Community Awards – No Ordinary Joe!

Irvinestown Community Partnership annually celebrates the spirit of volunteering locally with the Margaret Wilson perpetual Award for outstanding voluntary endeavour. The award is a living tribute to the late Margaret Wilson, the visionary behind the concept of the community partnership.

This year’s winner was announced at a celebration dinner on Friday 18th November 2016 in Mahon’s Hotel, with Margaret’s daughters Victoria and Sarah in attendance.

Ted Maye Chairperson of Irvinestown Community Partnership welcomed the large audience and made special welcome to Louise Cullen from the BBC who in a change to the regular formula, read all the nominations for both individuals and for the first time this year for groups as well.

At the outset of the event the local community partnership made presentations to some very special people, business people that had served the community for many years and retired in 2016. Patsy and Carmel formerly of Irvinestown Post office and Raymond and Iris McBrien who ran the Nisa shops were both acknowledged and sincerely thanked for their long service and generosity. In typical good humour Ted and members of the community Partnership presented specially commissioned Belleek plates in recognition of both businesses efforts.

In all 16 nominations were received, 9 voluntary groups and 7 individual volunteers. The Groups and individual volunteers supported a broad range of activity from Cherish Surestart which caters for the needs of young children and their families through to Friends of Lowtherstown Court a charity supporting older people.

All nominees had their moment in the spotlight when MC Ted Maye invited Lousie Cullen to outline the work done by these unsung heroes. The Groups and individual volunteer was then brought forward to the sounds of a specially chosen piece of music. Good humour and personal tributes ensured that the atmosphere was both inspiring and uplifting.

Prior to the announcement of the overall winners Raymond Farrell from Fermanagh and Omagh District Council described the event as “inspiring and uplifting” he congratulated the local community and said many could learn from the shining example of community unity and stressed that Northern Ireland had much to learn from the example set by Irvinestown, he went on to describe volunteering as invaluable on an individual level, but stressed it was also important on a community level.

“It is important that this event is recognised and praised, we need to say thank you more often and I commend this community for taking time to thank the people that make life better for others.”

The celebrations culminated in the announcement of the 2017 winners, the volunteer group that had been judged by their peers to be most deserving of the title, and the individual volunteer who had most impressed the judging panel.

The 2016 group award was given to The summer scheme volunteers (15 per mentors and 8 volunteers, age range 12yrs – 17yrs) who contributed 2140 voluntary hours over the 6 weeks of the summer scheme 2016. These young people attended the training provided by the ARC in preparation for the summer scheme and helped to design and plan the entire programme in support of the summer scheme leaders. 80% of our young volunteers had actually been children on the summer scheme themselves and they are now giving freely of their time to deliver happy childhood memories for the next generation. It is very impressive that our young people are willing give so much of their summer holidays to help others.

Engaged and active young people are the life blood of any community. The young volunteers are helping to develop and mentor the next generation of youth who will hopefully contribute to our community. At a time of great pressure on families with children on holidays the summer scheme provides a much needed outlet from these pressures. These young volunteers are vital in ensuring that the ARC Summer scheme continues apace and continues to help shape the young people who will take our town forward in the coming years. Engaged, educated, enthusiastic young people bodes well for the wider community

After much suspense and many more jokes from Ted, Joe Mahon was named as this year’s title holder of the individual award.

Joe has been involved in many organisation and much charitable / fundraising efforts, but he is best known for his long association with the Lady of the Lake Festival Committee, where he diligently serves as a committee member, Chairperson and currently vice Chairperson.

This is the biggest cross community festival held in Northern Ireland. Visitors and locals alike join in the festivities and craic. The Festival is a celebration of community cohesion and enjoyed by all, that was always the intention of the original founders. 37 years ago Northern Ireland was a place of conflict and division local people like Joe realised that unless the community came together to promote collective celebrations it was at risk of being torn apart by differences, perceived or actual. It took brave and dedicated people to have the courage and vision to plan for a shared future, we in Irvinestown are very blessed to have had such people. Irvinestown is heralded as an exemplar of positive community relations, we owe the festival committee and Joe a huge debt of gratitude for that.

Joe has helped raise over £600,000 for Marie Curie Charity, that is an incredible achievement, the Irvinestown Truck Run fundraising effort has directly supported very many individuals and families affected by cancer and life limiting illness. Joe has supported Children in Need and The Special Olympics, but it’s not just the high profile events and organisations, go into the hotel any day and watch Joe engaging with our elderly citizens, adults with special needs, with people who are lonely and just want somebody to talk to, Joe is there, making people smile, day and daily.

The Drama Group, who nominated Joe for the award have been hugely impressed by Joes incredible work ethic, to describe him as a dynamo would be no understatement. He has served as an active member of the Lady of the Lake Festival Committee for over 30 years, acting as both chairperson and vice chairperson. Both roles are demanding, and Joe has served both with energy, enthusiasm, and follow-through. Joe can be found out front promoting the town, or behind the scene, driving a forklift moving a portaloo for an event, no job is beyond him and no job is beneath him.

From his masterful control of the busy hotel whilst juggling a range of festival duties during the summer season, to supporting the traders / chamber re-establish, Joe is used to stepping in wherever needed, with energy and good humour.

Joe has well and truly put Irvinestown on the map, his ability to generate publicity for town is unparalleled, be it sheep dung spitting or turkey throwing, no idea is to bizarre and whilst many may laugh it undoubtedly portraits Irvinestown as a welcome, inclusive, good humoured town, and it draws people in. Joe has many talents, unfortunately signing isn’t one of them, but that hasn’t stopped him releasing numerous songs, in fairness Shep was the talent in act and will be sorely missed.

Joe is well known, and well liked, people from all parts talk about Joe Mahon, with admiration and affection. Joe is an excellent ambassador for Irvinestown, Fermanagh and indeed Northern Ireland. For too long we have been defined by our problems, in Irvinestown we are known more for our people and place. It’s hard to go anywhere anonymously, people know Irvinestown, and all credit to Joe it’s always for a good news story.

Joes family and many friends were delighted by the announcement and selection panel member Victoria Wilson described the award as very well deserved.

Joe himself was rendered speechless by the announcement and the warm congratulations from the crowd of over a hundred and fifty people, when he regained his voice Joe paid tribute to all the nominees and pledged to continue to work for the good of the area.


List of nominees 2016

NOMINEE                                                                  NOMINATOR 

Joe Mahon                                                               Irvinestown Dramatics

Families of Finn & Tilly                                      ARC Healthy Living Centre                   

Una Magee                                                               Irvinestown Community Choir

SOLACE Service User Reps                               SOLACE

Summer Scheme Volunteers                            ARC Summer Scheme

Lady of the Lake Festival Committee             ITEC

ACCESS Volunteers                                              ACCESS

Irvinestown Scouts                                               Irvinestown Scouts

Jo Anne Irwin                                                         Cherish Sure Start

Dodie Maguire                                                        Friends of Lowtherstown Court

Andrew Wilson                                                      Chit Chat

Liam Donnelly                                                       St. Molaise GFC

Mary Maguire                                                        IFMT

Florence Barrett                                                  Irvinestown Boys Brigade

Trendsetters                                                         Trendsetters Irvinestown

Paddy Mc Cann                                                    Lady of the Lake Festival

Solace User Rep ARC Summer Scheme D Maguire Carmel & Patsy Cherish