Meet our heroes: Winners of Kilkenny-Carlow Garda Youth Awards unveiled
Young people from across Kilkenny Carlow Garda Division were honoured in a series of awards ceremonies across the three Districts of Kilkenny, Carlow and Thomastown today.
An Garda Síochána, in association with Netwatch, Carlow County Council and Kilkenny County Council, launched the search for a young person or group of young people who have achieved extraordinary things in February this year.
Ten exceptional young people were presented with awards in recognition of their achievements. The judges, Chief Superintendent Padraig Dunne, Mick Galwey – Netwatch, Retired Judge William Early, Catherine Byrne-Murphy – Kilkenny County Council, Michael Brennan – Carlow County Council, Kathryn Wall – Carlow Youth Services, chose the winners from a pool of over 60 nominations.
Matthew Kelly was the Individual Award winner. The judges said: “Matthew, who is from Tullow, is an excellent role model for young people, he is an active member of Carlow’s Youth Group – My Unique Individuality (MUI). Matthew has become a voice for young people taking part in a number of interviews on KCLR. He has spoken out about discriminatory behaviour and mental health issues due to sexual orientation. He speaks honestly and openly to express how young people are challenged which is inspiring and an example of how young people can use their resilience by working together and using supports.
“Matthew is also a lifesaver he completed a Heart Saver course where learned to use an AED. He put his training to good use administering CPR on his grandad after an accident.”
The Special Achievement Award went to Dean Campbell Murphy from Kilkenny.
The judges described Dean as “a remarkable young man that has been recognised for his devotion to his family”.
They added: “Dean (15) who is on the Autism Spectrum was severely burnt as a toddler and spent many months in hospital as a result. Dean was bullied growing up and as a result his mental health suffered despite this he helps he helps out at home caring for his younger sister who is also on the spectrum and his brother who has special needs and another younger brother with special dietary needs.”
Carlow Comhairle na nÓg took home the Group Award. In 2018 this group of 12-18 year olds began a mental health ‘How’s Your Head Campaign’ in response to a number of teenage suicides. They produced a brochure highlighting local supports and containing exercises’ to benefit mental health. During lockdown in March 2020 the group developed a mental health pack that was distributed to young people in residential care homes.
The judges said of their work: “Further to this they designed a logo to go along with the campaign putting it on facemasks and distributing it to schools, clubs, colleges and youth clubs throughout the county. This is only one example of the work and time they have given in what has been a year of difficulty especially for this age group.”
Millie Brennan was the Community Safety Award winner. The judges said: “Millie who has a natural talent for sewing made face masks during the first lock down, She sold the masks for a small fee and donated all of the proceeds (€778.70) to a local charity, Thomastown Community Helpers. Millie who was only 12 years of age at the time was inspired to raise money for the charity after her grandad passed away in May of last year.”
A Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Fran and Kathleen Mullins, a husband and wife team who have tirelessly supported young people, especially young girls, in GAA in the Carlow area.
The judges said of the couple: “Fran and Kathleen who have been involved in GAA at local, provincial and national levels have enabled many a young person to reach their potential by facilitating transport, training and gear for those who were unable to source it themselves over the last 40 years.”
Thomas Morris won the District Award for Kilkenny. Thomas has been involved in a number of voluntary organisations in his community from his teenage years. Over the past five or six years, he has been an active volunteer, presenting youth programmes on Community Radio Kilkenny City. These programmes include young people and appeal to the young.
Patsy Murphy was awarded the Carlow District Award. Patsy represented Carlow Regional Youth Services (The Vault) in the Irish Youth Music Awards national programme.
The judges said of Patsy: “Last March when the pandemic hit he took the lead in making sure the programme continued online. He led and encouraged the other Young People involved to participate to the best of their ability in very unusual times. Patsy leads young people in a very inclusive way always making sure no one is left out.”
Thomastown District Award went to Kevin Fitzgerald. The judges said he is nominated “in recognition of his courage and quick thinking with his community needed him”.
They added: “Kevin put his knowledge and skill to use when a member of his community suffered a cardiac incident. Kevin calm and quickly used the community AED and was able to save a life. He is to be commended for his brave actions.”
Niall Keating from Carlow is a member of the HUB Project with Carlow Youth Services.
Th e judges said Niall was recognised “for his personal development”, adding: “He has used his time since the pandemic struck to better himself. Niall has gone from strength to strength in his education. He is a valued member of the Youth Reach student body. Niall acts the representative between the young people and the Board of Management. This ensures all the voices of the students attending here are heard due to Niall’s willingness to take this role on. He greatly impresses all who encounter him. All who meet him are struck by his warmth, kindness, sense of humour. It is recognised he has a drive for a better life and to make his family proud of him.”
Orlaith Fallon from Carlow was recognised for her contribution to Down Syndrome Ireland. She spent much of the month of February baking and selling her cakes to raise money for the organisation. Orlaith has not only raised funds for the charity but she has also raised awareness about Down Syndrome and the abilities, rather than disabilities, of those with Down Syndrome. The judges said: “She created her very own positive awareness campaign about Down Syndrome.”
Rachael Diyaolu Racheal (17) is the chairperson of Comhairle na nÓg (Youth Committee) and is also the National Executive for County Carlow.
The judges said Rachael “represents the voice of young people from around the county on the national stage and campaigns for a better Ireland for young people to live in”.
They added: “Rachael has been involved in and at helm of many significant campaigns throughout her time with Carlow Regional Youth Services. This year she presented to the Taoiseach on Climate Action and put forward a proposal on behalf of all the young people in Ireland as to what needs to happen to bring Ireland up to scratch in terms of climate action from the view point of young people and their futures. This presentation was very well received and heard and because of Rachael’s outstanding contribution have gotten a place in the decision making processes on this extremely crucial topic that will essentially effect the whole country in a really positive way.”
A local Garda spokesperson said: “This is the second Garda Youth Awards for Kilkenny Carlow Division. We would like to thank our sponsors Netwatch, Kilkenny County Council and Carlow County Council. Thank you also to our media partners for your support in publicising the awards.”