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Ireland's most famous gambler receives special award for charity work

Barney Curley pictured in Belfast to help launch his new book in 1999. Picture by Hugh Russell

HE knows when to hold 'em, when to fold em' and how to raise millions for charity - a feat which has seen Ireland's most famous gambler receive a special award from the Oireachtas.

Barney Curley from Irvinestown, Co Fermanagh is the 2015 recipient of the `Human Life, Human Rights and Human Dignity Award' presented by the Oireachtas Human Dignity Group.

He will share the award with DAFA (Direct Aid for Africa), the charity he co-founded in 1997.

Mr Curley, who has acknowledged having a hand in a four-horse betting coup that took a reported £2m from the bookmakers in 2014, has raised millions of euro for schools and hospitals on the continent.

The legendary gambler and former trainer co-founded DAFA in 1997 after the death of his son Charlie in a car crash led him to visit Zambia to see the work being done in missionary-run schools and hospitals.

The charity, which benefits hugely from Mr Curley's role and from money sourced from his contacts in racing, has contributed over Euro2.7 million to various humanitarian projects, mainly in Zambia.

Major figures in racing, including Sheikh Mohammed, have donated thanks to his intervention.

Mr Curley will receive the award from the Ceann Comhairle, Sean Barrett TD, at a ceremony on December 3.

"Barney Curley is in many ways an unlikely hero," Mr Barrett said yesterday.

"Not many gamblers get nominated for awards. But here is a man who is transforming countless lives through tireless fundraising for some of the world’s most underprivileged people. That deserves to be celebrated and honoured."

Mr Curley and DAFA were nominated for the award at the October meeting of the Oireachtas Human Dignity Group, following a proposal from Senator Rónán Mullen.

"Barney Curley is long overdue an award for his creative approach to work and his single-minded dedication to the least fortunate people in the world," Senator Mullen said.

"He has used his unusual and intriguing talent for the most noble of purposes - helping others. We are grateful to him."

The Oireachtas Human Dignity Group was established to promote discussion in Leinster House about the importance of respecting human dignity at all stages of life.

Membership is informal, and the group's activities are open to all members of the Oireachtas and MEPs who share its aims and are interested in participating.

The Fermanagh man is only the second recipient of the honour.

The inaugural award was presented to Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, founder of Mary's Meals, last year.

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