attended the lunch in Brian’s honour, including His Excellency Ambassador Ray Basset and his wife Patricia.

This is the 26th year of the award, which seeks to recognise those in the Irish Canadian community who either through their contribution to community associations, or through accomplishments in their respective fields, have brought distinction to the Irish in Canada. It is a Toronto based community event and so of course the majority of the award winners over that time have been from within that community, but in many years, the achievements of the honourees span across Canada, as is the case for Brian Farmer. Other past honourees include Hockey Hall of Famer and Olympic Gold Medallist, Geraldine Heaney; CEO of the Vancouver Olympics, John Furlong; and ex CEO of Bank of Montreal, Matt Barrett.

Brian Farmer emigrated from Clonmore, Co. Armagh in 1974 and has been synonymous with the Gaelic Athletic Association in Canada over many of the years since then. The uniqueness of the GAA and its special place in Irish culture and Irish life is well documented. In honouring Brian the IPOY committee also sought to acknowledge the special place the GAA holds in our community. Many Irish in Canada know first-hand the impact the friendships and indeed rivalries gained from participation in the local GAA scene have in helping an immigrant build a life here in Canada.

Aside from helping keep Ireland’s national games alive and kicking here as Chair of the County Board, Brian has been to the fore in initiatives such as the visit of the GAA All-Stars to the SkyDome in the early 1990s, the legendary annual Powerscreen ‘Sevens’, and the victorious participation by Team Canada in the Gaelic Football World Cup in Dubai last year. Brian has brought these same leadership skills to his business life, having founded and built up the successful Canadian distribution arm of Irish heavy equipment manufacturer, Powerscreen.

“A no show is better than a bad show” is a phrase Brian has often been heard to utter, meaning that if something it is worth doing, it is worth doing ‘right’, and certainly bad shows were few and far between on his watch. Through his dogged determination to see things done properly and his personal integrity, enthusiasm and charisma, Brian Farmer has left a lasting legacy within the Canadian GAA, and is no wonder such a large crowd gathered in Toronto to be there on the day to celebrate with him, his wife Chris and their proud family.

The IPOY committee also coordinates the annual raising of the Irish flag over Toronto City Hall. The flag-raising precedes the luncheon, and this year the duties were performed by husband / wife team, DJ Kelleher and Jacinta O’Hanlon.

The Irish person of the year is chosen by the committee based primarily on nominations received from the broader community. The committee comprises the following: Cormac Monaghan, (Chair), Kitty Freely, Ann Looney, Anne-Marie O’Donnell, and Angela O’Murrai. Nominations or indeed any questions or feedback can be directed to the committee at Pencil in Sunday March 5th for the 27th installment!