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Council Chairperson honours local ambassadors at virtual awards ceremony

At a special virtual awards ceremony held on Wednesday 27 May, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Charlie Casey gave special recognition to 30 inspirational community organisations and individuals from across the district for the work they do within their communities.

The Chairperson’s Annual Recognition Awards event was co-hosted by both the Council Chairperson, Councillor Charlie Casey and mind reader and entertainer, David Meade. Despite doing things differently this year due to social distancing restrictions, David’s quick wit and trickery provided online viewers with a truly entertaining evening as the Chairperson honoured those in the categories of Community/Voluntary, Sports, Arts, Human Endeavor, Fundraising and Lifetime Achievement.

Speaking at the event Councillor Casey said, “I speak on behalf of the Council and the community when I say we are immensely proud of the remarkable people who are being recognised tonight. These awards give us the opportunity to officially thank you for your hard work and commitment. It is a privilege to be able to pay homage to you, both for your achievements and for the wonderful work you do on a voluntary basis. I wish you all continuing success in your respective fields. You are excellent ambassadors for Newry, Mourne and Down and contribute greatly to our district, which I am proud to represent as Chairperson.”

The Chairperson’s theme for his year in office was ‘family’ and at the event Councillor Casey also presented cheques of £2,500 to each of his three chosen charities – Autism Families, Birthwise and Cuan Mhuire, which all support local families in times of great need. The Chairperson said, “Autism Families, Birthwise and Cuan Mhuire do tremendous work with families and are making a real difference. For each of us our families are the most fundamental part of our lives – this is where we all find the support, love and trust that we need to make each day matter and never has family been more important to us all as it has in the recent weeks. Unfortunately, due to the current situation with COVID-19 my fundraising didn’t reach its full potential, however I am conscious that in the voluntary sector every penny raised does make a difference. I hope this will go some way in supporting the vital work they each do.”
The awards ceremony is still available to view from the NEWS section on the Council website: and on our Youtube channel:

The award recipients are as follows:

Eoghan Rúa Cill Chua GAC

Eoghan Rúa Cill Chua GAC received an award to recognise the success that the club had achieved throughout 2019/2020. The club’s success had brought great joy to the community and the Parish. Those involved within the club play a very important role; senior players participate in the coaching of the juveniles and are also very supportive in the younger teams and players coming up through the club. The club continuously strives to be the best. Its hard work, passion and commitment to the sport is always very evident. The support network within the club is excellent and continuously works to ensure that there are foundations being firmly put in place for the future of the club and all those involved.

Paula Nixon – County Down Rural Community Network
Paula works as a Health Worker for County Down Rural Community Network and has been of great assistance to many local groups through her work with disadvantaged communities, suicide prevention, women’s aid, food bank, uniform banks, older citizen groups, resident groups and youth groups, voluntary and community agencies to improve the area. Paula coordinates activities which include youth programmes, community events, clean up days, older people’s activities and programmes, family activities and outings. Nothing is an obstacle to Paula to help people in need, even outside her working role.

Paula works with local organisations and agencies to deliver a range of health programmes for all ages including mental health training, physical activity, nutritional advice, drug and alcohol prevention programmes and youth diversionary programmes. She played a key role in assisting the Council to help deliver aid to the most vulnerable in our community during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Paula is the Chairperson of Newcastle Interagency Partnership, which is a collective of statutory, political and voluntary groups. Through this role she ensures there is a cohesive response to residents and community issues, with the aim of addressing issues, concerns which arise relating to housing, transport, anti-social behaviour, environment and recreation, that results in greater wellbeing for the Newcastle community.

Terry Nelson – Pantry Foodbank, Newcastle
In 2014 Terry Nelson was one of the founder members of The Pantry Foodbank in Newcastle. At that time Terry and his colleagues had the perception to understand the challenges of the changing benefits system. Since then Terry has been Chairman and chief motivator of a cross-community group of volunteers who have provided help for over 5,800 people across South Down, from Annalong to Seaforde, from Kilcoo to Clough. Since 2014 The Pantry Foodbank has provided 52,300 meals to people in need. The Pantry Foodbank relies on donations from local people and businesses, as well as on the fundraising skills of its volunteers. Since early March 2020, in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the demand has increased exponentially, and Terry has led his team of 25 volunteers in responding to this need in a range of imaginative ways. He is an inspirational and selfless leader to a diverse set of volunteers who look to him for guidance and leadership.

