Everyone who works voluntarily in a community and voluntary organisation deserves huge recognition, according to GAA President and the Leinster Express Person of the Year for 2012, Liam O’Neill.
His generous comments were directed last week at the 74 groups and individuals nominated for the Laois Community and Voluntary Awards 2012 at the Killeshin Hotel.
This is the first year that the Leinster Express has supported the event hosted by Laois Forum and also supported by Laois County Council and the Laois Sports Partnership.
Mr O’Neill was only too pleased to share the limelight with local people and groups from the four corners of Laois.
“I owe a huge debt of gratitude to everyone who is involved in the GAA. It is one of the many wonderful community organisations.
“I have never claimed that it is the best but it is amongst the best. But, every community or voluntary organisation, as far as I am concerned is of equal value. Everyone who works voluntarily deserves huge recognition,” he said.
In his speech Mr O’Neill said that building a sense of Laois identity will lead to success.
“If we can get a sense of Laoisness I think this county will be unstoppable. It is the only thing we lack. We have wonderful scenery, we are located in the best part of the country, we have wonderful people,” he said.
The other big winner on the night was Maura O’Gorman, the Unsung Hero who received a standing ovation for her work with the Clonaslee Community Development Assocation, Tidy Towns and other groups.
“I am overwhelmed to be honest, I wasn’t expecting this at all. I am absolutely thrilled and delighted to receive it. The Clonaslee Community Devevelopment Association nominated me. I suppose, they feel that I have worked so hard and tirelessly over the 30 years to bring Clonaslee and the Tidy Towns so far,” she said.
The winners and runners up in the five categories were:
Sport and Leisure: Winner - St Annes, AFC, Ballylinan; Runner-up - Oughaval Athletic Club
Arts & Culture: Winner - Abbeyfest; Runner Up - Spink Comhaltas
Heritage & Envirnoment: Winner - Abbeyleix Tidy Towns; Runner up - South Laois Tourism.
Children & Young People: Winner - Graiguecullen/Killeshin Parish Youth Ministry Group; Runner up - Abbeyleix Junior Hockey Club
Community Services & Support: Winner - Portlaoise Parish Centre; 1st Runner up - Portarlington Dirty Old Towns Project; Woodenbridge and District Community Alert Group.