Inspirational Woman of the Year nominees revealed

The Mayo Rape Crisis Centre have this week revealed the seven nominees who have been selected to go forward for the Mayo Inspirational Woman of the Year award. The recipient of the award will be revealed at the annual Nollaig na Mban event which will be held in the Ballina Manor Hotel on January 6 and it will be presented by Marian Harkin MEP on the evening.

The seven nominees are, Marian Nevin from Claremorris; Noelene Haylett from Kilmeena; Martina Tuffy from Belcarra’ Olive O’Donnell from Ballina; Jutta Kirkham from Castlebar; Maureen Healy from Ballycastle and Lavinia Slater Gilmartin from Ballina.

Caring for and fighting for others is the major theme in all the nominations. Maureen Healy in Ballycastle was nominated by her daughter-in-law Geraldine for her fight over the years for her family, community and vulnerable others. She fought back after some troubled years and went back to work, learning to drive, all the time keep her family going, improve herself and fundraise for several individual causes always with support, consideration and kindness.

Marina Tuffy whose nominator called her an “initiator” in so many areas including the celebration of Nollaig na mBan itself. Marina has been pivotal after her own struggles in setting up services and contacts for those who are gay in the West of Ireland particularly the young who may be isolated and alone in their struggle with her own struggle informing her own journey.

Marian Nevin whose nominator explained how she has never turned anyone down in their hour of need and she is referring to those who care for family members with Alziehemers and Dementia. She fights at local, national, international level for the recognition of carers.

Olive O’Donnell, whose very quiet kindnesses are legendary in Ballina. As her nominator said “She has fed, dressed and supported more than I will ever know about”. Olive organised the meals on Wheels Service in Ballina on a daily basis as well as offering a heart and ear when needed. Someone who treats everyone with respect and equality no matter their circumstances.

Jutta Kirkhamm the inspirational woman who works as an educator with Mayo Recovery College and again through her own struggles has made the stigma of mental health so much less in Mayo. Her nominator says of her “Jutta understands the importance of humanness, realness and empathic understanding they see a shining example of someone who has overcome challenges and is comfortable talking about that experience with them”.

Noeline Haylett yet another inspirational woman who in the words of her nominator “has worked in Africa( Ghana ) with impoverished villages as well as rescued, cared for and rehomed countless animals found throughout Mayo.” Her ability to cut through and do what is needed in the moment. She currently sends two containers a year to Ghana and her huge heart shows no signs of abating. A truly human heart.

The final nominee is Lavinia Slater Gilmartin, a gifted music teacher who uses her talents with choirs and music to raise money for numerous varied causes. Again if she sees a need she raises money. The benefactors or her work have included Mayo Roscommon Hospice, an orphanage in Romania for children with special needs and the Ballina Salmon Festival. Not to mention the joy and confidence participating brings to everyone involved, her nominators said of her. “Lavinia is hardworking and when she takes on a project she gives it 100%. No job is too big.”

This is a truly wonderful list of women and wonderful news for Mayo that these women live in our communities. The idea for this award came from the women over past 22 years who have used the Mayo Rape Crisis Centre Services and who have worked through sometimes deeply difficult histories of sexual violence be it in the community, or family or wherever and they have quietly and with dignity gone back and challenged their communities, families and friends to look afresh at the realities


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