Page last updated at 00:00 GMT, Thursday, 31 December 2009

Belfast Black Santa Houston McKelvey on honours list

Dean Houston McKelvey in St Annes Cathedral , Belfast
Dean Houston McKelvey is being honoured for his charity work

A Church of Ireland dean who has raised millions for the most deprived in Northern Ireland and abroad is being made an OBE in the New Year Honours.

The Rev Houston McKelvey, 67, holds his Black Santa charity appeal outside Belfast's St Anne's Cathedral annually.

Mr McKelvey said his most vivid memory was seeing people lining the street in teeming rain to give money for the victims of the Asian tsunami in 2004.

He is among 63 people honoured in the list for Northern Ireland.

The appeal raised £1.6m in a few weeks.

"I think it changed those of us who were involved in it because when you are the recipient of so much goodness and kindness it changes your belief... in humankind," he said.

"There is a lot more goodness than evil but inevitably it is evil that claims the headlines."

He has been dean at St Anne's since June 2001 and has since organised the Black Santa appeal (named for the colour of the clerical garb) every festive season outside the gates of his imposing cathedral in the centre of the city.


"It is owned by the community, almost more so than the cathedral. We are simply the organisers, but it is a community response," he added.

"In the dark times in Northern Ireland when, because of the violence, Northern Ireland people were getting a bad press throughout the world, it allowed people to say 'we are not like that, we care for our neighbours'.

"It is fundamentally, deeply, deeply spiritual beyond the tenets of all world faiths. It is something I hope that is primeval in man, that there is someone who cares for their neighbour and it is tremendous to be exposed to it."

 Ivan McMichael outside Northern Ireland's High Court, Belfast
Ivan McMichael is being honoured for services to journalism

Also included in the New Year Honours List for 2010 were former deputy chief constable Paul Leighton, made a CBE for his services to the police service.

CBE Mary Madden heads the British side of the British/Irish secretariat as joint secretary and worked on the political side of the Northern Ireland Office.

She has represented the views of both sides of the community to ministers.

North Antrim Ulster Unionist MLA Robert Coulter is made an MBE for public service. He is on the Assembly Commission, which runs the legislature.

Ivan McMichael, 68, also becomes an MBE after 50 years in journalism at the High Court in Belfast where he reported on the worst cases of the conflict.

"I have been thinking why me instead of colleagues who achieved so much more, and some of whom are household names," he said.

"I have concluded that perhaps the award is recognition, even compensation, for having served the equivalent of several life sentences in the High Court - and me an innocent man."

Professor Maurice Savage, who started up Northern Ireland's first paediatric kidney transplant unit, was awarded an OBE.

He said that the nurses had been the backbone of the team and that his award was for the entire unit, past and present.

"For about 15 years I was single handed, but there are three kidney specialists now and it's a good team we all get on well together and we work well together.

"Of course the big gift to us has been being able to help children," he said.

Newry businessman Gerard O'Hare, chairman of the University of Ulster Foundation, was made a CBE for services to higher education and regeneration.

Belfast fire service area commander Chris Kerr, from Coagh, County Tyrone, receives the fire service medal.

In the Diplomatic Service and Overseas List Michael Feeney, Founder of the County Mayo Peace Park, was awarded an MBE for services to UK-Ireland relations.

Print Sponsor

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific