The recipients of the 29th Mayo People of the Year Awards were announced last night

The annual event is organised by RehabCare, Mayo County Council and The Connaught Telegraph.

13 award winners were announced last night across a range of categories and they will all be presented with their awards at a gala banquet in Breaffy House Hotel, Castlebar, on Friday night, November 17.

The long running event was interrupted by Covid for two years, and Covid related nominations are reflected in the 2023 awards.

The recipients are as follows: 

Young People of the Year

Charlie Gannon

Charlie from Castlebar is an inspirational young man, who at the age of 11 years lost his arm and leg to bacterial meningitis and recently had his other leg amputated.

Despite his many challenges he has managed to complete a degree in music. He also stays active playing golf and in 2020 he raised over £13,000 for Mayo Pink Ribbon by cycling 50km on a stationary bike at his home.

And to pay for his bionic arm and leg he set up a ‘Go Fund Me’ page which raised over £260,000 in just two weeks. Life has been full of challenges, countless operations and setbacks, but Charlie never quits.


Aimee Mallee

Since the days of student protests in 2018 Aimee Mallee from Balla Secondary School has shown signs of leadership. Rather than add to the problem, as the government suggested the students did, Aimee sought out   effective was to effect climate change.

Her selection as student of the year 2018/19 would have a positive effect on how she did business and she choose the Balla No Name Club as her vehicle.

She was instrumental in setting up six sub-committees, each with a different theme. One of the committee’s task was to plant 150 oak trees in the town park and Aimee took ownership of the project.

The project, which attracted the attention of UNESCO, was officially opened  by Minister Michael Ring. 

The Covid years were difficult on families who lost loved ones and post pandemic, Aimee organised a 5km ‘Remember Me’ walk.

Business Community Liaison Award

Blacksod Lighthouse

The spectacular Mayo coastline is the longest in any Irish county. Seven lighthouses were constructed to provide aid to navigation.

The opening of Blacklsod Lighthouse to the public for the first time, now tells the stories of these awe-inspiring landmarks.

Local guides walk visitors through 150 years history of the lighthouses at Blaclsod, Eagle Island, Blackrock and Broadhaven. The concentration of these four lighthouses on, and offshore the Mullet peninsula, has provided the guides with endless, first-hand accounts of the pivotal decisions which led to their building.

Mayo Diáspora Award

Dr. Padraig O Luanaigh

As director of nursing at Mayo University Hospital, Castlebar, Dr. Padraig, had the honour of welcoming Dame Elizabeth Anionwu to the hospital. She was honoured with the Order of Merit in 2022 and aDamehood in 2017 for her work on improving the health and well-being of multi-ethnic communities.

The tree-planting ceremony at the Mayo hospital was to celebrate the legacy and heritage of the nursing community locally and internationally with special focus on the 30,000 Irish nurses and their contribution to the NHS since it was established 75 years ago.

During the event Dame Elizabeth commented on the positive impact 30,000 Irish nurses have made to the NHS.       

Gradam na Gaeilge Award

CLG Coillte Mach

For the past five years Kiltimagh GAA Club has made a conscious decision to ensure that the Irish language is central to all its activities.

From humble beginnings in the years prior to Covid they are now in a position where the promotion of Gaeilge is always a central cog in whatever the club organises.

When the club started on the journey the use of Gaeilge was minimal or nil, and correspondence, media posts and signage showed no inclination to use the Irish language

In the past five years there had been a seismic shift in that position. It has progressed today to where all signage is bi-lingual, all correspondence and agendas for meetings, etc., includes some Irish and the language is a continuous presence in all social media postings and is used at all club meetings.` 

Hall of Fame

John Egan 

On May 6, 1973, John Egan started voluntary work at Knock Shrine providing first aid and ambulance service duties. John recruited a team of volunteers and trained them in first aid and together they worked diligently for 10 years providing ambulance service for the Shrine, first aid services for pilgrims and also providing community care.

In January 1984, the Order of Malta voluntary unit was set up in Knock and John became officer-in-charge and was also made Lieutenant. He was later promoted captain and then to the rank of commander. In June 2013 he was invested as a Knight of Magistral Grace of the Irish Association of the Order of Malta.

May of this year marked 50 years since John first started working on a voluntary basis any Knock Shrine.

Mayo People of the Year Awards


Bríd O’Connell

For 40 years, Westport native, Bríd O’Connell, has been the driving force behind the Siamsa Sráide festival in Swinford.

