MC Sinéad Burke with Gaisce Gold Awardees
L to R: Oisín Butler from Sutton , Rebecca Duffy, 25, from Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim , Lorcán Tuohy-Donnelly, 18, from Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary, and Christy Benny, 18, from Armagh. Photo: Maxwell’s
On Wednesday 4th December, more than 30,000 hours of commitment and dedication by young people was recognised at a special ceremony held by Gaisce – The President’s Award in Dublin Castle. Patron of Gaisce and President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, presented 77 inspirational young people from across Ireland with their prestigious Gaisce Gold Awards.
Almost a quarter of those awarded during the ceremony hailed from Northern Ireland. This is the largest number of young people from the North to have been honoured in any one ceremony since Gaisce – The President’s Award was founded in 1985. The ceremony was MC’d by the inspirational Sinéad Burke, teacher, writer, broadcaster, fashion-admirer and advocate for disability.
Since his first inauguration in 2011, President Higgins has been a strong supporter of the Gaisce programme. As part of his focus on active citizenship and the promotion of a more inclusive society, the President has paid tribute to Gaisce Awardees for their community work and their support for civil society groups. The President has also praised the President’s Award Leaders, who he said play a pivotal role in guiding the young people in the development of their talents and encouraging them to contribute to the betterment of society.
Gaisce – The President’s Award is a self-development programme for young people between the ages of 15-25, which is proven* to enhance confidence and wellbeing through participation in personal, physical, community and team challenges. It is a direct challenge from the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, to all young people to dream big and realise their potential.
Speaking about the Gaisce Gold ceremony Yvonne McKenna, Chief Executive of Gaisce – The President’s Award said, “I heartily congratulate this year’s Gold Awardees who have shown incredible fortitude in achieving their Gaisce Gold Award. Achieving a Gaisce Award is a marker of each Awardee’s determination to realise their ambitions. I hope that in the challenging times which life can often present, they are encouraged by the memory of this moment where all their endeavours were recognised and celebrated. There is a lot more in each of us than one might think.”
She continued, “I’m particularly delighted to see that we have a record number of young people from Northern Ireland receiving a Gaisce Gold Award today as part of the Joint Award Initiative. It’s wonderful to see that young people from Northern Ireland have such a strong connection with The President’s Award and continue to use its structure as a means of personal development. I would also like to applaud all of the President’s Award Leaders who mentored the young people through their journey and to this special day.”
Gold Awardees have been partaking in a broad range of activities while undertaking Gaisce such as teaching coding to young kids, sailing around the Irish coast, learning Bharatanatyam (Indian Classical Dancing), walking the Camino, partaking in Suisha Inclusive Arts for children with autism, improving their Irish in the Gaeltacht and helping out with local charities such as St. Vincent De Paul and Irish Cancer Society. Each Awardee successfully completed five challenge areas as part of their Award. They dedicated an hour a week for 52 weeks across three challenge areas– volunteering with a charity or community group, developing an existing skill or learning something new, and becoming more active through sport or exercise. Awardees have also completed a four-day adventure journey while discovering the great outdoors as part of a team and broadened their horizons on a five-day residential project outside of their usual community.
This year’s Awardees hail from 17 counties and 42 Gaisce Award Partners (who deliver the Award programme). Since its inception in 1985, over 190,000 young Irish people have received a Gaisce Award, including former Rose of Tralee/Irish MEP Maria Walsh and Irish rugby international and Connacht player Robbie Henshaw.