Thursday 14 December 2017

Ah, Freeman of the City ... is there anything more pointless?

Tony Ward
Tony Ward

High up in the pantheon of meaningless, trivial awards there is little to touch the infamous honorary degree which Irish universities are so fond of bestowing on visiting celebrities or retired politicians, usually of no great learning, in an attempt to garner some free publicity for their institution.

Coming a close second, however, is the Freedom of the City award, again usually proffered by local councillors to someone with, at best, a tenuous connection with that locale but which gets their city in the press and their faces in the paper.

For the recipient these awards are, of course, usually little more than a nice surprise, a grand day out, complete with a scroll to file away in a bathroom drawer beside all those equally useful shoe horns, pipe cleaners and garlic crushers you were given and never thought of again.

Not for rugby star turned pundit Tony Ward, however. Because last week, on being made a Freeman of Limerick city, he described the honour as being "the greatest personal achievement of my life".

Attending the Limerick Person of the Year ceremony, Tony was awarded the title of Honorary Limerick man, to which he exclaimed: "It's just blown me away!"

Also feted on the night was WBO middleweight boxing champion Andy Lee, who was named Limerick Person of the Year, to which he reacted in similar fashion, calling the award "mind-blowing".

All of which prompts the obvious reflection that, perhaps, the lives of these two sporting heroes are not quite as gilded as we presumed. On mature reflection, however, perhaps we should be delighted that not only are Andy and Tony so happy, but have chosen to express their delight in this manner, reflecting as it does the change that has come over that city.

After all, it's not long ago that being blown away in Limerick would have had a very different connotation.

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