Local Volunteers Honoured at Cathaoirleach’s Awards Ceremony

Local Volunteers Honoured at Cathaoirleach’s Awards Ceremony Cathaoirleach Councillor Michael Clarke, Chief Executive Martin Lydon with the Cathaoirleach's Award 2022 winners and member of Sligo County Council

A number of County Sligo’s most dedicated volunteers were honoured at the annual Cathaoirleach’s Awards ceremony in County Hall on Wednesday evening.

The awards were introduced to acknowledge the contribution of the many unsung heroes who carry out invaluable voluntary work in our communities.

The Awards were presented in eight categories:

CategoryWinnerPresented by
Community Individual Vanessa Scanlon Cllr Declan Bree
Arts & Culture Coláiste Muire Ballymote Choir Cllr Joe Queenan
Young Enterprise Fiona Karki Cllr Arthur Gibbons
Schools Senior 3rd & 4th Class
St Joseph’s Special School
Cllr Rosaleen O’Grady
Environment/Heritage PJ O’Neill Cllr Marie Casserly
Community Group N4 Action Group Cllr Thomas Walsh
Sports County Sligo Swim Club Cllr Declan Bree
Spirit of Sligo Jimmy Currid Cathaoirleach Cllr Michael Clarke


In his address at the ceremony, the Cathaoirleach Councillor Michael Clarke said:

‘Too seldom as a community do we take the time to formally show our appreciation for the enormous work of our dedicated community  volunteers, those people who give so generously of their time, energy and expertise for the common good.  Over the course of my time in public life, but particularly in my capacity as Cathaoirleach,  I have been simply overwhelmed by the magnificent work carried out by our volunteers.


These people are an inspiration to their community across every area of voluntary endeavour, individuals and groups who have carried out exemplary work, and the evidence of their contribution can be seen all over our county.

This was very much in evidence when we were under the cloud of Covid, as neighbours and friends rallied around the most vulnerable in our communities.

This Awards ceremony is Sligo County Council’s opportunity to show our gratitude for this invaluable contribution.

Unsung Heroes

The most effective work we do as an Authority is in conjunction with the community we serve, and our engagement with voluntary groups and associations has been the backdrop to many successful projects. 

It is an honour to be nominated for an award in any field of endeavour, and our guests here this evening have been put forward by people who hold them in great esteem.

Our committee was genuinely impressed by the scale and quality of voluntary work being carried our around our county by individual and groups.  These are the true ‘unsung heroes’ in our society who discreetly go about their business, they invariably shun the limelight, but we publicly applaud and commend them today.


In bestowing this honour to our award winners, we also recognise the trojan work delivered by countless other individuals and groups all over County Sligo, and that was very evident from the many nomination forms we received.

To our Award winners I would say, you are a great resource to your own communities, you should take great pride in the gift your work has bestowed on our society.’

The Cathaoirleach concluded his address by thanking his colleagues on the Awards Committee ‘for their work in studying the nominations and selecting the eventual winners; When you see the calibre of the people we are honouring this evening, you will agree the committee has done its job very well.

Category:  Community Individual

Presented by:  Councillor Declan Bree

Traditionally, this is one of the most popular categories in the Cathaoirleach’s Awards, reflecting the outstanding work carried out by many individuals in our community.

Visit any townland in our county, and you will encounter dedicated Volunteers willing to give up their time and energy for the good of their community.

Our winner in this category received several nominations.  She did an exceptional and outstanding job of organising what can only be described as a unique initiative aimed at introducing more people to the word of triathlon.

The ‘Tri with Pride’ event held in Sligo last year - which was the first of its kind, was specifically targeted at promoting more inclusion in the world of Triathlon and to encourage young people from the LGBTQIA+ community to get involved and try out a mini triathlon for themselves.

Through her wonderful efforts she has inspired and encouraged a group of people who never thought they could swim, run or cycle - into completing events beyond their wildest dreams, and for this reason Vanessa is a worthy winner of the Cathaoirleach’s Award 2022 in the category Community Individual.

