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Creativity awards celebrated colourful character of Neill O’Neill


WINNERS ALLPictured are all the overall winners and merit winners who were in attendance on Saturday night last. Front row, from left: Joshua Reilly, Louisburgh NS, Photography Merit winner; Danny Scanlon, St Colmcille’s, Westport Quay, Art Merit; David Corrigan, Scoil Phádraig, Westport, Art Merit; David Motiu, Scoil Phádraig, Westport, Art Merit; Ruairí O’Neill, St Colmcille’s, Westport Quay, Art Merit; Damien Kerrigan, Brackloon NS, Westport, Photography winner; Patrick Foley, Valley NS, Achill, Photography Merit; Aoife Joyce, Balla Secondary School, Writing Merit. Second row, from left: Laoise Quinn, Scoil Phádraig, Westport, Writing Merit; Callum Bourke, Holy Trinity Westport, Photography Merit; Mary-Kate Lonergan, Carrowholly NS, Westport, Writing Merit; Niamh Heraty, Gaelscoil na Cruaiche, Westport, Writing Merit; Amelia Fahy, Scoil Phádraig, Westport, Writing Merit; Niamh Kelly, Scoil Phádraig, Westport, Art winner; Cillian Hughes, Roundfort NS, Hollymount, Photography Merit. Back row, from left: Kevin Martin, Murrisk, Writing Merit; Nicole Karl, Sancta Maria College, Louisburgh, Art winner; Pawel Zygmunt, Dublin, Photography winner; Kelly O’Neill, Sacred Heart School, Westport, Photography Merit; Brian Joyce, Owenwee, Westport, Photography Merit; Íde Swanton, Sancta Maria College, Louisburgh, Art Merit; Liz Parsons, Ballinrobe, Photography Merit; Emer Martin, Killawalla, Writing winner; Ethan Grady, Sancta Maria College, Louisburgh, Photography Merit; Maude Cullen-Mouze, Sancta Maria College, Louisburgh, Writing Merit; Kayleigh Rice, St Joseph’s Secondary School, Castlebar, Art Merit; Katie Coonan, Sacred Heart School, Westport, Photography Merit; Cian Dunne, Moyhastin, Westport, Writing Merit; Doreen Mulroy, Tonranny, Westport, Art Merit; Dylan Stanaway, Rice College, Westport, Art Merit; Conaill Muldoon, Rice College, Westport, Writing Merit; Jason Gibbons, Rice College, Westport, Photography winner; Mark Hastings, Rice College, Westport, Writing Merit; Caoilinn Gaughan, St Joseph’s Secondary School, Castlebar, Writing winner; Richie Delaney, Murneen, Claremorris, Art winner; Katie Foley, The Valley NS, Achill, Writing winner; Katie Delaney, Murneen, Claremorris, Art Merit.  Pics: Michael McLaughlin

Áine Ryan

THE vibrancy and passion of secondary school pupil Nicole Karl’s imaginative painting of a girl ripping open her Mayo jersey to reveal Croagh Patrick at her heart  – the green and red of her tribal loyalties painted on her cheeks –underpins the very soul of the late Managing Editor of The Mayo News, Neill O’Neill.
But this painting is but one example of the creativity and excellence displayed in all the genres – art, writing and photography – across the three categories of national school, secondary school and adult, honoured at the inaugural Neill O’Neill Creativity Awards, held in the Town Hall Theatre, Westport, at the weekend.
With the characteristic irony that befitted his late brother’s sense of humour, Finbar O’Neill quoted Aristotle while noting the famous Greek philosopher may not normally be associated with Mayo, he added ‘there was a rumour some of his people came from the half parish’.
“The theme of the Neill O’Neill Creativity Awards ‘What Mayo means to me’ is perfectly summarised by [Aristotle’s] statement: ‘The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance,’ he said.  
Speaking on behalf of the O’Neill family, Finbar said they were ‘truly delighted and touched to have Neill remembered in this way as he was a creative character and proud of where he came from’. He cited his passion for photography, his distinctive writing style and even his love of art, which, it seems, may have involved some late night shenanigans while on a trip to Germany with photographer, Michael McLaughlin.
Congratulating the many entrants and prizewinners, Finbar said: “As a family these awards are a fantastic memory of Neill and all that he gave to us, the town and the county. He left a mark and I hope that all of you will continue to use your talents and passion for whatever field or endeavour you choose to do the same. Keep up the good work.”
Awards co-ordinator, Edwin McGreal had earlier introduced The Mayo News Editor, Michael Duffy, who explained the genesis and development of the awards and how, in the difficult months after Neill’s sudden death, he had suggested that the team ‘do something to honour him and his legacy’.
“The staff came back with such brilliant ideas and since Neill was one of the best writers The Mayo News ever has had, he always had a camera in his car ready to stop and take a shot and, regarding art, always wanted to push the boundaries out, the idea for the awards took off,” Michael Duffy said.
He added: “I think the way Kevin Loftus, [Mayo News Head of Design] has illustrated tonight’s winners is so appropriate.”
Speaking also to the packed gathering, Minister Michael Ring recalled his personal friendship and affection for Neill O’Neill.
“There isn’t a day that I don’t think of him and I can still see that smile. He certainly left his mark and he loved this town. I know it is a sad night but we are all still thinking of him,” Michael Ring said.
“I know if he was around tonight he would love this week before the elections. He’d have the video running before anyone else. He was ahead of his time,” he continued.

WITH The Mayo News’s Edwin McGreal in charge of the microphone, assisted by Living Editor, Ciara Moynihan, who coordinated the prize-giving, merit winners and nine overall winners were presented with their prizes to a summary of citations by the various judging panels and to a backdrop of Kevin Loftus’s video and graphic compilation, which captured the rich quality of all the categories.
“Most of all we want to thank our winners and our merit winners and all who entered the competition. It has been the most humbling and gratifying process to be involved in, so thank you so much for engaging so passionately and brilliantly with the competition and the theme,” McGreal said.
Welcoming the strong representation by the O’Neill family, he said: “Thank you so much for your support and your presence here tonight and for your very kind sponsorship of the lovely crystal each of the nine winners received.”
He also thanked The Mayo News staff, and in particular former colleague, Ciara Galvin, who ‘set the wheels in motion for the competition’; the sponsors, SuperValu, Portwest and, as well as all the judges for their deliberations and expertise.
Speaking yesterday (Monday), Natalie Berry, Director of The Mayo News, said: “On behalf of myself and Dermot, I want to express our gratitude to staff, in particular, Edwin McGreal, Kevin Loftus and Ciara Moynihan for their commitment and creativity in ensuring last Saturday night’s inaugural Neill O’Neill Creativity Awards were such a success. They certainly honoured our late and much-loved colleague in an appropriate way.”  


Photography category sponsored by  

National School winner: Damien Kerrigan, Brackloon NS, Westport.
National School Merit winners: Callum Bourke, Cuilmore NS, Newport; Patrick Foley, The Valley NS, Achill; Cillian Hughes, Roundfort NS, Hollymount; Joshua Reilly, Louisburgh NS.
Secondary School winner: Jason Gibbons, Rice College, Westport.
Secondary School Merit winners: Katie Coonan, Sacred Heart School, Westport; Narissa Conroy, Sacred Heart School, Westport; Ethan Grady, Sancta Maria College, Louisburgh; Kelly O’Neill, Sacred Heart School, Westport.
Adult winner: Pawel Zygmunt, Dublin.
Adult Merit winners: Brian Joyce, Owenwee, Westport; Martin McIntyre, Roscahill, Kilmeena; Elizabeth Parsons, Cloongowla, Ballinrobe; Michael Reynolds, Drummindoo, Westport.

Writing category sponsored by Super Valu

National School winner: Katie Foley, The Valley NS, Achill.
National School merit winners: Amelia Fahy, Scoil Phádraig, Westport; Niamh Heraty, Gaelscoil na Cruaiche, Westport; Mary-Kate Lonergan, Carrowholly NS; Laoise Quinn, Scoil Phádraig, Westport.
Secondary School winner: Caoilinn Gaughan, St Joseph’s Secondary School, Castlebar.
Secondary School merit winners: Maude Cullen Mouze, Sancta Maria, Louisburgh; Mark Hastings, Rice College, Westport; Aoife Joyce, Balla Secondary School; Conaill Muldoon, Rice College, Westport.
Adult winner: EM Martin, Kinuary, Killawalla.
Adult merit winners: Cian Dunne, Moyhastin, Westport; Kevin Martin, Murrisk; Seamus McNally, Deerpark East, Westport; Hepsebah O’Reilly, Knappagh, Westport.

Art category sponsored by Portwest

National School winner: Niamh Kelly, Scoil Phádraig, Westport.
National School Merit winners: David Corrigan, Scoil Phádraig, Westport; David Motiu, Scoil Phádraig, Westport; Ruairí O’Neill, St Colmcille’s NS, Westport Quay; Danny Scanlon, St Colmcille’s NS, Westport Quay.
Secondary School winner: Nicole Karl, Sancta Maria College, Louisburgh.
Secondary School Merit winners: Ross McHale, Kildare and Ballycastle; Kayleigh Rice, St Joseph’s Secondary School, Castlebar; Dylan Stanaway, Rice College; Íde Swanton, Sancta Maria College, Louisburgh.
Adult winner: Richie Delaney, Murneen, Claremorris.
Adult Merit winners: Katie Delaney, Murneen, Claremorris; Pat Kelly, Slogger, Westport; Sarah Lavelle, Furnace, Newport; Doreen Mulroy, Tonranny, Westport.