Editor’s address at the Derry Journal People of the Year Awards 2021
Good evening everyone, thank you all for being here tonight as we celebrate many of those who are making such a positive contribution to our community.
Thank you to our host Adrian Logan, our principal sponsor Bet McLean, returning Category Sponsors - Calor, Derry City & Strabane District Council, Alchemy Technology Services, Specsavers Ferryquay Street and Crescent Link, Apex Housing Association, City of Derry Airport and our new category sponsors Ulster University and Vogue Car Sales. And thanks also to the staff here at the Everglades and to Julie Forde and the team for organising tonight’s event.
It’s fair to say life has changed quite a bit since we last held the Derry Journal People of the Year Awards two years ago, and we have all been impacted in different ways by the events that have unfolded since then.
As the shutters came down on our way of life back in March 2020 none of us knew what the future would hold. But as a hush fell over our streets, already something extraordinary was under way.
Over the past 19 months healthcare staff in our hospitals, care homes, pharmacies, social services facilities and those caring for loved ones at home were going above and beyond day and daily, while staff at our schools and colleges, our emergency services and charities, shop workers and transport workers also stepped up despite the risk to themselves.
We have seen teams of community workers, youth groups and sports clubs right across counties Derry, Tyrone and Donegal sweep into action to provide a lifeline for the people in their areas, while festival teams, artists, musicians and entertainers kept spirits up with online and outdoor performances.
We have seen men and women, many of whom are gathered here tonight, undertake superhuman feats of endurance, incredible acts of charity, and lead vital campaigns for the local community.
It is such acts of devotion and that community spirit that the late Martin McCrossan envisioned honouring when he started these awards, and so it is our privilege to be able to invite you all here tonight to continue that tradition in his memory.
At the Journal we have been highlighting many of those positive stories over the past two years. Next year will see the 250th anniversary of the first edition of the Derry Journal being printed way back in 1772. We have reamined embedded in the heart of this community since, telling the stories of local people for generations, and we hope to keep on doing so for generations to come.
Since we last gathered here we have lost great people in our community, our prince of peace Nobel Laureate John Hume, his wife and partner in peace Pat Hume, the founder of the Foyle Hospice Dr Tom McGinley and White Oaks and IOSAS founder Father Neal Carlin to name but a few, while many other families have lost loved ones, people who contributed so much and helped build the strong sense of community very much in evidence today. We remember them all here tonight.
All the nominees here this evening have been instrumental in providing hope and bringing our community together at a time when we have grown used to being forced apart.
Collectively and individually you are an inspiration to all of us, and so before I hand over to Paul McLean from our principal sponsor Bet McLean I’d ask you to please put your sanitised hands together for all our incredible finalists in the Derry Journal Bet McLean 2021 People of the Year Awards.