Ireland’s Ambassador to the UK, Adrian O’Neill sent a video message to the event, he said “These awards were created to celebrate the strong tradition of volunteering in the Irish community in Britain and to pay tribute to those often unsung heroes who contribute so much.”
Winners and finalists and their nominators came from Merseyside, Leeds, Manchester, Stevenage Luton and London to take part in what was a celebratory event. Local MP Andy Slaughter attended and the Mayor of Hammersmith & Fulham, Daryl Brown, herself a Dubliner, addressed the packed hall. One of the stars of the hit TV series Derry Girls, actor Siobhán McSweeney, sent a video message of support to the event.
Brian Dalton, Irish in Britain CEO, opened the ceremony and explained how important holding the Volunteer Awards were for Irish in Britain, “Volunteering, giving your time, making time, making a difference—they are the best characteristics of us a community, as people, as migrants. Qualities of decency, respect, friendship, kinship, compassion, looking out for one another and ensuring no one gets left behind.”
Niall Jackson, of The Irish Jam radio compered the event and harpist Maev McDaid, who also volunteers for Irish in Britain’s Cuimhne project, entertained the guests alongside guitarist Jack McGinn.
The prize for Outstanding Group of volunteers went to “The Lunch Club Team” at the Southwark Irish Pensioners Project. Nora Higgins explained why this group of women, Bridie Madigan, Bridie Power, Bridget Maloney, Chris Halley, Josie Fay, Sheila Kenneally, all in their 80s themselves, were a vital part of the Project.
Angela Sammon from the Irish International Business Network, which sponsored the group prize, presented the group with a magnificent piece of engraved Waterford glass, the Claddagh Ring is also going to treat the whole group to a meal out. John Delahunty CEO of one of the event’s sponsors, Innisfree Housing Association, also presented prizes to the runners up, the “Wirral Irish Group”, part of Irish Community Care: Carol Clerkin, Maureen Fitzgerald, Margaret Dunne, Finbarr Stewart and Marion Curtis, Noreen Kellett, Pauline Sylvester who run the “Tea and Chat Group”, at the Luton Irish Forum.
London Rose, Laura Kennedy, presented prizes to the runners–up of the Trustee Award, Luke Donovan, Chair of Irish Network Stevenage and Ann Lucas, Chair of Irish Community Services in Greenwich, Bexley and Lewisham. The winner, Rose Morris chair of Irish Community Care in Manchester, was introduced by Ant Hanlon, CEO of Leeds Irish health and Homes.Sean Kennedy, of Moreland Investments Ltd, the award sponsor, presented Rose with a piece of engraved Waterford glass. The Crown Clayton Hotel also contributed a gift of a meal and a night in the hotel for Rose.
Two of the judges of the Awards presented prizes to the runners up in the individual volunteer category, Tom Brannigan of Leeds Irish Health and Homes and Richard Lucas of Irish Community Services in Greenwich, Bexley and Lewisham. Both Phil Pyatt from Timebank and Sinead Dineen, from the London Rose committee talked about the hugely difficult task they were faced with from such strong entries.
Declan Ganly spoke as nominator of the winning individual volunteer, Sister Moira Keane, who works with the Irish Prisoners Council Overseas, a project of the Irish Chaplaincy. Angela Brady presented Sr Moira with a piece of her own glassware, which she had generously donated as the prize. Sr Moira thanked everyone involved and talked about how important it was to support prisoners and their families and how proud all her family back in Galway were of her winning the Award. Sr Moira also received a gift from restaurateur Anna Haugh, of a meal for four in the Myrtle restaurant.
If you would like to take up a volunteering opportunity in the Irish community go to our Volunteer Hub.