Newtownabbey siblings awarded for almost 80 years of service

Brother and sister Oliver and Bernie Murphy receive their awards for long service from Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill at the Champion Ability Awards Ceremony at Titanic Belfast organised by Usel (Ulster Supported Employment Ltd). Congratulating them is Usel CEO Bill Atkinson.
Brother and sister Oliver and Bernie Murphy receive their awards for long service from Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill at the Champion Ability Awards Ceremony at Titanic Belfast organised by Usel (Ulster Supported Employment Ltd). Congratulating them is Usel CEO Bill Atkinson.

A visually impaired brother and sister have been recognised for almost 80 years of outstanding work for a company dedicated to helping people with disabilities.

Newtownabbey siblings Oliver and Bernadette Murphy were praised for their enormous contribution to Usel (Ulster Supported Employment Limited), a North Belfast-based social enterprise that creates sustainable jobs for people with health related conditions.

The siblings from Bawnmore received their long service awards from Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill at the company’s Champion Ability Awards ceremony at Titanic Belfast.

The Champion Ability Awards celebrate the achievements of people who work for the company or have been on Usel programmes over the last year in particular the EU funded STRIDE (Support and Training to Realise Individual Development and Employment) project.

Bill Atkinson, CEO of Usel, paid tribute to Oliver, Bernadette and all the other winners of the Champion Ability Awards.

Mr Atkinson said: “Usel’s vision is to Champion the Ability of every individual whose lives we touch. We champion people with disabilities and health conditions to focus on their ability and not their disability.

“This year has been a significant growth year for our organisation and it is the staff and participants that have created the success.”

Oliver, who has never missed a day of work, has been at Usel for 40 years while Bernie, described as the ‘life and soul’ of the company has been there for 36 years.

Usel Production Manager Andrew Willis said that at one time there were five members of the family working at Usel.

He said: “The Murphy family are real stalwarts of Usel. They are a nice, solid, down to earth family, who have coped incredibly well with hereditary visual problems. Oliver and Bernie are the last two remaining in the company. Bernie has been here since she was 17 and Oliver joined after he left school.”

Two of the brothers, Leo, who is retired, and Terry (now deceased) met their wives, Marie and Anne there. Another sister Lucy retired two years ago. Terry left the company to train as a teacher and taught at the Jordanstown School for the deaf and visually impaired until his death.

Usel has many areas of expertise including the manufacture of high quality handbags and satchels and a thriving recycling business saving thousands of mattresses from ending up in landfill. Usel disassembles the mattresses into components such as foam, polyester, and steel which are sent on for further processing and reused.