The inaugural Garda Youth awards for the Roscommon/Longford division was held on Monday, March 4, at the Longford County Council building in Longford town.
The event was described as a way to commend the great work carried out by young people in the Longford and Roscommon areas and recognise ordinary people who have done extraordinary things. Chief Superintendent, Tony Healy, took to the mic where he then further highlighted the excellent work carried out by the many groups nominated.
He noted that each submission is a ‘great reflection’ of the young people of Longford and Co Roscommon.
He said: “These awards highlight the innovation young people have in this division and the resilience they have to keep going when faced with obstacles.”
As well as the main awards on the night, there were also some special recognition awards given to those who didn’t take home the top prize, but were still very worthy of having their efforts recognised.
The special recognition award for community safety was given to members of the Damola/Attic Boys Group who are part of the Attic House Teen project in Longford, for their work in highlighting the need for greater water safety following the tragic death of one of their close friends, Damola Adetosoye in 2017. The team developed a group focusing on water safety practices and subsequently established an eight-week course to help get their message across.
MC for the awards, Ciaran Mullooly said: “Following the death by drowning of their friend and fellow House member in 2017, the Attic Boys group was established to help young people deal with the bereavement caused by drowning.
“It then developed into a group that brought water safety to their peers and ethnic minorities, by establishing and implementing an eight-week long water safety course and swimming lessons. In doing so, the Attic boys group have brought a greater awareness and level of water safety to young people throughout Longford.”
In the individual category, John O’Reilly received a special recognition award for his work as a mentor and guide at summer camps with youth groups in South Longford after first coping with some serious personal issues of his own. John was commended for his dedication in helping people deal with bullying and other issues.
“He is an example to his peers,” said Mr Mullooly.
Gabrielle Flynn also received an award for her work with the Hope wristband campaign, Attic House and local Foróige. Gabrielle was nominated by Avril Gilchriest, Attic House, Longford.
Main Awards -
In the main awards, the group award was given to the Young Social Innovators group (YSI) of Moyne Community School. The team were recognised for the efforts they made in bringing the younger and older generations together, organising many excursions, events and making friends in the process.
Mr Mullooly noted: “They set out to learn from working with and sharing experiences with older, vulnerable people. They did this in their own time and they gave up their lunchtimes at school to meet with their older neighbours and older persons.”
“What started out as structured meetings quickly became a real friendship.”
The community safety award was then awarded to young Granard native, Tommie Cunningham. Tommie was recognised for his work in creating increased awareness around drugs and alcohol abuse as part of the Granard youth group. Tommie not only organised a 6-week programme of events to do so, but also hosted many guest speakers and arranged practical art projects to help drive home the message.
Ciaran Mullooly said: “He was able to fully research the topics and arrange a number of guest speakers to come in. These people included those who battle addictions themselves and the problems associated with addiction.
“This way, he insured that a lack of knowledge could not be used as an excuse for anyone. He used guest speakers and focused on practical art projects as a way to embed the message and ensure and active and lasting participation for his peers.”
The final award presented on the night was in the individual category and this was given to a young man who not only served as chairman of the school student council, but also acted as youth coordinator of the Longford African network, a member of the YSI and more. Mr Eric Ehigie was commended for his outstanding work in the community, tackling challenges such as racism, division and the physical and mental well being of students.
“He brings many people and organisations together to combat the challenges of racism and division in the community,” said Mr Mullooly.
“He is a role model for his school, community and Longford.”
Eric thanked everyone for their support as well as each of the many community groups with which he is involved, such as the YSI and Longford African network, before he informed attendees of future charitable events he has already planned. This includes a mental health awareness day and seven-a-side soccer tournament, due to be held in May of this year.
The awards ceremony concluded with messages from Cllr Seamus Butler and he pledged the council’s support to sponsoring the awards in the future. Cllr Butler also spoke of his pride at the work carried out by all participants, as well as the council's affiliation with the inaugural awards in Roscommon and Longford.
The chairperson of the awards, Blaithín Moran spoke of his amazement at the excellent work carried out by everyone involved.
Blaithín Moran said: “I am amazed at the enthusiasm and hard work of all who took part.
“This is for ordinary young people, doing extraordinary things, sometimes in extraordinary circumstances.”
The four overall winners of the Roscommon-Longford Garda Youth Awards for 2018, will now represent the Roscommon-Longford Garda Division at the national finals. That is due to take place in Portlaoise at the end of April.