Rural champion awarded MBE

Patricia McQuillan is proud of her rural background, and she says she is ‘humbled’ to have been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s honours.

The Moneydig woman, wife of DUP MLA Adrian McQuillan, was given the award for services to the rural community.

“I knew that I had been nominated back in November, but I wasn’t permitted to tell anyone,” Patricia told The Times.

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“I only found out that I had definitely gained the MBE at midnight, when the full list was published.

“I am really thrilled and humbled by the whole experience so far.

People have been so kind. I just can’t believe that people would take the time to put this nomination together. I have had so many people congratulating me, I am really humbled.”

The mother of one leads a hectic lifestyle sitting on many committees which seek to benefit the rural community.

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She is also a member of the Coleraine Policing and Community Safety Partnership and was a former vice chair of the now defunct District Policing Partnership.

Speaking about her community work Patricia added: “ I started volunteering about 13 years ago when we set about starting up a community group in Moneydig. The group is now flourishing and has really improved the area. Our successes have included street lights in areas, a bus shelter, home improvements and renovations to the Orange Hall.

As a founder member of the Moneydig Rural Network, Patricia explains: “ I was contacted by some women in the Moneydig area who felt isolated. We set up the group in 2011 and have had a number of successful community events and ran many courses. We are a very active wee group, we meet around my kitchen table and come up with ideas for the year ahead.”

Patricia was also a member of the Coleraine District Housing Community Network before being selected to sit on the Housing Executive’s Central Housing Network, a body that scrutinises the performance of the services provided by the Housing Executive.

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Patricia is looking forward to a visit to the Palace, she’s already thinking about a new outfit.

“I am really excited about going to the Palace to collect my MBE, I think that is when it will really sink in. I am really delighted that I will be able to bring my husband, Adrian, my son Adam and his girlfriend Dawn along too. They’ve been a great help to me with my community work.”

Another of the many recipients being recognised for serving their community was Young Farmers’ Club (YFC) of Ulster board member Barbara Blair.

She has been honoured with a British Empire Medal (BEM) for “services to young people in Northern Ireland”, and at 30 is the youngest recipient.

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Barbara joined her local YFC in Garvagh at 13, and later served on the committee of the club.

Now living in Ballymoney, she eventually took a seat on the executive of the YFC’s Ulster board and that of the Rural Youth Europe group representing the UK and Ireland.

“I was shocked when I got the letter and I wasn’t sure it was real,” she said. “I suppose it’s nice for the organisation as a whole to get this recognition, and to have someone put forward for it, but lots of people give up their time.

“It is very much a rural youth organisation. There are so many different aspects within Young Farmers, there are so many things you can do, and I really enjoyed the drama side of things and got very involved in that and the competitions.”