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Stars shine in night of magic at Sunday Life Spirit of NI Awards 2018

Watch the awards on this Tuesday in a one-hour special at 8pm

By Kelly Allen ·

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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Ian McElhinney and Jamie-Lee O'Donnell with fans at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Stars of sport, stage and screen showed their support for Northern Ireland's unsung heroes in a glittering ceremony on Friday night.

A host of famous faces were blown away by our 10 amazing finalists at the ninth Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. The celebs mingled with over 400 invited guests and award nominees.

Dynamic duo Marc Mallett and Pamela Ballantine returned as the perfect presenting partnership on what turned out to be an inspiring night, celebrating our very best Spirit of Northern Ireland.

Two of the stars of the hit Channel 4 show Derry Girls were delighted to be at the event in Belfast.

Awards judge Ian McElhinney attended with his wife, playwright Marie Jones. The Derry Girls and Game Of Thrones actor said: "Being asked to judge for a second year was amazing. The stories are really humbling. Everyone here tonight is a winner. Everyone nominated have put themselves out in a way that, to be the honest most people don't, well certainly I never do. It's extraordinary."

Jamie Lee O'Donnell, who plays Michelle Mallon in the sitcom set in the city in the 1990s, was attending for the first time and presented the Spirit of Youth Award to Emily Magee.

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Sunday Life. Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards 2018 Dominic Brunt from Emmerdale, Gaynor Faye from Emmerdale Picture Colm O'Reilly Sunday Life

"It's really inspirational listening to all the stories and great to celebrate the people in the community. There's so many good people where I'm from and it's so nice to meet everyone," Jamie said.

As well as Ian, Sunday Life editor Martin Breen, UTV's Sarah Clarke, golfer Darren Clarke and singer Niall Horan helped whittle 1,000 nominations down to the 10 winners.

Judge Niall couldn't be there on the night as he was on his sold-out solo tour in Europe, but he sent a video message to the nine-year-old, much to the delight of the crowd.

He said: "Emily's a little superstar and an inspiration. That's why myself and Modest Golf have voted her youth winner."

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Louis Walsh and fans at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards - Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

The One Direction star, who runs Modest Golf sports management company with pal Mark McDonnell, has offered to meet all our winners at the Northern Ireland golf open at Galgorm Castle later this year.

Some of the biggest names in local sport were at the event, including world champion boxer Ryan Burnett and Irish boxing champ Paddy Barnes. Ryan presented the Spirit of Sport Award to Paul Johnson.

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Ryan Burnett and Laura Milner pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards - Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

There were soap stars aplenty too, with some of the nation's favourite TV characters presenting awards and happily posing for selfies. Emmerdale's Dominic Brunt (Paddy Kirk) and Gaynor Faye (Megan Macey) both made a welcome return and were impressed by the bravery of our winners.

Dominic said: "I love this night and my children love it. It's a unique part of the world and it's an honour to be here."

He had the audience in hysterics when he couldn't announce the winner of the Specsavers sponsored award for Overcoming Adversity because "I haven't got my glasses on".

Gaynor added: "All the Emmerdale cast want to come and we want them here too but it's making sure that I still get to come too because I love it."

Two of Coronation Street's newcomers, who also attended for the first time, presented the Unsung Hero Award to Community First and partied into the early hours. Ryan Clayton, who plays bad boy Josh Tucker, said: "It's a pleasure to be here to share the room with so many generous, kind human beings."

James Burrow, new GP Alex Neeson, added: "It's an honour and it's all about the guys here. Thanks Belfast for having us."

Charlie Lawson, who played Jim McDonald on the Street, presented the Charity Champion award with Q Radio breakfast show presenter, Cate Conway.

He joked: "Coronation Street needs me back. One of those young ones didn't even have socks on. It's about time they got a man back on the street and he's coming back."

Gemma Garrett, Q Radio's Eoghan Quigg, Tim McGarry and Damon Quinn from The Hole In The Wall Gang and The Fall actresses and best pals Bronagh Waugh and Niamh McGrady were spotted mingling with award winners.

Gemma Garrett, Q Radio's Eoghan Quigg, Tim McGarry and Damon Quinn from The Hole In The Wall Gang and The Fall actresses and best pals Bronagh Waugh and Niamh McGrady were spotted mingling with award winners.

