A search and rescue volunteer has insisted that being made an OBE in the New Year Honours is recognition for his whole organisation and the community which has supported it.
Sean McCarry, from Co Antrim, is regional commander for the Community Rescue Service (CRS), a charitable lowland rescue organisation which covers all of Northern Ireland.
The CRS team of 300 volunteers search for missing people.
Mr McCarry said: “I received the news that I was going to be honoured with an OBE.
“For me it is very simple – this is a recognition not of myself but of the community who support the rescue service, the many volunteers, their families, for those, past and present, who have been involved, who built up this organisation.
“It is also very much a recognition for those families, who, despite having gone through so much trauma, go back out every day and get on with life, some who live with memories of loved ones they have lost and who support our organisation.”
He added: “It is not something I ever thought about or considered. At the start, when I heard about it, I thought somebody was winding me up.
“We are so busy, it is not the type of thing that would ever come to my mind that this would happen. I am still in shock.
“It is a recognition of the pain and suffering that families go through here when we go to help them and about the work the entire organisation does to assist those in the community in Northern Ireland.”
The CRS was founded in 2007 in the aftermath of the peace process in Northern Ireland.
It responds to more than 400 missing person and emergency incidents every year, with members volunteering in excess of 90,000 hours of their time.
With Northern Ireland having particularly high suicide rates, the callouts often involve extremely harrowing and distressing circumstances.
The organisation was involved in the high-profile search for missing teenager Noah Donohoe last June.
The 14-year-old pupil from St Malachy’s College was found dead in a storm drain in north Belfast, six days after he went missing.
Mr McCarry said: “Our organisation is very, very busy and it is entirely staffed by volunteers.
“It is for the entire community. I wouldn’t be in a position personally to accept this if I didn’t believe it was on behalf of every member and volunteer and the entire community. That is where we get our support.
“On that basis I am very proud and privileged to receive this honour on behalf of the entire community.”
Receiving the OBE will not be his first brush with royalty.
During a visit to Belfast last year, the Duke of Cambridge met with CRS volunteers in Belfast to learn about their work.
Mr McCarry said: “Prince William has shown a great interest in what we do.
“We had the privilege of meeting with him. He was very enthusiastic and walked with us for over an hour and half and met our volunteers. We made him an honorary member of the CRS.
“I now work with him in the Royal Foundation and was very privileged with my wife to be at the carol service hosted by the duchess and duke recently at Westminster Abbey as one of the people representing organisations which help the community.”