THEY might be used to big days out at Ravenhill or the Aviva Stadium, but last week the Best family had another special occasion to prepare for.
Pat Best, whose sons, Rory and Simon have received international honours with the Irish rugby team, received an MBE at Buckingham Palace from Prince Charles.
A senior Probation Officer, she has worked in the Criminal Justice System and the community for over 36 years. The honour recognises the work she has done in the development of effective practice in reducing reoffending and has played a unique role in establishing a post qualifying framework for Social Workers in Criminal Justice.
She joined the probation service as a Probation Officer in 1974 and was promoted to Area Manager in 1985. In 2003 Pat took on senior management responsibility for learning and development at a time of significant growth for PBNI and worked closely with the universities to ensure training for Probation staff was appropriate, innovative and effective. She is regarded as an expert in the post qualifying framework for Social Workers in the Criminal Justice system and has wide experience in partnership work across training bodies and boards in Northern Ireland.
“It was a great honour for me,” said Pat. “We had a marvellous day, one I will never forget.
“I had the chance to have a brief chat with Prince Charles. He asked me if I found my work frustrating but he thought I worked on the Policing Board.
“But when I told him I worked on the Probation Board he said, ‘Thank God for people like you!’”
Pat was joined on the day by her sons, Simon, Rory and Mark and her husband, John, who is the Director of Rugby at Banbridge Rugby Club. It meant that Pat, who supports the Rifle Park men, missed the club’s first ever Senior Cup final against Ballymena last week.
But, she said, when that Royal appointment comes you can’t miss it for anything.
“I also have a daughter in Sydney but unfortunately she couldn’t make it over,” she said. “Simon joined us on the Tuesday but then had to get home after the ceremony to be at Ravenhill for the final.
“But we had a great outing, even the weather was perfect as it was a nice, crisp day.”
Mrs Best has also received plaudits from the Chairman of the Probation Board, Mr Ronnie Spence. He said, “I am delighted that Pat Best has received this recognition for all her hard work within the Criminal Justice System. This work goes largely unnoticed but vital to making our communities a safer place to live.”
Director of the Probation Board, Mr Brian McCaughey, added, “Pat Best joined the probation service in 1974 and since that time has epitomised the commitment of Probation Officers to help offenders make positive changes in all areas of Northern Ireland.
“In 2003 Pat took on responsibility for learning and development in PBNI working closely with the universities to ensure training for Probation staff was appropriate, innovative and effective.
“We are delighted and very proud for Pat, and her family, that she has received this significant recognition for her work.”