More than 250 people from Community and Voluntary groups from all around County Galway were honoured at the Cathaoirleach’s Community Awards ceremony last Thursday in the Claregalway Hotel. The Awards, previously called the Mayors Awards, recognise and celebrate community and voluntary activity around County Galway. Twelve awards were up for grabs after a public call for nominations was made back in October.
The final award and highlight of the night was the prestigious Volunteer of the Year Award. Introducing the Award, Chief Executive of Galway County Council Kevin Kelly praised the work of all volunteers around the county stating that “Volunteering is at the heart of community life. Helping others and giving time to your community is a big commitment but a very rewarding one”. Mr. Kelly revealed the winner as Ciaran Murphy from Cashel, Connemara. Ciaran moved to the Cashel area four years ago but has achieved so much in the short time he has lived there. He set up the Sea Scouts for the Carna area and coaches the young people involved. He re-energised the Order of Malta and brought about the conversion of an unused ambulance into a community bus. He was fundamental in setting up the Connemara Athletics Club and is the primary Children’s Officer in the club. He is also a firm believer of bringing schools, community groups and sports clubs together to work together and share spaces.
The first award of the night, the Community Economic Initiative Award, was won by Bia Lover. This Award recognises those who have developed initiatives in their area which have made a positive economic impact on the community. Bia Lover is a Food Festival in Athenry where up to 70 producers showcase and sell their goods. The festival this year attracted more than 13,500 people into the town. There were also demonstrations, cookery competitions, special dinners, brunches, banquets, food-tastings, talks, exhibitions, children’s events and more.
The next award, the Environment Award was won by Calasanctius College, Oranmore for their Bioversity projects. Calasanctius have just finished implementing the final year of their three- year Biodiversity Action Plan. They have worked closely with Oranmore Tidy Towns to raise awareness of biodiversity; they produced a school calendar with a biodiversity theme and they helped with the restoration of the Old Church of Ireland Graveyard in Oranmore. They were recently awarded the Green School Flag for Biodiversity.
Moyne Villa recognised
The third award of the night was the Sports Award which focuses on groups increasing the number of people participating in sport. The winning group was Moyne Villa Football Club based in the Headford / Caherlistrane area. They were awarded 2014 club of the year by the Galway Football Association. They make their own facilities available to the school and the general public for use and they recently put in place ten outdoor gymnasium units for the whole community to enjoy.
The Arts and Culture Award was won by uachtarARTS in Oughterard. They had a busy 2014 with projects such as a three-week exhibition during the International Mayfly Festival called ‘By the Lake’. They produced a book called ‘By the Lake Book of Art & Poetry’ and a community book of words and pictures as part of the Bealtaine Festival.
Scoil Bhriocáin in An Gort Mór, Ros Muc won the next award, the Heritage Publication Award, for their research into the history of their area. They marked the centenary of the First World War by researching its link to their area. They researched the 1911 census for their area, made a DVD of the history of their area and completed the European Project Saints and Heroes.
The Schools Contribution to Heritage or Irish Language Award was the next contested award. The award, won by Scoil na Maighdine Muire gan Smál in Camus recognises the efforts that schools have made to celebrate, promote or increase the extracurricular use of heritage or the Irish Language in their school or area.
Loughrea Medieval Festival were the winners of the coveted Best Contribution to Heritage Award. Loughrea is home to Ireland’s only functioning medieval moat – the old Carmelite Abbey built in 1,300 and a medieval town gate. The festival committee came together this year to hold Loughrea’s first Medieval Festival promoting the rich heritage of the town. Over 3,000 people took part over the three day festival in August.
The next award of the evening was the Age Friendly Award. This award recognises groups who work towards supporting older people. Active in Age, Oranmore came out on top. They hold a ‘Thursday Club’ where they run a variety of fun activities such as Chi Gong, yoga, Dance, Art, Music, Cards, Board games, talks etc. They also run a ‘Bay Strollers’ Walking Group, a Film Club and have monthly social gatherings. They are very active and supportive of events that are happening in the Oranmore area.
Gort Cancer Support were winners of the most hotly contested award of the night, the Social Inclusion Award. They provide an invaluable support structure for people with cancer, providing them with transport for hospital appointments, counselling and psychotherapy sessions, complementary therapies and financial assistance in certain circumstances. They also hold social activities such as arts and crafts, card games, support groups and a walking club.
The next two awards of the night were new additions this year recognising the efforts groups are making to promote and increase the use of the Irish language in both the Gaeltacht and non Gaeltacht areas of the County. The Gaeltacht category was won by Coiste Pobail na Tulaí in Baile na hAbhainn. They are heavily involved in Community Development in their area and improving local facilities. They also undertake various projects to ensure that Irish continues as the community language in the area. They are involved in a language planning initiative in Cois Fharraige and arrange many events from drama festivals for young and old and also specific events in Irish for young people.
The non-Gaeltacht category was won by Gaeilge Locha Riach based in Loughrea. For many years Gaeilge Locha Riach have been championing the Irish language in East Galway and have won numerous Glór na nGael awards for their efforts. They hold many events in Irish throughout the year to promote and foster a grá for the language in the East Galway area. Gaeilge Locha Riachs events cover a broad range of activities for all ages and interests through Irish including youth clubs, summer camps, literature, Irish classes, ciorcail comhrá, sports, heritage, poetry, music, dance, drama and even chess as Gaeilge.