Joanne O’Riordan burst into public life as an irrepressible teenage disability campaigner, challenging government ministers and winning the hearts and minds of people throughout Ireland and the rest of the world.
Earlier this year, she won the prestigious international Outstanding Young Person of the Year Award – an honour once bestowed on former US President John F Kennedy.
She won the award after being entered for her ‘Contribution to children, world peace and/or human rights’. She was a clear winner, receiving around half of the 26,000 votes cast.
O’Riordan was born with no limbs due to a congenital disorder known as Total Amelia. In 2011, she won the hearts of Irish people when she challenged the government over their spending cuts for people with disabilities. The government was forced to scrap its controversial plans.
In 2012, she won the Rehab Young Person of Year Award.
When she was 16, she gave a speech to the UN about the importance of technology in helping her to live an independent life.
She has worked with scientists at Trinity College Dublin on developing a robot that will help people with disabilities to become more independent.
O’Riordan’s life has been made into an inspiring documentary film called ‘No Limbs No Limits’.
O’Roirdan was delighted with the news of the award. She said: “To say I’m over the moon would be an understatement.
“I was joking with my bother Steven last night that if I’m ever being interviewed on The Late Late Show again I’ll have to ask Ryan Tubridy to address me as Outstanding Young Person of the World.”
She had this message for her supporters: “I want to thank all those who believe in people with disabilities and provide them with opportunities in life to do better and I’m delighted to represent Ireland. We are a small but great nation. I always say it’s not people with disabilities that are the problem. Its people’s attitude and understanding towards disability is the real problem. Let’s hope this award changes that perception.”
O’Roirdan’s mother Ann said: “She is the only Cork person to win the award and while she loves flying the flag for Cork I know she will beam with pride flying the green, white and gold in Japan. What can I say? I’m a proud mum.”
The award ceremony takes place in Japan on 7 November. As well as JFK, other previous winners include Jackie Chan and Henry Kissinger.
Take a look at this excerpt from No Limbs No Limits.
Here is Joanne appearing on the Late Late Show.