Tip O'Neill Irish Diaspora Awards 2017

Award recipients pictured with Tom O'Neill from Boston, Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council Cllr. Gerry Mc Monagle, Chief Executive Seamus Neely and Head of Enterprise, Michael Tunney
Award recipients pictured with Tom O'Neill from Boston, Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council Cllr. Gerry Mc Monagle, Chief Executive Seamus Neely and Head of Enterprise, Michael Tunney

The sixth Annual Tip O Neill Irish Diaspora Awards weekend took place last weekend in Donegal.  Organised as part of Donegal County Council’s Donegal Diaspora Project, the Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Awards gives recognition to members of our Diaspora who have excelled in their chosen field.  This year there were four recipients who had been nominated through an open nomination process.

The weekend began with each of the four recipients hosting a workshop at Ulster University, Magee campus in their respective areas of expertise.  The awards ceremony took place on Friday night in An Grianan Hotel, Burt and the awards were presented jointly by the Cathaoirleach Councillor Gerry Mc Monagle and Tom O’Neill, Tip’s son who travelled from Boston with his wife and friends to support the event.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, the Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Councillor Gerry Mc Monagle encouraged people to submit their nominations for next year’s awards.  He talked about the importance of this event to the county and his delight at having four new ambassadors around the world that Donegal County Council can develop relationships with for the mutual benefit of the county and its communities.

Speaking at the event, Packie Bonner referring to his connectedness to Donegal said that he never really left.  He talked about cherishing his childhood in Donegal and about how Donegal people, no matter wherever they may be around the world, retain their uniqueness and their warmth.  Referring to the famous save in 1990, he said, at the beginning he used to be embarrassed about it but now he embraces it and realises the opportunities it has created to allow him be an ambassador for his home county.

The Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Prudential Financial, Inc, Barbara Koster talked about the Pramerica family, the companies’ links to the local community and how she accepted the Tip O’ Neill Irish Diaspora Award on behalf of all 1500 staff based in Letterkenny. The Tip O’ Neill weekend coincided with the official opening of the new Pramerica plant in Letterkenny and earlier in the day had spoken about the future for Pramerica in Donegal being very bright. 

Fraser Doherty, founder of SuperJam and Beer52 spoke about his passion for business and how his grandmother originally from Listillion, on the outskirts of Letterkenny, and his grandfather from St. Johnston influenced him and with the support of his family and friends he has gone on to become a very successful young entrepreneur.  He concluded by saying that he was looking forward to stronger ties to his Grandparents home county going forward.

Martin Meehan, President of the University of Massachuettes talked about his close working relationships with the Letterkenny Institute of Technology and Ulster University and about developing these and other relationships for the mutual benefit of the Northwest Region.

Tom O’Neill, Tip’s son, talked about his delight in returning to the event this year and at the selection of the most deserving award recipients.  He said he knew his father, if he had been present, would be so proud and would fully concur with the Council’s decision to honour the four recipients.

The weekend concluded with the inaugural Tip O’Neill Donegal Diaspora Golf Challenge held in Ballyliffin Golf Course.  Donegal County Council was delighted to welcome golf teams from the United States including St. Peter’s University from New Jersey, Worcester State and the University of Massachusetts from Boston.  Our visiting teams together with a number of public and private sector teams enjoyed a great day out in Ballyliffin with the Letterkenny Institute of Technology winning the Tip O’Neill Perpetual Cup and Donegal County Council winning the Donegal Diaspora Golf Challenge. 

Michael Tunney, Head of Enterprise said we have been delighted with the response to the change in the format of the Tip O’ Neill weekend.  The open nomination process, the workshops and the golf challenge made the Diaspora Awards a very significant event for the county and the region.  The willingness of the recipients to engage with us in the events and to support the Donegal Diaspora Project is both a strong endorsement and a challenge.  There is still a lot of work to be done to engage with our Diaspora around the world.

The nomination process for the 2018 awards will be opening soon.  Donegal County Council would encourage our Diaspora, defined as those not only from the county but those with a connection to, and interest in, the county to submit their nominations.  Details will be available on www.donegaldiaspora.com.   If you wish to sign up to receive updates on the Donegal Diaspora Project please do so by submitting your details at http://www.donegaldiaspora.ie/connect