The Irish Uplands Forum last week hosted, to great success, its biennial conference in Mayo for the first time, with a two day event at the GN Mulranny Park Hotel.
Cllr Michael Holmes welcomed delegates to Mayo on day one of the conference and Minister Michael Ring TD gave the opening address for day two, reflecting the significance of the event.
The conference theme - Innovation and Partnership in the Uplands - highlights the work going on in Irish upland regions; from those living and working the land to researchers and policy makers.
Over 100 delegates attended the conference from across the island of Ireland and the UK, including leading researchers in upland ecology, socio-economics, community development, upland path management and geospatial planning.
The conference programme included field trips to Nephin Beg and farmers, such as John Moran; a visit to Ballycroy National Park, with District conservation officer Susan Callaghan and a site visit to Wild Nephin, led by Denis Strong and Sam Birch of NPWS.
One of the highlights of the conference was the involvement of local schools in the area that contributed to the art and photography Competition, with over 140 entries and some outstanding work on display. Mulranny National School was the overall winner of the art competition and Michael Starrett, CEO of the Heritage Council, presented prizes to the children.
Frank Nugent, chairperson of the Irish Uplands Forum and part of the first Irish team to climb Mount Everest, had the children enthralled with stories of the 1993 expedition. He revealed that part of his training to ascend Mountain Everest was a hike across the Nephin Beg mountain range!
The competition artwork and photographs will be on display in Ballycroy National Park Visitor Centre with a prize to be awarded to each of the participating schools.
Conference administrator, Georgia MacMillan from Newport, said: "We are delighted to host this conference in Mayo for the first time. It has brought a diverse group together representing very different viewpoints to share their knowledge and find common goals."
The Irish Uplands Forum thanked the Department of Rural and Community Development and The Heritage Council for supporting costs associated with the event.
The organisers also thanked everyone involved in the conference, the fantastic local support and extended special thanks to the team at the GN Mulranny Park Hotel and to the staff and management of Ballycroy National Park, for co-ordinating the School art competition and field trips.