Tom Cunningham – Kingdom Men’s Shed
Tom Cunningham was instrumental in starting the Kingdom Men’s Shed back in 2014. The Mournes is a rural area and Tom, who is a retired school teacher, recognised that there was a lot of other men who had retired but still had a lot to offer to the community and at the same time help their own mental health. Since it was formed the Shed has gone from strength to strength and has its own premises in the grounds of the Kingdom football club. The members regularly go on trips all over Ireland and they also use their many skills to make things such as summer seats and planters, which they use to help many charities. ‘Big Tom’ as he is affectionately known, deserves great credit for the time and effort he puts into this fantastic organisation.

Leah Walker Matthews, Warrenpoint
Leah was nominated for a civic award for her heroism in saving the life of her mother, Teresa, when she caught fire in a freak accident at their home in Warrenpoint. When adding fuel to a fire, Teresa found herself engulfed in flames which spread to her hair, shoulder and leg and then onto a nearby settee. Leah dashed to the rescue and initially used a blanket to put out some of the flames and then put her mum in the shower to extinguish the rest, after which she called the fire brigade to deal with the small fire in the living room. Leah’s mum describes her as her ‘wee hero’. She thought quickly and remained calm and her family and the community in Warrenpoint are so proud of her.

Mairead and Cathal McAnulty, Warrenpoint
Mairead and Cathal are the current owners of McAnulty Funeral Directors, Warrenpoint – a family business and local institution which has provided over 200 years of unbroken undertaking and funeral services to the families of Warrenpoint and surrounding areas. This family run company is known for their great compassion and respect at a time when people are going through the worst part of their lives in losing a loved one. Their service to the community is outstanding as is their ethos is that a funeral is a time to honour the life of the deceased and celebrate the heritage of their family.

Tony Smith, Newry
Tony has been a fantastic advocate for community activism and has been a shining light in the Newry area. His energy and passion to help and get involved within the community has always been inspiring. He also brings an added bonus of laughter and a bit of craic with the much loved ‘The Banter Show.’ Tony is one in a million and wholeheartedly deserves to be recognised for his excellent work.

Ned Lennon, Saval
Ned is a community man through and through who has set a fine example to his family and friends on how things can and should be done. He is known as a man who comes up with the ideas across several committees across the parish and has never been afraid to get his hands dirty by getting the job done himself. From cutting the playing fields at Saval GAA club so hundreds of members (and non-members) across the whole parish can enjoy, to being caretaker for the local chapel where he has built a reputation of again going beyond the call of duty to benefit the whole community. His lifetime commitment of volunteering in the community has left a legacy with his family and friends that it’s a natural thing to do and now the community benefit from his children also making their mark as volunteers and making the difference in peoples’ lives.

Noel Mussen, Burren
Noel is involved in all aspects of the Burren community. He was involved with St Mary’s Youth Club Burren Club in the 80’s and 90’s and held the post of Chairman. His love of Gaelic games and culture saw him becoming involved with Burren GAC where his organisational skills and good nature were hugely evident during his tenure as club chairman for three years.

Noel’s interest in promoting Irish culture extended to his involvement with the Scór Sinsear County Down where again his abilities saw him taking on the role as Chairman of South Down Scór Committee. His altruistic nature was evident when he was instrumental in forming a Burren chapter of the St Vincent de Paul charity and became its first Chairman. His awareness of the connection between church and community are expressed through his 20 years’ service on Burren Parish committee.

To summarise, Noel is a highly respected member of the community in Burren and indeed throughout the county. His sound judgment, wonderful humour and an unselfish willingness to share his talents for the betterment of society is deeply appreciated. He leads by example.

Stella Maguire – Larder Foodbank, Newry
Stella runs the Larder Food Bank in Newry which has been supported by both the Council and community. She is a fantastic asset to the community and has been a lifeline to many families who are struggling particularly in the current COVID-19 crisis. The demand on foodbanks across the district has increased exponentially. Stella is always on hand to provide support to those in need.

St Vincent De Paul, Newry
The Society of St Vincent de Paul has played a key role in Newry in supporting those in need through the provision of food vouchers, fuel, clothing and finance. In the normal event, members make home visits, offer advice on money management and household budgeting. The COVID-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on the income of many families and the society has done its best to reduce anxiety and distress by assisting in a very practical and immediate way. Its members on the ground are there to help and the SVP helpline has become an essential resource in getting to those in need.

Ernie Campbell, Newry
Ernie has been involved in charity fundraising for over 15 years and has organised numerous charity football matches in the area. Since COVID-19, Ernie has managed to raise over £33,000 for Personal Protection Equipment for Daisy Hill Hospital, Craigavon Area Hospital as well as front line community workers. He is hugely respected in the area and very deserving of this award.

