Fr. Gabriel Dolan (SPMS) honoured with 2023 Presidential Distinguished Service Award for Human Rights work

Misean Cara is delighted to announce that Fr Gabriel Dolan, a Kiltegan Father of the Saint Patrick’s Missionary Society, was honoured with a 2023 Presidential Distinguished Service Award at a ceremony in Dublin on 16th January 2024. Fr Gabriel received the award from President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins in the category of Peace, Reconciliation and Development, in honour of his more than 40 years as a missionary in Kenya, working to promote social justice and human rights.

Fr Gabriel Dolan receiving a Presidential Distinguished Service Award from President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins at a ceremony in Dublin on 16th January 2024. Fr Dolan received his award in the category of Peace, Reconciliation and Development.

The annual award, presented by President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, is an honour given in recognition of the service given to this country, or to Irish communities abroad, by those who live outside Ireland. 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. For a full list of 2023 recipients click here.

About Fr. DolanA life dedicated to upholding the rights of the vulnerable in Kenya

Originally from Co. Fermanagh, Fr. Dolan was ordained in 1982 and appointed to Kenya, where he has continued to live for decades. He was posted first to the remote arid northern region of Turkana (including during the severe famine years of 1979-1981), later to the West Pokot region and then on to Mombasa where he has stayed since 2008. 

After moving to Mombasa, Fr. Dolan set up the human rights organisation Haki Yetu (“Our Rights” in Swahili), which advocates for the rights of marginalised communities living in informal settlements in Mombasa. Supported by Misean Cara since 2013, Haki Yetu has a strong reputation for defending vulnerable, landless people and victims of forced evictions and historical land injustices. Haki Yetu also 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.

Undaunted: Stories of Freedom in a Shackled Society.

In 2021, Fr. Dolan published a memoir about of his decades as a human rights defender and activist, entitled Undaunted: Stories of Freedom in a Shackled Society. The book chronicles his time and experiences working to advance rights to land, housing, shelter, and freedom of speech for the marginalised 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. Dolan at the launch of his 2021 book Undaunted: Stories of Freedom in a Shackled Society

“Fr. Dolan is a passionate human rights activist and advocate for justice, who believes that the poor and marginalised have the capacity to liberate themselves if given the space, time and opportunity to organise themselves into powerful change movements” says Misean Cara CEO John Moffett . “During his more than 40 years in Kenya, he has worked to stimulate and support transformative change from the bottom up – intent on giving marginalised groups voice, dignity and hope as they strive for good governance, social justice, peaceful coexistence, and transformational change in their lives and communities.” 

Fr. Dolan in the News

Read more about Haki Yetu and Fr Dolan’s work

A turbulent Irish cleric with a mission – The Irish Times, March 10 2001

2023 Irish Presidential Distinguished Service Award – Saint Patrick’s Missionary Society, 2023

Church report reveals how tens of elders were hunted and killed The Standard (Kenya) October 1 2023

Gabriel Dolan: Missionary or rebel with a cause? Book Review. The Star (Kenya) September 19 2021

Fr. Dolan: What Happened to Social Justice in the Church YouTube Interview, The Elephant 2021

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