Vanessa Scanlon Councillor Declan Bree presenting the Cathaoirleach's Award for Community Individual to Vanessa Scanlon

Category:  Arts and Culture

Presented by:  Councillor Joe Queenan

Given Sligo’s rich tradition in the area of Arts and Culture, this category is always popular and attracts interest from a wide range of activity.

Indeed County Sligo is renowned internationally for its achievements in a wide spectrum of artistic and cultural activity, from literature to music to drama and much more.

For that reason our Awards Committee had a difficult challenge to select one individual or group who embodies the passion and creativity that lie at the core of our local arts & culture scene.

The group we have selected this year is made up of 75 students, male and female from 1st to 6th year inclusive who really just enjoy singing. 

They undertook afterschool rehearsals, sometimes twice weekly commitment shown by this talented, hardworking group of students. 

The choir are directed and supported by music teachers Charles O’Connor and Rosario Heaney-McGreal. 

They had major successes during 2022.  In March they were awarded first class honours and 3rd place in the Interschools National Music Festival.  In October they were awarded silver in the City of Derry International Choir Festival.  At the closing concert in Derry they were announced the winners of the Bishops Daly and Mehaffey Award for outstanding performance in the school competitions.


Colaiste Muire Ballymote Councillor Joe Queenan presenting the Cathaoirleach's Award for Arts & Culture to Coláiste Muire Ballymote Choir

Category: Young Enterprise

Presented by: Councillor Arthur Gibbons

Particularly since the establishment of our Local Enterprise Office, Sligo County Council has taken a keen interest in encouraging and supporting young entrepreneurs in this region.

This function has been especially important as young people seek to overcome the many challenges presented by the Covid pandemic.

Our winner in this category won gold at Foróige NFTE (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship) National and European level in the Social Enterprise category for her product. 

She devised a pedestrian light which was contactless, developed during Covid as a way to reduce infection in the community.  She also travelled to Vienna in November to attend the Peter Drucker Enterprise conference. 

She has achieved so much in terms of social enterprise in her 18 years and is also a very active member of the European Youth Parliament, having attended and participated in the Employment and Social Affairs Committee in Portugal during the Summer.

This initiative captured the imagination of her teacher at the Ursuline College, and certainly attracted the attention of our Committee.

Fiona Karki Councillor Arthur Gibbons presenting the Cathaoirleach's Award for Young Enterprise to Fiona Karki

Category:  Schools

Presented by:  Councillor Rosaleen O’Grady

One of the most welcome features of the Cathaoirleach’s Awards Schemes is the active engagement of young people right across the various categories, but particularly in relation to the Schools section.

The pupils of St Joseph’s Special School have always shown great enterprise in promoting their school and becoming involved in community activities.

The involvement of our young people in the affairs of their schools and their communities was never more in evidence than recently when the Senior 3rd and 4th Class volunteered to do a litter pick up around the streets of Sligo.  To take part in the litter pick was a huge achievement to these wonderful students who all have different abilities and this gave them a sense of pride that they are taking responsibility for the community they live in.

This is just a brief snapshot of the outstanding work carried out here, and great credit is due to the young students and their families and the dedicated teachers.

I am honoured to present the Cathaoirleach’s Award 2022 in the category of ‘Schools’ to St Joseph’s Special School Ballytivnan pupils.

St Josephs school Councillor Rosaleen O'Grady presenting the Cathaoilreach's Award for Schools to St Joseph's Special School

Category:  Environment & Heritage

Presented by:  Councillor Marie Casserly

One of the most important functions Sligo County Council has as a Local Authority is to protect our Environment and to safeguard and promote our unique heritage for future generations.

This subject is foremost in people’s minds this year, with our young people in particular being powerful advocates for the need for us all to act as custodians of our environment and heritage.

The winner of this year’s award, PJ O’Neill, custodian of Moygara Castle, has made a significant contribution to his local area over many years.

Since 2006 he has been the driving force behind the formation and progression of the Moygara Castle Research & Conservation Group.  His passion for this beautiful Gaelic castle is evident for all to see.  