Pat McGinn, Camlough
For over 30 years both in private and public, Pat has been involved in many life changing initiatives and key events with individuals, families and communities throughout this region in his work at Cuan Mhuire. Pat has offered key support to many suffering from addictions and is always on hand to offer advice and a helping hand to all who cross his path, irrespective of background, class or creed. Pat’s work today with Cuan Mhuire brings him into community groups, sporting, voluntary and youth clubs throughout Northern Ireland.

Gerard Savage and Sean Higgins, Abbey Christian Brothers School, Newry
Gerald Savage, Head of Construction and his fellow construction teacher, Sean Higgins, were only too happy to use both their initiative and skills to help out during the COVID-19 pandemic by making protective visors for frontline staff.

The Abbey school teachers took up the challenge to make the protective visors after the school received a desperate plea for help from one of its fifth-year pupils, whose mother is a GP. The school then issued an email asking if any other members of the school community needed face visors, they were inundated with responses from many parents who work as doctors, nurses and in care homes. Mr Savage and Mr Higgins worked 10-hour days and weekends, including the Easter holidays, voluntarily fulfilling orders for much needed PPE, producing 120 visors a day.

Pete Haughey, New Town Together Men’s Shed
Pete has made a fantastic contribution to life in Newtownhamilton in the past year through the establishment of Newtown Men’s Shed and New Town Together. The aim of the Men’s Shed is to promote positive mental health among men in Newtownhamilton by keeping them busy at the popular workshops. Pete has brought the shedders on trips to meet other Men’s Sheds and has secured funding to enhance the premises.

The New Town Together group was established to enhance the fitness and wellbeing of everyone else in the town, through a popular walking group and various workshops throughout the year.

Allen Kinnin, Bessbrook
Allen has shown great dedication to Christ Church in Bessbrook for many years and has been heavily involved in its outreach activities and serving as church warden for a period of time. He has also served as secretary of the local Bessbrook Crimson Arrow Pipe Band for 38 years and is actively involved in other community organisations and activities such as the Poppy Appeal for the Royal British Legion and Bessbrook Northern Ireland Supporters Club.

Jonesborough Community Association
Jonesborough Community Association has worked tirelessly over the past number of years to improve both the image of Jonesborough and the life of the residents. They have worked with the Council, Playboard NI, Community Restorative Justice, the Irish Football Association, the health trust, and Education Authority, Youth Services and other organisations to promote a healthy, cohesive community. Every year they run a number of seasonal events, which are well attended and throughout the year carry out many activities within the village.

With the onset of the current crisis they were first up to provide help and advice to the local community. They have worked alongside the Council to distribute the food parcels not just within their own village but also to neighbouring villages. They are a shining light within our district who continue to work for the community with no expectation of recognition.

David Garey, Bessbrook
David is no stranger to action and adventure and in his pursuit of all things active and healthy, has raised significant amounts of money in the past for local charities including Run for Autism, HAND (Helping Autism in Newry and District) and Newry Hospice and Chest, Heart and Stroke.

On 20 June, David is running a solo marathon in Camlough Park, Bessbrook in memory of his late mother, Nancy. He hopes to raise much needed funds for the Marie Currie Nurses to which the family are indebted for their help and support during his mother’s recent illness.

Helen Newell – Clough Community Association
Helen has been a community activist for many years, working tirelessly within the Clough and Seaforde area to establish and further community initiatives. She has been a member of Clough Community Association since 1997, she is also a long-standing member of the Women’s Institute, a leader in Clough Youth Club, a trustee of Seaforde Young Farmers’ Club Hall and more recently she has been working with Scrubs NI to produce hundreds of scrubs for the NHS. She helps all above groups successfully apply for funding utilising help and assistance from Nery, Mourne and Down District Council. Helen goes above and beyond for her community.

Pat McGreevy – Suicide Down to Zero
Pat is the founding member of the Suicide Down to Zero charity. He works tirelessly across the district, campaigning to eliminate suicide throughout Northern Ireland. Pat is a key figure in the local community, working with sports clubs, community groups and individuals educating them and heightening their awareness of this crisis we face.

On a personal level Pat has aided so many vulnerable people in their hour of need, selflessly giving his time and expertise to bring them back to a safe place.

Gerard McAnulty – Kazoku School of Sport
Gerard has been involved in karate for many years, he is a former IKU World Karate Champion and in more recent years he has been a mental health supporter. He combines his love for karate with his day job in running Kazoku School of Sport in Castlewellan – running fitness and karate classes for the young and the not so young. He has trained many young people to compete in competitions in Ireland and all across Europe. Gerard and his two younger brothers have recently undertaken a 300k run in their karate gear, which between them took over five days, to raise funds for PIPS.

