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Jillian van Turnhout awarded Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite

The founder of Genealogy.ie, Jillian van Turnhout, was awarded the prestigious Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite by the President of the French Republic. The Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite is the second highest national order of France and was presented to Jillian van Turnhout by the Ambassador of France to Ireland at an event hosted in the French Residence in Dublin

The award was made in recognition of Jillian van Turnhout’s work in strengthening children’s rights and for her engagement with civil society organisations across Europe.

On receipt of the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite, Jillian van Turnhout said “I am immensely honoured to be recognised by the President of the French Republic for my work in promoting children’s rights and for my engagement with civil society organisations across Europe. Recent world events have strengthened my resolve and belief in the European Union project and to advocate for a Europe that is stronger together. This award and the French national motto of ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ remind me of our shared values. We must work together in solidarity to uphold and ensure the rights of all citizens to live without fear in a world that respects freedom, democracy and equality.”

At the event in the French Residence, the Ambassador of France to Ireland, H.E. Jean-Pierre Thébault, remarked that “with the bestowal of the Ordre National du Mérite to Ms Jillian van Turnhout, France wishes to acknowledge a friend’s lifetime commitment and the part she played on numerous subjects that require flag bearers: from issues related to children’s rights to the promotion of the European ideal. Jillian’s public and professional paths are also testament to the important role women play in public life to make change happen and shape a better and more inclusive society.”

Maurice Pratt, Chairman of European Movement Ireland, commenting on the distinguished honour, said “There are few people more deserving of this award than Jillian. Having worked closely with Jillian, I have seen her tireless dedication to the causes she champions, including Irish-European affairs and children’s rights. It is a pleasure to see her being recognised for her outstanding contribution to developing Irish-European relations, and Irish-French relations in particular. I offer her my sincere congratulations on this well-deserved honour.”

The Chief Commissioner of the Irish Girl Guides, Helen Concannon, who also attended the event, said: “We are delighted to congratulate Jillian on the acknowledgement by another country of her tireless work for young people. She epitomises what the Baden Powells, the founders of Guiding and Scouting, meant when they said, ‘Girls should be brought up to be comrades and helpers, not to be dolls. They should take a real and not a visionary share in the welfare of the nation.’ “We are proud of all Jillian has achieved and all she continues to achieve through her involvement with Girl Guides,”

Biography Jillian van Turnhout
In addition to her work with Genealogy.ie, Jillian van Turnhout is a leading children’s rights advocate and a former Irish Senator. In her 5 year term in Seanad Éireann (upper house Irish Parliament), Jillian spearheaded a number of legislative and policy changes to further children’s rights. Jillian is involved with several not-for-profit organisations on a pro bono basis including as Vice Chair of European Movement Ireland, Chair of Early Childhood Ireland and Chair of Children in Hospital Ireland. She is a former Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, former Chief Commissioner Irish Girl Guides and former President of the National Youth Council of Ireland.

For over 12 years Jillian was a member and Vice President of the EU Advisory Body, the European Economic and Social Committee. Jillian drafted the first Opinion from an EU body on the need for a European Youth Policy and published a number of papers to further children’s rights. Jillian represented the EESC on the Steering Group for the European Forum on the Rights of the Child and the EESC EU-China Round for over 6 years leading to first formal dialogue on children’s rights between China and EU in 2010 in Chongqing, China. Jillian is a co-founder of the European Youth Forum.