HONOURED Mayo Person of the Year Cathal Hughes with President Michael D Higgins when an Uachtaráin visited Westport in 2016.
Award to be presented to Westport businessman at gala night in Dublin on February 9
WELL-KNOWN Westport businessman and community activist Cathal Hughes has been chosen as this year’s winner of the Mayo Person of Year award. He will receive the Virginia Gallagher Award at a gala black-tie presentation ceremony, The Yew Tree Ball, in Dublin’s Ballsbridge Hotel on Saturday, February 9. It is the first occasion that a Westport-born person has won the award since its inception in 1964.
The award, which is organised and presented by the Mayo Dublin Association, is adjudicated by an independent panel, after nominations are received from the Mayo public each year.
A Meitheal Award is also presented to a group doing great work within the county, and this year that award has gone to Mayo’s Forgotten Famine Girls Remembrance Group, who recently held a remembrance weekend for all the Mayo women who were forced to leave their homes in very difficult circumstances during the Famine.
The final award announced this evening by the Mayo Dublin Association is the 2019 Young Mayo Person of the Year, and this went to Sara McFadden from Turlough. Sara was born with albinism and nystagmus, which means that she is visually impaired, but she has not let her disability define her. All three awards will be presented at The Yew Tree Ball on February 9.
In their citation, the judges said Cathal Hughes was chosen as the Mayo Person of the Year in recognition of the depth and breadth of his contribution to Mayo, with regard to the economic life of the county. He took over the family business in Westport in the 1970s during a difficult economic time before turning around the fortunes of the company and Portwest today, provide employment to over 300 people in Westport and around the world. He also, together with his brothers Harry and Owen, as part of the Hughes group, successfully operate Hotel Westport and Westport House, which was purchased in 2017.
Aside from his business achievements, Mr Hughes has also been a prolific charity campaigner. He was one of the original founders, and the first chairperson of the Mayo Roscommon Hospice Foundation. The judges also said that following the heartbreaking and tragic death of Mr Hughes’s son Padraig on Christmas Day 2008, as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, he undertook an extensive and important national campaign, including becoming the face of a national television commercial on RTÉ, highlighting the need for carbon monoxide alarms in homes. The campaign culminated in highlighting public awareness of this ‘silent killer’ and as a result there is a national Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week each September and building regulation legislation now makes Carbon Monoxide Alarms compulsory in all newly built homes.
The Mayo Forgotten Famine Girls Remembrance Group won the Meitheal Award for the recognition and dignity it gave to a group of women who were forced to leave Mayo in very difficult circumstances. The judges said that the Mayo’s Forgotten Famine Girls’ Remembrance Group, chaired by Mayo historian and author, Terry Reilly, demonstrated the power of people working together with a common purpose in the best tradition of the Meitheal. They rolled up their sleeves, they met and overcame obstacles and delivered a most worthy project that will endure and add immeasurably to the history of County Mayo and its people. The project culminated last year in the four day commemoration event in Ballina remembering the 137 Mayo girls who were transported to Australia, with the unveiling of a Memorial Statue and a Commerative Quilt.
The 2019 Young Mayo Person of the Year, Sara McFadden, is from Turlough. Althoughn visually impaired due to her albinism and nystagmus, Sara does not believe that having a disability should define you. The judges said this belief and positivity has been instilled in Sara by her parents Sandra and Keith McFadden.
The judges added: “Proving her specialists wrong, she has broken the mould. With a family background of competition in Motorsport, at the early age of six weeks Sara was introduced to the sport by her parents. The fact that she was told at the age of 12 that she would never be able to drive has not held her back. Her positive can-do attitude simply allowed her to create another way to participate in her dream by becoming Ireland’s first visually impaired Motorsport Navigator for tarmac rallying. Sara was chosen by the independent panel of adjudicators in recognition of how she overcame the adversity of her condition and for the example she sets for young people, particularly those who face personal challenges.”
The award winners will be honoured at the Yew Tree Ball on February 9 in the Ballsbridge Hotel. Tickets are now on sale on www.mayoassociationdublin.com or through any committee member, and cost €100. Mayo Association Dublin is delighted to announce that this year’s charity partner for the event is Mayo Roscommon Hospice Foundation Pallative Care Services and the proceeds of the bumper draw on the night will go to the Hospice. The black tie awards gala will incorporate a prosecco reception with a gin bar sponsored by Connacht Distillery, followed by a four-course meal. Music on the night will be provided by Simon Casey and his band. The awards will be hosted by MWR host, Angelina Nugent. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.