We celebrated our Annual Awards Gala 2018 with a sparkling black tie affair at our rebranded ‘The Yew Tree Ball’ on Saturday 10 February in Dublin’s Ballsbridge Hotel.

Association’s Treasurer Michael Kealy; Pat Cowman, member of the R116 community rescue group; Secretary Grace Heneghan; Garda Supt Tony Healy from Belmullet; Chairperson Julie Doyle; Sr Maureen Lally, ‘Virginia Gallagher Person of the Year’; Michaela Walsh, ‘Young Mayo Person of the Year’; John Gallagher, chairman of CFID who accepted the ‘Meitheal of the Year’; PRO Bernardine Walsh-Cummins; and Vice-President Edward Melvin.

The winner of the ‘Virginia Gallagher Mayo Person of the Year’ award – Islandeady native Sr Maureen Lally – is an indomitable figure who has worked hard over many years to stem the decline of rural and agricultural life through the Tochar Valley Network.

Sr Maureen Lally is presented with the ‘Mayo Person of the Year’ award by Julie Doyle, the Association’s chairperson.

Dr Shari Dann from Michigan State University, whom Sr Maureen had worked with to pioneer the rural network, travelled especially from the US to join in the celebrations on the night, such was her admiration for our 2018 winner, who was presented with her award by Mayo Association Dublin’s chairperson Julie Doyle.

MWR’s Angelina Nugent interviews John Gallagher, CFID chairman, upon receiving the ‘Meitheal of the Year’ Award, on events surrounding the R116 rescue operations in Blacksod, in which his community group played a prominent role.

News and sports broadcaster Angelina Nugent from MidWest Radio interviewed our three award winners on the night. And it was a particularly poignant interview with Belmullet’s John Gallagher, chairman of Comharchumann Forbartha Ionad Deirbhile (CFID), who accepted the ‘Meitheal Award’ (sponsored this year by Connolly Motor Group) on behalf of the local community group, in recognition of their efforts in the R116 search and rescue operations.

The interview revealed that even in the darkest of tragedies, the dignity and depth of the human spirit can be revealed. Over 100 community volunteers, homeowners, fishermen, farmers and local businesses worked tirelessly over 42 days and nights with the Gardaí and the emergency services as a ‘Meitheal’ for the benefit of the families and searchers for the crew of R116. On Day 42 of the huge search, the efforts at Halla Naomh Bhrendáin, on the land and the sea were brought to an end and still gave no closure to the bereaved families.

Michaela Walsh is interviewed on stage by MWR’s Angelia Nugent, with award sponsor Dr Mona McGarry, Association President.

Our ‘Young Mayo Person of the Year’ award winner Michaela Walsh (18) from Swinford added yet another medal to her growing collection. The young athlete won a bronze medal in the European Championship U20 Hammer throw in Grosseto in 2017, just one of many achievements for this young girl with an exciting future ahead. Michaela was presented with her award by the Association’s President Dr Mona McGarry (award sponsor) and a very generous bursary cheque for €1,000.

Julie Doyle, Chairperson of Mayo Association Dublin, acknowledged and thanked all of our guests, our many sponsors and raffle prize givers for their overwhelming support of our newly rebranded Yew Tree Ball, in what is the premier event of our Association.

Nice to meet Yew! The Association’s chairperson Julie Doyle outlines the reasons for the rebranded ‘Yew Tree Ball’ to MWR’s Angelina Nugent and its significance within the continued success of the annual awards.

“Our awards provide very important recognition for the hardworking people in Mayo, and we are delighted to celebrate their achievements and contributions in a special way. This year’s awards were a great success and we were honoured and humbled to hear our winners’ stories,” she added.

This year Mayo Mental Health Association (MMHA) was chosen by the Association’s committee as the charity partner of ‘The Yew Tree Ball’ and guests were shown a video of the charity’s important work undertaken throughout the county. All of the proceeds from the Bumper Envelope Draw on the night were donated to this worthy charity, whose head office is based in Castlebar.

A snapshot of our many guests who were all seated before the arrival of our award winners into the ballroom.

The Ballsbridge Hotel was transformed into a sea of green and red, and the awards ceremony included a raffle of over 50 prizes worth in excess of €10,000, generously donated by businesses both in Mayo and Dublin.

Over 500 guests, who attended in glamorous style to honour our 2018 award winners, were treated to a Prosecco Reception, in addition to a stylish ‘Concullin Gin Bar’ (generously sponsored by Connaught Distillery), before taking their seats for a four-course meal.

The guests danced the night away to an electric and energetic mix of Celtic tunes from Flat Out, a four-piece band from Ballina who are making their name in the Irish music scene with their unique Celtic sound.