The grounds of Belvedere House looked glorious on Friday evening when guests arrived for the 16th annual Cathaoirleach Awards, its sweeping meadows and majestic trees providing the perfect backdrop for the event.
As the nominees and their supporters walked through a jealous wall arch, a group of traditional musicians greeted them while enjoying preprandial drinks.
Annette Barr-Jordan from the Community Section of Westmeath County Council accompanied the performance. She spoke of the “massive work done” by community volunteers who give their time to support all members of society. “It’s your night,” she told the audience.
County Council cathaoirleach Cllr Frankie Keena welcomed everyone to ‘one of Ireland’s finest tourist attractions’ to celebrate those who give their time, energy and wisdom to the good of the community.
Cllr Keena said if there were no volunteers ‘this country would come to a standstill’. He spoke of how the volunteers support Ukrainian refugees, opening their hearts and homes to people who were suffering from the “horrible” war in their country.
He paid tribute to the community section of the council, in particular Pat Murtagh, Anne Marie Nash, Margaret Egan, Ursula Harper, Bridget Geoghegan, Enda Fletcher, Olive Manning and Linda McGuinness, and gave special thanks to Ms Barr-Jordan. These people are doing massive work behind the scenes, including through the PPN, a way for the council to connect with communities, he said.
Cllr Keena congratulated the members of the Ballinahown Tidy Towns Committee, led by Helen and Owen Connelly and Cllr John Dolan, on being selected to represent Ireland in the Entente Florale International Competition.
He thanked Ms. Barr-Jordan and Ms. Nash for their efforts in organizing the awards ceremony, those who provided the food and decorated the hall, and everyone else involved. He assured everyone present that they were all winners, giving their best to their communities and families.
Vibrant community involvement is making a visible difference in Westmeath towns and villages, County Council Deputy Chief Executive Barry Kehoe noted in his remarks. He assured those present of the council’s support. “We can’t do everything, but it makes a difference when there’s a community willing to pitch in,” he said.
The big winner of this year’s Cathaoirleach Awards was Athlone Canal Heritage Group, while category awards and certificates of recognition were awarded to groups and individuals from several parts of the county.
The awards were presented at a ceremony at Belvedere House and Gardens last Friday evening.
Project of the Year awards went to the Rochfortbridge Community Hall Group, which received €7,000, and the Athlone Family Resource Centre, which received €3,000.
The Pride of Place awards were given to Mullingar Tidy Towns, Clonmellon Tidy Towns and Community Garden and Grange Community Group, all of which will represent Westmeath in the national competition.
The Age Friendly Recognition award, presented by Rosaleen Madden of the Westmeath Older Persons Council and Anne Marie Nash, went to the Mount Temple Active Retirement Group, which provides a ‘state of the art’ community center in their area.
Other winners were: Mullingar Shamrocks GAA Club nominee Detty Cornally, who won the Sports and Recreation award; and Athlone Access Awareness, which won the equality and social inclusion award; the Active Elderly award went to Vera Hynes and Estie Higgins of Mount Temple Active Age.
Clarissa Dowdall, nominated by Rochfortbridge Tidy Towns, won the Community Engagement category, and Priscilla Macari, nominated by Kinnegad Action Group, won the Youth and Children award.
Joe Connaire of the Mullingar fleadh Committee, guest speaker at the awards, presented the prizes to the pre-school winners of the environmental competition. In the Community Nursery category, Loughegar Playgroup came first and Laughs and Giggles, Springfield, Mullingar, came second. In the private crèche category, Giggles Preschool and Childcare, Streamstown, came first and Little Friends, Castlepollard, came second.
The Eco-Schools Environmental Awards were presented by County Council Environment Officer John Jackson. In the primary schools section, Moyvore NS came first and St Michael’s NS, Castletown Geoghegan finished second. In the post-primary section, Moate Community School was first and Mercy Secondary School, Kilbeggan was second.
The Tidy Towns County Awards were presented by Cllr Frank McDermott. The winners from Moate Athlone Municipal District were Ballinahown in first place (€5,000) and Tyrrellspass in second (€2,500). In the Mullingar Kinnegad area, Multyfarnham came first and received €4,000 and Castlepollard, second, received €2,500. The effort prize for increasing their points in the competition went to Moate and Clonmellon, who both received €2,000.
The STEM Awards for Promoting Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering were presented by Cllr John Dolan on behalf of Cllr John Shaw, Chairman of SPC Economic, Enterprise and Tourism.
The winners were Killucan Men’s Shed, Dalystown NS, Fore Heritage and Amenity Group, Athlone District Girl Guides, Cara Phort Family Resource Center in Ballynacargy, Rahanine Trail Blazers, Midlands Science and Mullingar Shamrocks Healthy Clubs.
There were 22 nominations for the awards, all of which received certificates of recognition. They were: Bun Daire Residents Association, Cathryn Whelehan from Rahanine Trail Blazers, Rose Wiltshire from Forever Friends Active Retirement Club, Shay Murtagh from Ashcroft Village Close Raharney Residents Group, Priscilla Macari from Kinnegad Action Group, Clarissa Dowdall from Rochfortbridge Tidy Towns, Athlone Family Resource Centre, Independent People with Disabilities, Athlone Canal Heritage Group, Mona Joyce from ATK Community Center Limited, Johnny Doran and Moate Men’s Shed, Vera Hynes and Estie Higgins from Mount Temple Active Age, Athlone Access Awareness, Fr Jimmy Murray from Moate Action Group, Joe Evans of Moate Tidy Towns, Mount Carmel Drive Residents Association, Ave Maria Park Residents Association, John Bawle of Mullingar Tidy Towns, Detty Cornally, Mullingar Shamrocks GAA, Jim Dalton, Milltown GAA and SWEETS, Kilbeggan.