Jen Edward Smith – Saintfield Development Association and Baby Cafe
Jen moved to Saintfield just a few years ago from England, where she had worked in community development. Jen is secretary of Saintfield Development Association and she also established Saintfield Baby Café, which she runs with her partner Sarah, providing a weekly drop in, cafe-style baby group at the community centre. This is a vital service for parents addressing isolation and providing peer support within Saintfield’s wider rural community.

Shirley Lennon – Fountain Food bank, Downpatrick
The Fountain Foodbank based in Downpatrick was founded in 2015 to help the local community of Downpatrick and Lecale by providing emergency food parcels to those in need and is managed by a group of volunteers from all backgrounds. Since opening in March 2015, Fountain Foodbank has distributed over 2300 parcels and helped over 6500 people. This is a fantastic achievement and the volunteers truly deserve the recognition given to them.

Cathal Kinsella, Saul
Cathal decided he did not want any gifts for his birthday this year but instead asked people to donate towards a fundraiser in memory of his mum, Sonia Kinsella who sadly passed away earlier this year to cancer. Cathal raised a total of £13,330 for Cancer Research with over 700 individual people contributing to the cause. Such an amazing amount of money raised and in memory of a special person in Sonia.

Ruáirí Howell
At 19 years of age, Ruáirí was the youngest person ever to win the Senior Uilleann Pipe accolade at Fleadh Cheoil na héireann in 2019. Ruáirí is currently completing an Accounts degree in Queen’s University Belfast whilst also passing on his skill and talent of Irish traditional music, teaching at his local Comhaltas branch in Castlewellan.

Ian Hillsdon
Ian a local runner from Downpatrick who had been planning and training to run from Belfast to Dublin to raise money for local charity, PIPS. Due to COVID-19 restrictions he couldn’t do this, so he ran the 107 miles in his tiny back yard.

He had a live stream on Facebook for people to follow and give encouragement, which was a really positive story in the midst of a very stressful time for most. He had a few socially distanced visits from neighbours to give him encouragement. His event caught the public’s attention and he raised almost £4,000 for the charity and completed his challenge without leaving his yard.

Jake and Kane Tucker
Brothers 18 year old Jake and 20 year old Kane from Newry, have both already achieved so much in the world of boxing at such a young age and between them they have won 30 Ulster Juvenile titles and almost 20 all-Ireland titles. In 2020 they were both the middle weight and the heavy weight champions and Kane represented Ireland in Russia at the World Elite Championships. The award was given in recognition of the contribution the brothers have made to boxing in Newry, Mourne and Down.

Jake has won many accolades including:
8 All Ireland national titles
14 Ulster Juvenile titles
Irish schoolboy captain 2015
2020 Ulster elite middleweight champion

Kane has won the following titles:
9 All Ireland National titles
European Schoolboy Medalist
Commonwealth Youth Games Silver medalist.
16 Ulster Juvenile titles
2020 Ulster elite light heavyweight champion Kane’s captained Ireland’s youth team
2018 Represented Ireland at the World Elite championships in Russia 2019.

Newcastle CCÉ – 50th Anniversary
Newcastle Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this year. 50 years of promoting Irish music, song dance and language at the foot of the Mourne Mountains. The branch celebrated their birthday by hosting the Ulster Fleadh in Castlewellan in July 2019 along with 25,00 people who came to enjoy the weekend. It is a credit to the committee for its dedication over the past 50 years, promoting the area of Newcastle and the wider district.

Chairperson’s Chosen Charities

Birth Wise is dedicated to supporting women and their partners around pregnancy, birth and the challenging period that is early parenthood. It is a grassroots movement of expectant and new parents and those who support them. The charity connects, empowers and informs and supports new parents. It campaigns for continuous improvements in maternity care and other relevant services.

Autism Families works tirelessly to increase both awareness and acceptance of Autism and to support families in the Newry, Mourne and Down area who are living with Autism. They provide activities and outings in a safe, stable and engaging environment and helps young people with ASD, their parents and sibling to form friendships within the group.

Cuan Mhuire has a rehabilitation centre in Newry which treats people with alcohol and gambling addiction. Their programme supports those suffering from addiction and their families, as they progress through a systematic 12-week programme for alcohol and gambling and a 20 week programme for substance misuse. These programmes may be extended as they recognise every individual case is unique. They continue to provide support after treatment through a national network of aftercare and family support. At any one-time Cuan Mhuire has in excess of 570 people in their centres nationwide. Regretfully the number of people suffering from addiction has increased significantly over this past 10 years.

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