Dr Eamonn O’Neal DL High Sheriff of Greater Manchester

Our Chief Executive, Eamonn O'Neal, shares his thoughts on being chosen by the Queen as the next High Sheriff of Greater Manchester.

By Eamonn O'Neal on April 17, 2020

It’s very humbling to be asked by Her Majesty the Queen to be the High Sheriff, an office that stretches back more than 1,200 years.

The Office of High Sheriff is the oldest secular Office in the United Kingdom after the Crown and dates from Saxon times. During the 11th and 12th centuries a High Sheriff’s powers were very extensive. They judged cases in the courts; they made the laws and they collected taxes.

Today the role is ceremonial but the High Sheriff remains the titular head of the judiciary in the county. I will be using the position to try and make a difference in the wider community of Greater Manchester.

I’ll be making every effort to merge the established traditions of High Sheriff with an approach that resonates with today’s modern, diverse society.

With that in mind, my theme for this High Sheriff year is ‘Being You’. A catch-all title that will allow me to use the Office to encourage other people and organisations to recognise individuality and inclusivity.

Whether that’s the wonderful St Ann’s Hospice, which is about to enter its 50th year; or employers who engage people with a wide range of disabilities; or individuals and good causes that selflessly offer support to those who need it most.

My message is that there should be no barriers. There is power in differences. ‘Being You’ is what matters.

My wife Sheila, who for this year will be known as The Sheriffina, our children, their partners and our grandchildren have been very supportive of my taking up this role.

Having the family’s backing is so important, as the High Sheriff receives no financial support whatsoever from the state or the monarchy. Every activity and event will be funded out of our own pocket.

I’ve been brought up as a proud Mancunian with strong family values and a sense of community and my parents’ influence is still at the heart of everything I do.

So it’s in mum and dad’s memory that I embark on this year as High Sheriff and try to make a difference, where possible.