Lurgan resident Robert McVeigh has been honored with an MBE for his dedicated service to the Commonwealth Games in Northern Ireland.
Expressing his surprise, McVeigh stated, “It’s unexpected, and I’m grateful to those who believed I deserved this recognition, from grassroots to higher levels.”
Originally from Dungannon, McVeigh spent 37 years teaching physics at Killicomaine Junior High School in Portadown. A sports enthusiast himself, he participated in rugby, soccer, and competitive shooting.
McVeigh’s involvement with the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council began in 1991, where he volunteered at various capacities. He eventually assumed the role of chairman in 2006, a position he held until late 2022.
During his tenure as chairman, Robert McVeigh led the Northern Ireland team to significant success in the Commonwealth Games. Before his chairmanship, the team had only achieved medals in double figures twice since the inception of the games in 1930 – 15 medals in Edinburgh 1986 and ten in Victoria 1994.
Under McVeigh’s guidance, the team consistently secured medals in double figures in all four years of his chairmanship – ten in Delhi 2010, twelve in Glasgow 2014, and twelve at the Gold Coast 2018. Notably, Northern Ireland achieved an all-time record of 18 medals in Birmingham 2022, surpassing the previous record of 15.
Acknowledging the challenges of his role, McVeigh expressed, “Being chairman was a challenging role with a significant responsibility for many people’s hopes and dreams.” He emphasized the Commonwealth Games as an umbrella organization dealing with various sporting governing bodies, accountable to the Commonwealth Games Federation.
McVeigh highlighted the growth of the Commonwealth during his involvement, welcoming back South Africa and Pakistan and the addition of two more countries in the past year.
He took pride in the success of various sports under his leadership, stating, “There were quite a few sports that hadn’t won medals ever at the Commonwealth, and those sports have now won medals – and we’ve had more sports winning medals than ever before.”
Robert McVeigh’s journey to this award began with personal involvement in sports, particularly football and rugby. His main interest was shooting, having been a previous captain of the Irish target shooting team. He progressed into coaching, management, and volunteering in various roles.
Reflecting on the news of the award, McVeigh expressed humility, stating, “Overall, I would say I felt good and a bit surprised at this news. You are certainly humbled by it, by people having faith in you and feeling that I was worthy of recognition.”
In November, McVeigh was also presented with his Commonwealth Games Federation Order of Merit Award in Singapore by CGF President Dame Louise Martin, recognizing his service of more than three decades to Commonwealth Sport in Northern Ireland and internationally.