During this time extensive research was undertaken and in 2021 conservation works began under the Department of Heritage and Community Monuments Fund and phase 2 continues this year.

Over the past 20 years PJ has worked closely with Sligo County Council Heritage Office Siobhan Ryan to promote the importance of the castle, not only as a building of local but of national importance.  He has shown a passion and enthusiasm in enhancing his environment, and this local pride has attracted the support and gratitude of the whole community.

I am pleased to present the winner of the Cathaoirleach’s Awards 2022 in the Category of Environment and Heritage to PJ O’Neill - Moygara Castle.

PJ O Neill Councillor Marie Casserly presenting the Cathaoirleach's Award for Environment & Heritage to PJ O'Neill

Category: Community (Group)

Presented by: Councillor Thomas Walsh

Given the many groups and associations providing voluntary service to their communities across a wide range of endeavour, this category attracts many outstanding nominations.

The wok of our dedicated volunteers has transformed communities all over our county – they do so without any expectation of acknowledgement or reward.  For this reason, we are delighted to offer this token of our appreciation for their efforts.

The winners in this category campaigned for their cause with great dedication for over 30 years.   The powerful symbolism of the white crosses gained huge local and national media attention which culminated in the 15km stretch upgrade being pushed towards the top of many agendas. 

This local group showed great resilience and determination to maintain their campaign for better road safety which has now benefited all road users in the entire county.  Road safety was always at the forefront of the group’s ambition.

The work of this group should give inspiration to others as to the power of effective community groups that work together for positive change.

N4 Action group Councillor Thomas Walsh presenting the Cathaoirleach's Award for Community Group to the N4 Action Group

Category:  Sport

Presented by:  Councillor Declan Bree 

Sligo people have a special affinity for our sporting heroes, and this is very evident in the quality and range of nominations received under this heading.

The last few years has been a hugely successful year for Sligo in the area of sports, with our local athletes reaching the pinnacle of their careers and showcasing their native county on the world stage.

The Cathaoirleach’s Awards were devised to honour the unsung heroes working tirelessly behind the scenes, and our winner in the Sports category this year certainly fulfilled this criteria.

The winner in this category is a club which is very much a part and parcel of Sligo’s sporting history; a club originally established some 90 years ago - back in 1932.  A club which is run by volunteers and by parents.

It is an inclusive, welcoming, diverse club, with wonderful coaches and which currently has over 150 members from the age of 7 upwards.

The Club was nominated for its resilience and inspiring achievements in Sligo in the aftermath of Covid 19.   

They promote their activities not solely to active sports people, but to anyone in this community interested in assuming a healthier lifestyle.

I am pleased to announce that the 2022 Cathaoirleach’s Awards Winner in the category of Sport is The County Sligo Swim Club.

Co Sligo Swim Club Councillor Declan Bree presenting the Cathaoirleach's Award for Sport to County Sligo Swim Club

Category:  Spirit of Sligo Award

Presented by:  Cathaoirleach Cllr Michael Clarke

The ‘Spirit of Sligo’ category was introduced to honour special people whose contribution  extends above and beyond a particular award category, and whose endeavours have made a major impact on the community.

It is an award dedicated to people who have been exemplary volunteers and have been an inspiration to their many admirers.

This year’s winner attracted so many acccolades it is difficult to summarise in a brief address.

He has been a hugely active member of his North Sligo community for many years, is involved with many sporting groups and is always encouraging young and old to participate in some activity.

He has been a major fundraiser for worthy causes, his most recent achievement involving a cycle to Croagh Patrick to raise over €100,000 for Sligo Cancer Support Centre and North Sligo Athletics Club.

He organises the annual swim at Raughley to raise vital funding for other causes.  One of the many moninations we received referrerd to his boundless energy and good spirit which inspires communities form near and far to come together to achieve the goal’.

I have great pleasure in presenting the Cathaoirleach’s Awards 2022 in the category of ‘Spirit of Sligo’ to Jimmy Currid.

Jimmy Currid Cathaoirleach Councillor Michael Clarke presenting the Cathaoirleach's Award for Spirit of Sligo to Jimmy Currid