*Roseanna Ruane, mother of the late Saoirse Ruane, is presented with a Posthumous Special Recognition Award by Cllr. Liam Carroll, Cathaoirleach of the County of Galway; at the Cathaoirleach’s Ball in the Clayton Hotel, Galway. Photo Murtography.

COMMUNITY GROUPS and volunteers from Galway were celebrated at the 2024 Cathaoirleach Community Awards held in the Clayton Hotel last Thursday.

Organised by Galway County Council in partnership with Galway County Public Participation Network (PPN) and hosted by Cathaoirleach Cllr Liam Carroll (FG), the awards were announced during the annual Cathaoirleach’s Ball which this year raised much needed funds for local charities ACT for Meningitis and i4Life.

Category winners in the Cathaoirleach Community Awards were Kinvara Tidy Towns, Interface, Ballinasloe & District Heritage Society, Dr Joseph Mannion, Pleanáil Teanga Chonamara Láir, Connemara Green, Vision Arch Club, Kinvara Hockey Club and Williamstown Development Company.

Each of the winners were presented with a specially commissioned award designed and hand-crafted by Craughwell-based Sean Mahony, along with a certificate and a cash prize of €500 to use for their work.

Posthumous Special Recognition Awards were also presented to the families of the late Saoirse Ruane from Kiltullagh and the late Martin Horgan from Oranmore.

Galway Bay FM’s Ollie Turner was MC for the evening.

“These awards recognise the tireless efforts of individuals and groups who work diligently behind the scenes to strengthen our communities. On behalf of Galway County Council and the people of the County, I am delighted to be able to recognise and honour their commitment to making our local areas better places to live, work and visit,” Cllr Carroll stated.

Liam Conneally, Chief Executive of Galway County Council commented, “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 to acknowledge their impact on community wellbeing and quality of life, and the pride of place instilled by their activities”.

The first award of the evening was presented to Connemara-based Interface in the ‘Arts and Culture’ category recognising voluntary efforts to encourage and promote knowledge, experience and practice of arts and culture. Situated in the Inagh Valley, Interface runs a dynamic year-round arts programme and creates opportunities for local artists to work closely with local communities through a wide variety of artforms and platforms. The organisation also partners with a range of local festivals and events to ensure their work is embedded in the local community.

The ‘Best Contribution to Heritage Award’, which recognises the efforts of groups that promote the heritage of their local area, was won by Ballinasloe & District Heritage Society. The group has attracted a large following by promoting the history and heritage of Ballinasloe through a variety of initiatives, including the “The Town Talks” series. The Society’s primary focus has been on community engagement through collaborating with other local partners to embed cultural heritage into the fabric of their town.

The winner of the ‘Heritage Publication Award’, which recognises the voluntary efforts to research, record and promote the heritage of local areas, was Dr Joseph Mannion for “Anglicizing Tudor Connacht: The Expansion of English Rule in the Lordships of Clan Rickard and Hy Many”. Focusing on the local, national and international significance of a tumultuous period in Irish history, Dr. Mannion’s book details major developments of local importance including the establishment of the County of Galway in 1569, together with a detailed account of its turbulent early history.

Pleanáil Teanga Chonamara Láir was named winner of ‘Gradam na Gaeilge’ in recognition of its work to preserve, promote and strengthen the use of the Irish language. Covering an area of 35km, the group offers a service that encourages and strengthens the Irish language to all ages in the community. In selecting Pleanáil Teanga Chonamara Láir as overall winner, the judges noted the positive impact on the community by the events organised by the group for people of all ages.

Connemara Green was named winner of the ‘Environment & Climate Action Award’, which recognises volunteers’ efforts to enhance the environment in which they live in a sustainable manner. The group has taken a holistic approach to the environmental sustainability of the local community through a diversity of initiatives such as environmental awareness workshops, a Connemara Green Festival, and a project to eliminate invasive species in the village. The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan has made a significant impact on local ecosystems, making the village a haven for biodiversity.

The winner of the ‘Social Inclusion Award’, which recognises groups or community facilities that support all people within the community to participate in social and community activities, was Vision Arch Club. The group plays a crucial role in enhancing the quality of life for young people with intellectual disabilities and their families and providing them with opportunities to be involved in community life and activities. As well as organising their own events, the Club also has collaborated with other local groups with members participating in community events such as turning on of the Christmas lights.

The winner of the ‘Sports Award’, which recognises voluntary efforts to increase the number of people participating in sport, particularly within groups with low participation rates, was Kinvara Hockey Club. The judges felt the Club showed great drive and passion, supporting everyone in their community to participate in hockey and actively reaching out to various cohorts such as girls, women, and people with disabilities. The adjudicators also noted the club’s efforts to rise above the barrier of having no home pitch and exhibiting best practice in seeking to develop a multi-functional sports and recreation hub for the local community.

Kinvara Tidy Towns was named winner of the ‘Tidy Towns Recognition Award’ in recognition of the group’s efforts to promote environmental awareness in their community, with a series of training and workshops on all areas of biodiversity and climate action. All the group’s planting projects are underpinned by a Biodiversity Plan and Tree Audit, and members coordinate a community-wide focus on sustainability which has culminated in the submission of an application to the Community Climate Action Fund covering the work of eight local groups.

There was double success for Kinvara Tidy Towns which was one of two groups to be named winner of Price of Place Awards who will represent County Galway in in the IPB National Pride of Place Competition 2024. Kinvara will be represented in the ‘Climate Action and Biodiversity’ Award category, to showcase the town’s collaborative efforts towards climate action and biodiversity. These efforts include the planting over 9,000 native trees in conjunction with Burrenbeo and Kinvara Ballinderreen Tree Gang, building on this through a multiplier orchard project, habitat mapping, a biodiversity trail, and a series of wildlife and biodiversity citizen science exploration projects.

The other Pride of Place Award winner was Williamstown Development Company, who have been selected to represent County Galway in the ‘0-300 Population’ Award category. Williamstown has a lengthy track record of delivering community development projects including a looped 3.3km walkway on the Bog Road, which encompasses story boards and biodiversity signage detailing its important habitats for many species of animals and plants. The restoration of Templetogher Mill and Millers Cottage represents a 25-year investment in a major heritage restoration project.

Following the presentation of the Cathaoirleach’s Community Awards, Councillor Liam Carroll presented two Posthumous Special Recognition Awards to the families of the late Saoirse Ruane from Kiltullagh and the late Martin Horgan from Oranmore.

Saoirse Ruane passed away at the very young age of 12 after her valiant battle with a rare form of cancer. Her appearance on the 2020 Late Late Toy Show captured the hearts of a nation and inspired the launch of the first Toy Show Appeal, which has since raised over €17.5 million to support children’s projects and initiatives. Her legacy is a testament to the profound impact one individual can have and her story continues to inspire acts of generosity and kindness, ensuring that her influence will be felt for years to come.

Martin Hogan passed away suddenly in January 2024. Martin’s dedication to inclusivity and development in sports has left an indelible mark on his community. His work with Maree Oranmore FC stands as a testament to his belief in the power of sport to unite and empower. The ‘Football for All’ initiative, which he championed, has been instrumental in opening doors for players with disabilities, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to participate in the beautiful game and his achievements in this regard will be a lasting legacy.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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