Westport businessman Cathal Hughes has been named the Virginia Gallagher Mayo Person of the Year for 2019 by Mayo Association Dublin.
Hughes will receive the Virginia Gallagher Award at a gala black tie presentation ceremony, The Yew Tree Ball, in Dublin's Ballsbridge Hotel on Saturday, February 9. It is the first occasion that a Westport person has won the award since its inception in 1964.
Announcing the award, the independent panel reported that it: "recognised the depth and breadth of Hughes' contribution to Mayo with regard to the economic life of the county, from taking over the family business in the 1970s during a difficult economic time and turning around the fortunes of the company, that set in stone the incredible success of Portwest today, providing employment to over 300 people in Westport.
"Now, together with his brothers Harry and Owen as part of the Hughes group, they successfully operate Hotel Westport and the recent purchase of Westport House in 2017 from Nama meant that the people of Westport could continue to enjoy the amenities of historic Westport House for the next generation.
"Over the years Cathal Hughes has also been a prolific charity campaigner. As one of the original founders of The Mayo Roscommon Hospice Foundation, his prior role as chairperson of the Foundation at a critical time of the inception of the charity and his current role as co-patron alongside former President of Ireland Mary McAleese.
"The award also recognises his contribution to the improvement of education for the children of employees in Portwest global operations and in particular his deeply personal campaign raising awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning following the tragic loss of his son Padraig on Christmas Day 2008.
"The judges noted that through his determination, vision, hard work and influence, he has played an integral role in the development and improvement of Westport as a town and tourism destination and which contribution has set him apart as this year’s worthy winner of the 2019 Virginia Gallagher Mayo Person of the Year Award by Mayo Association Dublin."
The recipient of the 2019 Meitheal Award by Mayo Association Dublin is Mayo’s Forgotten Famine Girls Remembrance Group "for the recognition and dignity it gave to a group of women who were forced to leave Mayo in very difficult circumstances."
The independent panel report continued: "The concept of the Meitheal has its roots in the community coming together at harvest time and the application of co-operation to social need. Mayo’s Forgotten Famine Girls’ Remembrance Group, chaired by Mayo historian and author, Terry Reilly, demonstrated the power of people working together with a common purpose in the best tradition of the Meitheal.
"They rolled up their sleeves, they met and overcame obstacles and delivered a most worthy project that will endure and add immeasurably to the history of Mayo and its people. The project connected with many parts of the world, forged many bonds and has the dynamic to grow and grow. This group has demonstrated the ability to make things happen by doing, without State aid.
"The scale of the project which culminated last year in the four day commemoration event in Ballina remembering the 137 Mayo girls who were transported to Australia, with the unveiling of a memorial statue and a commerative quilt embroidered with the names of the forgotten girls, amongst other events was remarkable and has created a fitting connection between the women, their home county and their descendants, with particular regard to their contribution to Australia."
The recipient of the 2019 Young Mayo Person of the Year, sponsored by Dr Mona McGarry, is Sara McFadden from Turlough.
The independent panel report noted: "Sara was born with Albinism and Nystagmus which means that she is visually impaired. However Sara does not believe that having a disability should define you.
"This belief and positivity was instilled in Sara by her parents Sandra and Keith McFadden. Proving her specialists wrong, she has broken the mould. With a family background of competition in motorsport, at the early age of six weeks Sara was introduced to the sport by her parents. The fact that she was told at the age of 12 that she would never be able to drive has not held her back.
"Her positive can-do attitude simply allowed her to create another way to participate in her dream by becoming Ireland’s first visually impaired motorsport navigator for tarmac rallying. Sara was chosen by the independent panel of adjudicators in recognition of how she overcame the adversity of her condition and for the example she sets for young people particularly those who face personal challenges."
The award winners will be honoured at the Yew Tree Ball on 9 February in the Ballsbridge Hotel. Tickets are now on sale on www.mayoassociationdublin.com or through any committee member and cost €100. This year’s charity partner for the event is Mayo Roscommon Hospice Foundation Pallative Care Services and the proceeds of the bumper draw on the night will go to the Hospice.
The black tie awards gala will incorporate a prosecco reception with a gin bar sponsored by Connacht Distillery, followed by a four course meal. Music on the night will be provided by Simon Casey and his band. The Awards will be hosted by MWR host, Angelina Nugent.