GALWAY’S COMMUNITY GROUPS HONOURED AT CATHAOIRLEACH’S AWARDS 2023
Community groups from across County Galway gathered last night at the Meadowcourt Hotel in Loughrea for the Cathaoirleach’s Community Awards 2023.
Held in conjunction with the Cathaoirleach’s Ball, the awards ceremony was organised by Galway County Council in partnership with Galway County Public Participation Network and was hosted by the Cathaoirleach Cllr. Michael Maher and MC for the evening Bernadette Prendergast of Galway Bay FM.
Pictured L-R Front row: Eabha Ní Neachtain and Caitriona Ní Raifeartaigh (Ceoltoirí Oga Cois Fharraige), Pauline Connolly (Milltown Heritage Group), Mairéad Seery (CURVE Esker), Cathaoirleach Michael “Moegie” Maher, Emma Laffey (An Bhean Ghlúine), Helen McDonagh (Tuam Women’s Shed) and Karen O’Neill (Gort River Walk); Middle: Sean Beirne (Creggs Rural Development), Maura Holohan (Abbey Community Development Association) and Coman Keaveny (Glenamaddy Theatre Festival); Back : Vincent Lyons (Chair of Galway County PPN), Liam Conneally (Chief Executive of Galway County Council), Donal Connolly (Aleen Cust Memorial Society) and Ignatius Egan (East Corrib Alliance).
Introducing the Cathaoirleach’s Awards, Cllr. Michael Maher commented, “Each year these awards acknowledge the contribution of volunteers across a wide range of local activity and the significant impact their actions have on quality of life. Tonight’s awards will honour the work of groups across a range of activities which all serve to make our local areas better places to live, work and visit”.
Liam Conneally, Chief Executive of Galway County Council, said, “These awards provide an opportunity for Galway County Council and Galway County PPN to recognise the unique value and contribution of volunteers to our County, and acknowledge their impact on community wellbeing and quality of life, and the pride of place instilled by their activities”.
Alan Farrell, Director of Services, Economic, Rural and Community Development of Galway County Council, stated, “The Community Groups and Voluntary Organisations contribute immensely to their communities and further afield and these awards are an opportunity to celebrate their achievements and I hope that it will inspire all involved to achieve even greater things in the future.”
The winner of the Arts and Culture Award, which recognises groups who enhance their local area by promoting arts and culture, was Glenamaddy Theatre Festival. Glenamaddy Theatre Festival has been in existence for over 60 years and has hosted the All-Ireland Drama Finals for the last three years. These finals have been instrumental in advancing and promoting the exceptional interest from people from the locality and has allowed Glenamaddy to demonstrate the fantastic artistic talent within the community.
The winner of the Best Contribution to Heritage Award, which recognises the efforts of Groups who promote the heritage of their local area, was Milltown Heritage Group. The Group have worked collaboratively to embed their cultural heritage into the fabric of their town through various initiatives such as a “Special Letter Collection” which were launched as part of Heritage Week where people could come along and read the letter and listen to audio recordings.
The winner of the Environment & Climate Action Award, which recognises Groups or Schools who have worked within the community to improve the environment around them or reduce their impact on the environment, was East Corrib Alliance. This group has brought together a number of angling groups on the east side of the Lough Corrib who carry out practical measures to improve water quality and habitat for salmon and trout. They work closely with a number of agencies such as the Inland Fisheries Ireland and engage with local landowners and groups in the catchment area. The group facilitate peer to peer learning and host a number of field trips to educate people on the work they are carrying out.
The winner of the Social Inclusion Award, which recognises Groups or Community Facilities which support all people within the community to participate in social and community activities, was CURVE. This group represents Ukrainians in Esker and the surrounding areas. CURVE coordinates a number of supports such as clothing and essential items, advocacy around school transport and accommodation and linking the Ukrainian Community with essential services locally and across the county. CURVE have also established a number of clubs such as a Garden Club, and a Choir. CURVE have also set up a Bike Shed from local donations, these bikes are refurbished and utilised by the Ukrainian Community to help with their health and wellbeing and to help to give the Esker residents independence and an opportunity to access employment.
The winner of the Sports Award, which recognises the efforts of Groups or Schools to increase participation in sport, particularly from groups with low participation rates, was Tuam Women’s Shed. Tuam Women’s Shed gives its members opportunities to take part in a variety of physical activity programmes such as Activator Poles and Boccia. The group have also taken part in a number of Leader Training Courses so that they can run their own physical activity programmes in a sustainable way and drive the benefits of physical activity from within the group. Tuam Women’s Shed have taken part in several Physical Activity events throughout the year which offers member s an opportunity to meet other groups and to also have some friendly competition!
The winner of the Heritage Publication Award, which recognises the efforts of Groups or Schools to research and record the heritage of their area, was Emma Laffey – “An Bhean Ghlúine” -Midwife – Woman of the knee – Handywoman. Emma’s research and work has brought the often-forgotten role that midwives played in health and care of children and mothers. The publication introduces us to some of the wonderful woman who were midwives during the early part of 20th century, when they were known as a ‘handywoman’. One lady, Mrs Anne Kilcommins from Mountbellew, was known as ‘Mrs come quick’!
The next award presented on the night was the Gaeilge Award, which recognises what groups are doing to preserve, promote and strengthen the use of the Irish language. The winners of the award were Ceoltoirí Oga Cois Fharraige for their work to promote and popularise the Irish language and musical traditions. They also work with young people to strengthen their interest in music. In addition to this, a collection was posted on their new website at www.taiscecf.ie.
The winner of the Tidy Towns Recognition Award which recognises the achievements of Tidy Towns Groups in the National Tidy Towns Competition and the impact that their work has on making our towns and villages attractive and welcoming places to live, work and visit was Abbey Community Development Association. Abbey Community Development Association consistently achieve the highest marks in Tidiness and Litter Control at county level and have been selected to represent the South in ‘Best Kept Towns Competition 2022’ where they were shortlist as finalists of this competitive All-Island Competition.
Pride of Place Awards were presented to the 2 Groups who have been selected to represent County Galway in the IPB National Pride of Place Competition 2023, which is an All-Island competition to acknowledge and celebrate the work of communities to create civic pride in their area. Gort River Walk Group are the County’s nominated entry in the Community Wellbeing Initiative, for the continuing development of Gort River walk which is a 3km beautiful, looped walk which encompasses amazing biodiversity, rest areas, and a new footbridge. Creggs Rural Development are the County’s nominated entry in the Climate Action and Biodiversity for their commitment to promote, educate, raise awareness and enhance biodiversity within the village.
Cathaoirleach Michael Maher concluded the evening by announcing he had a special award to recognise the achievement of the Aleen Cust Memorial Society. Aleen Isabel Cust was the first woman in Britain and Ireland to become a veterinary surgeon (vet). She became a vet at a time when it was not considered a suitable role for a woman. Aleen’s struggle to be accepted as a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons took over 20 years and it was only through her determination and love for animals that she succeeded.
The Cathaoirleach presented each of the Groups with a specially commissioned award designed and hand-crafted by Sean Mahony. Each group also received a Certificate and a cash prize of €500 to use for their work. The Cathaoirleach stated that the Award Winners during the night demonstrated the amazing quality of community and voluntary work happening around the County.
The Awards for 2023 have been designed and hand-crafted by Sean Mahony, a local craft producer from Craughwell. Each award is unique and is hand-made to resemble a Galway Hooker, with the sails made from spalted beech and the wood for the base blackened using an old Japanese method of burning wood. The Awards are Galway sourced and made, and with a nod to re-use of materials, have been crafted from trees which have been knocked down during storms.