In November 2018, community and voluntary sectors representatives descended on Cork to honour their best and brightest at the Pride of Place Awards.

There wasn’t a hotel room to be found in Cork city in mid-November, as 700 people settled in Leeside for the 16th annual Pride of Place Awards.

The awards are the biggest community and voluntary sector event of the year, and the organisers hired Cork City Hall to seat the audience in style. Many groups revelled in the opportunity to let their hair down and celebrate the fruits of hard volunteer work.

Pride of Place awards recognise the invaluable work volunteers do in communities across the island of Ireland. Each year, local authorities submit nominations in order to highlight local groups that make “an outstanding contribution to supporting and strengthening their local community”. The stand-out projects are then visited so that judges can see for themselves who shines the most. No easy task.

The competition began as a Co-operation Ireland programme and is now the island’s largest event recognising community development achievements.

“It is important to recognise the role of local authorities, north and south [of the border], who work closely with their communities to support inspiring voluntary initiatives,” said Michael Garvey, CEO of event sponsor IPB Insurance.

Including runners-up, there were 49 winning groups this year. (See below.)

The Maharees Conservation Association team pictured outside their building

The Maharees Conservation Association team pictured outside their building. Photo: Domnick Walsh.

Special award for the Maharees

The Maharees Peninsula was one of six places to win a special award.

The Maharees, together with Tralee Bay to the east and Brandon Bay to the west, make up an extensive complex of coastal habitats and support a rich variety of wildlife, including Ireland’s endangered natterjack toad.

It is an area of outstanding natural beauty and has one of the best examples of a tombolo in Ireland. (A tombolo is a bar of sand or shingle joining an island to the mainland).

The peninsula is part of the Tralee Bay and Maharees Peninsula, West to Cloghane Special Area of Conservation and is designated as such under the EU Habitats Directive.

Maharees Conservation Association CLG is a coastal community group which engages a wide-ranging network of volunteers.

Working collaboratively with agencies and stakeholders – such as Kerry County Council, NUI Galway, NPWS, Clean Coasts (an Taisce) and IT Tralee – its mission is to protect the coastline and natural heritage of the Maharees, raise awareness of the cultural and ecological importance of the area, and ensure the viability of the Maharees community.

The Maharees’ special award was accompanied by a citation describing the peninsula (and the conservation association) as being “notable not just as an area of great natural beauty, but distinguished by a dedicated local group working to ensure a sustainable approach to conservation that is exemplary and a model for others to follow”.

2018’s big winners

Population Category 0-300 Ray, Co Donegal

Population Category 300-1,000 Balla, Co Mayo

Population Category 1,000-2,000 Rathdrum, Co Wicklow

Population Category 2,000-5,000 Bunclody, Co Wexford

Population Category over 5,000 Shannon Town, Co Clare

For a full list of the 2018 Pride of Place Awards winners, visit the competition website.

Main image: Tipperary Comhairle na nÓg award winners, pictured at the 2018 Pride of Place ceremony in Cork City Hall.