In the late 1970s and early ‘80s she was the local driving force in organising the then very popular annual pub quiz, sponsored by Guinness and The Sunday World, in aid of Rehab. They continued for some years locally with Bríd at the helm

Later, circa 1984/5 she was to the fore in launching Siamsa Sráide, Swinford’s summer festival. Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2024, is due to the foresight, dedication and leadership of Bríd.

She dedicates many months yearly in preparing for a bigger and better celebration.

As well as Siamsa Sráide, Bríd plays a major role in the Swinford branch of Comholtas Ceoltoirí and helps other local groups and charities.


Moy Innovations CLG

The Ballina group provide employment, training and work experience to the most disadvantaged members of their community in North Mayo and beyond.

A friendly, happy environment with many different work activities taking place such as wreath-making, light assembly, cleaning and their most recent venture, the lovely, friendly Primrose Cafe, which is a haven for good food, coffee and craic.

Shining a light on mental health, Mayo Innovations CLG is an innovative social enterprise, doing great work in the community for the community.


Valerie Jennings

Catherine Corless, a local historian in Tuam, was there first to uncover the shocking fact that 796 babies died in Tuam and were interred in a site for a septic tank.

This simply broke Valerie Jenning’s heart and to remember the lost babies and to support survivors, Valerie, from Islandeady, began to organise the ‘Little Light of Love’ event.

She sourced all the names of the 796 babies and in November 2020, in the middle of Covid, arranged the route from the gable of Jack’s Old Cottage in Islandeady to the babies remembrance site at the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, where the ‘light’ was reverently placed by a young girl - the walk took over 12 hours to complete.

The walk entailed a candle being carried, by relay from Castlebar to Tuam. Working within the Covid restrictions of a 5km radius, Valerie arranged that 36 walkers did a relay with a lantern, observing the restrictions.

Valerie went on to become event director of the ‘Little Light of Love’ which ran from November 2020, 20212 and 2022, and continues to shine a light memory of the babies.


Fiona Quinn

In the darkness, despair and uncertainty of the Covid lockdown, Fiona Quinn of Knockranny, Westport, created a Facebook page called ‘An Image a Day to Brighten Your Day’.

The idea was to have a daily photograph/image submitted by people to raise spirits and minds in a strange time.

This page shared positivity, chats and connectivity worldwide - with members in Ireland, UK, Europe, Canada, America and Australia - providing a powerful and enduring connection for all who felt disconnected, alone or lonely - throughout and post-Covid.

As Covid receded the pandemic of loneliness continued and this Facebook page helped address this.

At present there are over 10,000 members in the group - all connected by an insight from Fiona.


Bohola Post Commemorative Edition Committee

In 1973 some very foresighted people got together and came up with the concept of a message to the world from the small parish of Bohola - and the Bohol Post was launched.

Since then there have been up to 40 people involved with the Bohola Post committee.

To celebrate the achievement of 50 years continuous publication, the present committee decided to mark this significant milestone with a special once-off commemorative edition.

For this the voluntary committee trawled the previous 50 editions, made contact with individuals who had contributed to past editions.

At the launch Rory O’Dwyer of the O’Dwyer Foundation hailed the 50th edition as an ‘amazing publication’.


Mayo Rape Crisis Centre 

The centre has been in the county town for almost 30 years, delivering a service countywide. The service it provided necessitates a commitment to safety, discretion, empathy and a radical standing with people who have endured a violation of the most profound kind and their families and supporters. 

The service with its staff, volunteers and board, work with the impact of some of the most serious crimes that can be committed.

The centre’s commitment to the people who seek out their service is second to none

In terms of professionalism, expertise and care, it is very much a service that works on an ongoing basis with the constant changes to the overall picture of sexual violence, changes in the law, the various cultures that enable sexual violence to happen and the lonely, distressing after affects for many victims and survivors. 


Kilmeena Cemetery Committee

Having successfully completed the local group water scheme, the voluntary committee looked for other projects requiring attention in the parish. There were two cemeteries in Kilmeena, the ‘new’ cemetery adjacent to the church in Myna and the ‘old’ cemetery located in the townland of Kilmeena Hill, both of which required considerable work.

The old cemetery had become overgrown and a ‘Calvary’ scene had fallen into considerable disrepair.

Some funds were available from a church gate collection which were supplemented from Mayo Council. After the work the graveyard was transformed.

There was less work in the ‘new’ cemetery. A mapping exercise was undertaken and an index is now displayed inside the gates showing exactly where each plot is located.


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