THE chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Valerie Harte, welcomed 33 amazing individuals and organisations to the Burrendale Hotel in Newcastle for a special civic awards ceremony.
This annual event is an opportunity for the council to recognise people who have demonstrated outstanding service to the community, made a significant contribution to public life in Newry, Mourne and Down and have shown real dedication in helping local residents. “These awards hold immense significance to both the council and the community,” the council chairperson told guests at Friday evening’s awards ceremony. “They provide a unique opportunity to shine a welldeserved spotlight on our unsung heroes who work tirelessly behind the scenes, often without seeking recognition. “These exceptional individuals have demonstrated outstanding service and have made a significant contribution to public life in Newry, Mourne and Down, embodying the true spirit of ‘community’. “Every year we receive lots of nominations from people who really want to acknowledge a person or organisation that has made such a difference to them or their community. “It is always striking, as we read these stories, how much people give of themselves for others, and it is never an easy task to select who should receive a civic award. “On a personal level, I am delighted this year, as chairperson of council to be able to host this evening to say to each and every recipient how much they are appreciated.”
This year’s recipients were nominated for their contribution in the following four categories: Arts and Culture, Community and Voluntary, Human Endeavour and Sport. Amongst the beneficiaries was Michéal McCloy who competed for Ireland in the Sports Union for Athletes with Down Syndrome (SUDS) European Futsual Championships in Italy in September. He played a pivotal role as part of the eight-man squad, representing the first ever Irish Down Syndrome Fustal Team at the European Championships. Their achievement in making history is inspirational. Michéal’s dedication and rigorous pretournament training reflect his commitment to excellence and he was presented with a Sport Civic Award. Ballynahinch Community Collective was presented with a Community and Voluntary Civic Award for their remarkable track record of achievements, showcasing the group’s unwavering dedication to improving the wellbeing of local residents. They have successfully organised various community events, bringing neighbours together, promoting cultural diversity and inclusivity to foster a sense of unity. Their active involvement extends to charitable endeavours, environmental initiatives including tree planting and litter cleanups, as well as helping and supporting those in need and vulnerable members of the community. Niamh Quinn is the founder of Advocacy VSV, a charity which provides an indispensable service to victims of sexual violence throughout Newry, Mourne and Down. Her dedication, and that of her team, are evident in the extensive support they offer to those facing the daunting challenge of navigating the court system after such traumatic experiences. Niamh and her team offer unwavering support and advice throughout the entire process, ensuring individuals are not left to face the journey alone. They continue to offer care and assistance even after the case has concluded. The final award of the evening was the Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Pat McGinn. Pat has long been recognised and respected by many for his passion for people, places and things throughout his home community in South Armagh and beyond in many parts of Ireland, England and the USA. Over the past 30 years he has both privately and publicly been involved in numerous life changing initiatives and key events with individuals, families and communities. He has provided quiet but key support to many and is always on hand to offer support and advice to all who cross his path, irrespective of their background, class or creed. His work with Cuan Mhuire, Ireland’s largest voluntary provider of addiction treatment services and residential rehabilitation, brings him to schools, community groups, sporting and voluntary clubs to speak about the disease and he is heavily involved with the Friends of Cuan Mhuire Support Group. He has raised much-needed funds for not only Cuan Mhuire through running marathons, climbing mountains and triathlons but also charities such as Southern Area Hospice and Cardiac Risk in the Young. A well known storyteller, he has had his work published and enjoys working to promote his own and his community’s culture as well as being open to learning and respecting that of others. These are just some of the very special people that were acknowledged at the awards ceremony. All the recipients were recognised for doing extraordinary things that make a positive contribution in their community. Arts and Culture award winners: Donal O’Hanlon; Mona Owens; Mullaghbawn Ceoltas. Human Endeavour award winners: Shakira Murray. Community and Voluntary award winners: Anne Mills; Ballynahinch Community Collective; Crossmaglen Community Association; Doreen Thompson; Dromintee Community Association; Drumquay Men’s Shed; Dundrum Village Association; Frances Thornton; Gerry Kelly; Gerry Sloan; Hazel Charleton; Helping Hands Romania; Ian and Pauline Bothwell; Kathy Black; Liam Quinn; Mandy Gibson; Maurice McCavitt; Niamh Quinn; Sarah Jane Campbell; Sean McMillan; Terry Rice; The Rainbow Club. Sport award winners: Amelia Martin; Damian McEvoy; Eimear Gallagher; Fearghus Quinn; Joanne Patterson; Michael McCloy; Oliver Burke; Sophie Sexton. Special Recognition: Pat McGinn.