Presenting the 999 Award to firefighter Noel McGee, Bronagh urged the room to be the ones that make changes to our community. She spoke passionately about how our fire service have put themselves on the front line despite being underfunded and underpaid.

She said: "I love the Spirit of NI Awards. I have been here since the first day and it's struck me. The last 20 years has been a momentous time for Northern Ireland but it's not going to be the politicians that move the country forward, but the communities. The winners and nominees are the pillars of this community. The people that are in the emergency services are on the front line and they are underfunded, undercut and they are looking after us and saving our lives."

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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Ian McElhinney and Jamie-Lee O'Donnell with fans at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Charlene O'Donnell, Jamie-Lee O'Donnell and Kevina Saunders pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Alex McMahon from Newry was given an award for Special Recognition by the judges of the Spirit of Northern Ireland awards. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Jamie-Lee O'Donnell at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Spirit of Northern Ireland 2018. Martin Breen with James Burrows and Ryan Clayton from Coronation Street
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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards SPIRIT OF EDUCATION Winners of the Spirit of Education award, the Buddy Up! team collect their trophy from Tim McGarry, his co-star, Damon Quinn and Sofra Frost from category sponsor Studyseed. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. The team was one of ten winners at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers. (from left to right) Cushla Mallon, Nuala Gallagher, Nancy McGrath and Lisa Dietrich accept the award for Buddy Up Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards SPIRIT OF EDUCATION Winners of the Spirit of Education award, the Buddy Up! team collect their trophy from Tim McGarry, his co-star, Damon Quinn and Sofra Frost from category sponsor Studyseed. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. The team was one of ten winners at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Vivienne Devenny, Jenevieve Devenny and Sarah Devenny at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards CHARITY CHAMPION Fiona Simpson from Limavady was named Charity Champion at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards. Presenting Fiona with her award is Jon Noonan from category sponsor, Best Parties Ever, along with Q Radio's Cate Conway and former Coronation St. actor, Charlie Lawson. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. Fiona was one of ten winners on the night which was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Louis Walsh and fans at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards - Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Ian McElhinney and Jamie-Lee O'Donnell at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Louis Walsh and fans at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Special Recognition Alex McMahon from Newry was given an award for Special Recognition by the judges of the Spirit of Northern Ireland awards. Alex receives his award from X Factor judge Louis Walsh and members of the judging panel, Tony McGinn from Specsavers and Editor of the Sunday Life, Martin Breen. Alex was one of ten winners one the night which was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and selected for the help he gives to his mum in looking after his younger siblings. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Special Recognition Alex McMahon from Newry was given an award for Special Recognition by the judges of the Spirit of Northern Ireland awards. Alex receives his award from X Factor judge Louis Walsh and members of the judging panel, Tony McGinn from Specsavers and Editor of the Sunday Life, Martin Breen. Alex was one of ten winners one the night which was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and selected for the help he gives to his mum in looking after his younger siblings. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards UNSUNG HERO Winner of the Unsung Hero award, is the Shankill based group, Community First. The team of volunteers collect their award from Coronations Street star, Ryan Clayton and James Burrows and Caroline Rafferty from category sponsor, Homecare Independent Living. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. Community First was one of ten winners at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Special Recognition Alex McMahon from Newry was given an award for Special Recognition by the judges of the Spirit of Northern Ireland awards. Alex receives his award from X Factor judge Louis Walsh and members of the judging panel, Tony McGinn from Specsavers and Editor of the Sunday Life, Martin Breen. Alex was one of ten winners one the night which was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and selected for the help he gives to his mum in looking after his younger siblings. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Marc Mallett with Coronations Street star, Ryan Clayton and James Burrows at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Marc Mallett with Louis Walsh at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Carmel Milne is the one holding the award wth Sinead Hutchinson in red dress 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards SPIRIT OF HEALTH Winners of the Spirit of Health award, the Eating Disorder Team from CAMHS at Antrim Area Hospital collect their award from Aideen Duggan, from category sponsor Keenan Healthcare and Gaynor Faye. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. The Eating Disorder Team was one of ten winners at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Sunday Life. Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards 2018 Dominic Brunt from Emmerdale, Gaynor Faye from Emmerdale Picture Colm O'Reilly Sunday Life
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Louis Walsh and fans at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards - Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
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Ryan Burnett and Laura Milner pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards - Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye