*L-R Rose Hynes, Chairman Shannon Group, Razan Abdel Wahed, who arrived in Ireland as a Syrian refugee in 2017 and now lives in Ennistymon, her mum Zahra and Supt Brendan McDonagh. Pic Arthur Ellis.

Clare’s bravest and most outstanding young, unsung heroes were honoured in Ennis this week.

At the fourth annual Clare Garda Divisional Youth Awards, the roll of honour included two Special Achievement, two Individual, one Community Safety and two Youth Group awards, which went to teenagers from across County Clare who have shown outstanding leadership, resilience and community spirit.

Aged between 13 and 21, the winners were surrounded by proud families and friends at the Shannon Airport sponsored annual event at Hotel Woodstock.

Hero cave diver Jim Warny, who was catapulted to global stardom after he played a central role in the daring rescue of 12 young boys and their soccer coach from the flooded Tham Luang cave network in northern Thailand last summer, was the guest speaker. “I was privileged and humbled to share my story with these courageous and inspirational young people. These awards are rightly giving these unsung heroes the recognition they truly deserve. I am delighted to be part of this and I hope that it will inspire other youngsters to reach for the stars in their efforts to be leaders in our community,” the Ennis resident said.

Among the winners were young people who showed immense courage, commitment to their communities and also those who have triumphed over severe illness, learning difficulties and enormous personal tragedies.

Quin’s Orla Platten from Quin and Sadie Keane from Ennis won the Special Achievement accolades with Laura McDonnell of Barefield getting the nod for Community Safety.

Razan Adbel Wahed who arrived in Ireland as a Syrian refugee in 2017 and now lives in Ennistymon won an individual award as did Ennis’ Hannah Morrissey.

Clare Youth Action based in Ennistymon whose video on the dangers of plastic reached millions across the world after being shared by The Clare Echo won the Group Awards along with Lough Graney Youth Club in Caher.  The Community Safety Award was won by Laura McDonnell from Barefield.

Shannon Group Chairman Rose Hynes said that it was impossible not to feel hugely inspired and proud of all the young people who took part.  “Over the last four years, and this year is no different, we have been introduced to some of the finest, most courageous and inspirational young leaders.  These are teenagers who have shown enormous moral character, and they should be very proud of themselves. It was wonderful to hear all about their achievements and what they have given back to their communities and, indeed, families.

The awards programme is an initiative of the Clare Garda Division, and Superintendent Brendan McDonagh said the purpose is to shed light on the great achievements of these young people. “All too often the many good deeds, achievements, and triumphs of young people can be overlooked. Teenagers are an awful lot more than what some would have you think.  Yes, there’s a huge challenge with social media but portraying them as being obsessed in this area or with self is completely unfair and these awards illustrate that. Some of these entrants have displayed the most extraordinary and inspirational courage and goodwill.

“Some of them have lived with great hardship and have come through them with great resilience and a smile. I think these awards and what they stand for are a lesson for everyone.  It is fitting that we have Jim Warny with us to celebrate these brilliant young people.  His selfless action was another example someone doing their best to help others when help was badly needed,” he said.

2019 marks the first year of the Garda National Youth Awards. The national awards ceremony will be held at the Garda Training College in Templemore in April. Four of the Clare winners, Orla Platten, Razan Abdel Wahed, Laura McDonnell and Clare Youth Action were nominated for consideration by the National judging panel. “It is our hope that some of our Clare winners will receive a national award, we believe that they deserve it,” Superintendent McDonagh concluded.

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