Leaders express condolences after life-long charity worker dies in Guatemala

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Irish leaders have sent condolences after a life-long charity worker died in Guatemala.

News broke on Monday that Tyrone woman Sally O’Neill Sanchez was killed in a car accident along three of her co-workers while working for human rights causes in Central America.

She joined charity Trocaire in 1978, and had a career spanning 37 years, working in Latin America, and Africa, most notably Ethiopia and Somalia.

President Michael D Higgins, said he was deeply saddened to hear of the death of his long-time friend.

“To have known Sally O’Neill Sanchez was a privilege,” he said.

“To have been with her in some of the places of conflict, distress and human suffering was to see the brilliance, compassion, and limitless courage she brought to her engagement with the poor, the oppressed, and the displaced.

“I was privileged to have her as a friend and will never forget the brilliant guidance and assistance she provided on so many occasions and in so many places.

“Sabina and I send our deepest condolences to the families of the four victims, and in particular to Sally’s husband Roger and their children, Roger, Rhona and Xiao.”

The Tanaiste Simon Coveney said all possible assistance will be provided to Sally’s family.

“I was greatly saddened today to hear of the death of Sally O’Neill Sanchez, a lifelong advocate for human rights and the dignity of all people, dedicating her life to working with the poor and the marginalised,” he said.

“Sally was a remarkable woman who made a tremendous contribution to Irish society and to disadvantaged communities across the world. She presented the best of what it is to be Irish, working tirelessly to empower those impacted by poverty and injustice.

“With her sad passing, Ireland and the countries where she had such a significant impact have lost a dedicated defender of human rights and equality for all.

“I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to Sally’s family at this most difficult time.

Trocaire chief executive Caoimhe de Barra said the organisation was heartbroken.

“Sally was the heartbeat of Trocaire for almost 40 years,” she said.

“She was a truly remarkable person.

“Trocaire was only five years old when Sally joined.

“Sally built the foundations of the organisation.

“She embodied our values and through her courage and commitment to human rights touched the lives of so many people.”

In recognition of her career, Ms O’Neill was awarded the Hugh O’Flaherty Humanitarian Award in 2011.

She was also appointed by President Higgins as a member of the High Level Panel for the Presidential Distinguished Award for the Irish Abroad in 2012.

Following her retirement, Ms O’Neill Sanchez continued to work in a voluntary capacity as a facilitator with prisoners and migrants in Honduras, where she lived.

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