IRELAND: Fr Gabriel Dolan Honoured with 2023 Presidential Distinguished Service Award for Human Rights

By Paschal Norbert

ÁRAS AN UACHTARÁIN, JANUARY 16, 2024 (CISA)- Irish-born Fr Gabriel Dolan, a member of the St. Patrick’s Missionary Society (Kiltegans), founder and Executive Director of Haki Yetu Organization, which advocates for the rights of the marginalized communities living in informal settlements in Mombasa and an activist against land and historical land injustices in the region will be presented with the 2023 Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad at an awards ceremony in Ireland on January 16, 2024.

Fr Dolan, a great champion for upholding the constitution and a leading voice in the Kenyan civil society space, will receive the award for his over 33 years of peace, reconciliation and development work in the country.

The annual Presidential Distinguished Service Awards for the Irish Abroad recognizes the service given to the country or Irish communities abroad by those who live outside Ireland and is presented by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins.

According to a statement by Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs, “The awards will be conferred by President Higgins in Áras an Uachtaráin, followed by a dinner hosted by the Tánaiste, with the Minister of State for International Development and Diaspora, in Dublin Castle.”

“Thirteen people have been chosen to receive a Presidential Distinguished Service Award for 2023, coming from fields such as law, science, the arts, and business. These awards celebrate the achievements of Ireland’s global family, and this year has seen awards conferred on people across seven continents,” the statement reads.

The Presidential Distinguished Service Awards programme was established by the Government of Ireland in 2012, and to date, 120 people have been conferred with the award.

Fr Dolan first arrived in Kenya in 1982 after his ordination to the priesthood and at a time when the late President Daniel Arap Moi was silencing all forms of opposition to his rule. He was first posted to the Catholic Diocese of Lodwar in Turkana and later to the Catholic Diocese of Kitale where he served as the coordinator of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission.

In 2008, he moved to Mombasa and set up the Haki Yetu organization, which has a reputation for defending vulnerable, landless people and victims of forced evictions and historical land injustices, advocates for gender inequality and works on behalf of the rights of survivors of gender-based violence, as well as older persons accused of witchcraft.

In 2021, he published a memoir entitled “Undaunted: Stories of Freedom in a Shackled Society,” which reveals “his time and experiences working to advance rights to land, housing, shelter, and freedom of speech for the marginalized peoples of Kenya and exposes his struggles with politicians, police, bureaucrats and church hierarchy, while also demonstrating that working for change takes time, patience, faith and commitment to empowering communities to find their voice and claim the struggles and successes for themselves.”

Fr Gabriel Dolan is also a recipient of the annual Law Society of Kenya -Fr. Kaiser Human Rights Award for his defence of the rule of law and human rights in the country and also sits on the board of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC).