‘Paudcast’ star Padraig O’Callaghan has been named as Limerick Person of the Year for 2021.
The digital media star was announced as the winner at a ceremony in the Clayton Hotel Limerick, marking the first time in three years the event has been able to return to its usual format, where the monthly winners gathered to be formally honoured.
Celebrating its 21st year and sponsored by The Limerick Leader, Southern Marketing Design & Media and the Clayton Hotel, and supported by Limerick City and County Council, the Limerick Person of the Year Award was set up to honour the achievements and success of local people at home and abroad.
Addressing the event with a special recorded message Taoiseach Micheál Martin paid tribute to the monthly winners.
“It’s been another extraordinary year for Ireland, a year when the solidarity, generosity and resilience of our people have been shown time and time again. Now again as we face another unprecedented humanitarian crisis caused by an abhorrent and immoral war on Ukraine, the people of Limerick and Ireland are responding magnificently.
“We’ve seen that spirit exemplified through the actions and achievements of many of the nominees honoured today. I want to pay tribute to each one of you for the work you do to make your community in Limerick and the entire country a better and brighter place,” the Taoiseach said.
Speaking after being announced as Limerick Person of the Year 2021, Padraig said: “It’s absolutely sensational, I couldn’t believe it at first. I wasn’t expecting it at all.”
The 2020 Limerick Person of the Year Dr Catherine Motherway, who played a leading role in the response to Covid-19 pandemic, was the guest speaker at the ceremony.
Mayor of the City and County of Limerick Cllr Daniel Butler said: “The Limerick Person of the Year event once again showcases the amazing people we have across the city and county who do that little bit extra and help their communities and people in need. It is an amazing credit to each and every one of the monthly winners that you continued with your selfless spirit throughout what was a very difficult year.
“Congratulations to each and every one of you and special congratulations to the overall Limerick Person of the Year, Padraig O’Callaghan. What you have done has helped so many people, young and old. Through your words, creativity and wit you have allowed us all to look at our lives at a slighted angle that will allow us to focus on the positives and deal with the pressures of life. You fully deserve being called Limerick Person of the Year.”
Donn O’Sullivan, Editor of the Limerick Leader said: “The Limerick Leader team is once again delighted to be part of the Limerick Person of the Year awards. The positivity, dedication and love for Limerick shown by the monthly winners is truly inspiring. To have the awards event, in person, back this year is also a cause for celebration. We have been through a tough time as a city and county, but events like this, which showcase the pride people have for Limerick, is a shining light for all.”
David O’Hora, Director of Southern said: “If there is one thing that the last two years has taught us, it is to be grateful for what we have but more importantly, not just to be grateful, but to express that gratitude to those around us.
“Today we see very loudly and very proudly that we are so grateful to these people who have done so much in an unselfish way to further their cause, their community and the place where they are live.
“This is not a competition and it’s important to stress that. Nobody entered, they were nominated and everybody, individuals or groups, did very different things in very different sectors. What they share in common is a generosity, a true belief and passion for the cause, their club, their community and above all they stand tall in representing what is best about Limerick.
“We are very grateful to each and every one of you and whoever is chosen today as winner is chosen as a representative of all of our winners.”
Darren Harding, General Manager of the Clayton Hotel added: “Clayton Hotel Limerick is honoured and delighted to host the Limerick Person of the Year Awards 2021, the first in person awards since 2019 and we have very much missed it. It is a fantastic occasion which honours the wonderful people of Limerick city and county, it’s the people that make a place and Limerick is no different in that regard. We are very much looking forward to meeting all the recipients again on the day and seeing a very worthy winner take home the Limerick Person of the Year 2021 title.”
Past winners of the title include: Dr Catherine Motherway; Olympian Roisin Upton; philanthropist JP McManus; Limerick’s All-Ireland winning senior hurling team; world champion boxer Andy Lee; rugby star Paul O'Connell; Tidy Towns champion Helen O’Donnell and anti-bullying campaigner Luke Culhane.
The monthly winners were:
January - Pádraig O’Callaghan
A boy who captured the hearts of the nation by sharing his tips on how to stay positive, particularly during the Covid-19 lockdowns, was the Limerick Person of the Month for January.
Pádraig O’Callaghan from Knockainey began working on weekly motivational videos called “Paudcasts” with his father Brian.
Brian said it was a way to help his 11-year-old son Padraig, who has Down syndrome, with his communication skills and confidence.
And all the effort has certainly paid off as young Pádraig is now a complete professional when he’s ‘on air’.
When the Covid-19 restrictions began to chip away at people’s motivation, the Paudcasts really gained traction with people all over the world tuning in for Pádraig’s nuggets of positivity.
Pádraig’s Paudcasts are published on Mondays on the social media platforms of Brian’s business, EcoStraws.
In his videos, Pádraig covers everything from the difference between being a manager and a leader, to the importance of starting your day right by making your bed, as well as the importance of offering support to those who need it when times are tough.
“I’m very happy to get this award. It’s amazing news,” beamed the student of Knockainey National School when he was presented with his award.
Such has been the reaction to his Paudcasts, Pádraig is even contemplating a job in TV when he’s older. He wants to be a “superstar”.
February - Family of the late John Fitzgerald
A family who completed a virtual walk to Perth to raise funds for the Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital Limerick, were named the Limerick Persons of the Month for February.
The family of the late John Fitzgerald of Crecora accepted the award in honour of the popular Limerick man who passed away peacefully in University Hospital Limerick.
The 67-year-old contracted Covid-19 over Christmas in 2020 and he took his last breath on January 27, 2021. His devoted family were at his bedside.
In the midst of their grief, the extended Fitzgerald family decided to organise a virtual journey from the front door of John’s home in Crecora to the front door of his son Mark’s home in Perth.
They wanted to raise money for those who cared for John in his final days.
John was in the ICU for 23 days and spent nine days on a ventilator. Unfortunately, Mark had to witness his dad dying on video from Australia.
A Journey for John raised in the region of €30,000 for staff and patients in the ICU.
Around 100 family and friends in Limerick and as far away as America and Australia took part in the 15,051kms walk over 24 days.
Thanks to the huge generosity of the public and local businesses, a huge array of items including iPads for patients and care packs for staff were purchased and are now being used in the ICU.
March - TY Enterprise Students from Thomond Community College
A group of students who donated the profits they made from their face mask mini-company to help St Camillus’ Hospital, were the Limerick Persons of the Month for March.
The TY enterprise class at Thomond Community College in the city recognised the need for face coverings for all students and staff.
As a mini-company, the students decided to develop their own set of face masks for the school community.
The students came up with the idea of selling the face masks. After extensive market research they decided on the different mask types, incorporating the school crest. And then with software they started designing the masks.
Having sold hundreds of masks, the students made a healthy profit and wanted to do something charitable for the local community.
They came up with the idea of making a tangible donation to St Camillus’ Hospital for the benefit of the residents.
The students contacted St Camillus’ and asked them what they would like. St Camillus’ came back to them a week later and said they were after buying half a dozen tables for outdoors but had no parasols.
The students purchased six top-of-the-range parasols and had extra funding so they decided to gift the hospital with two gazebos as well.
Teacher Diarmuid Kelly met one of the residents who, he said, “got very emotional over it - that the students would think of them”.
The students, Mr Kelly said, could have split the money between themselves but decided to look beyond themselves for a deserving cause.
April - DrawOut Urban Art
The team behind an array of iconic murals which have transformed the landscape of Limerick City, were named the Persons of the Month for April.
Draw Out - Urban Art were honoured for making Limerick City a national and international focal point for the highest quality street art.
Catherine O’Halloran, Managing Director of Draw Out was eager to engage young people in Limerick with art that they felt represented them and made sense to them.
When it comes to choosing a location for a mural, Catherine is adamant that it needs to be connected to a community of some kind.
The Draw Out team has long been recognised and praised for their eye-catching work.
Among the highlights are the Eye Scream mural; the mural of the late Dolores O’Riordan, and, of course, the highly evocative mural of the legendary Limerick lady, Dodo Reddan.
It was the mural to Dodo which brought the group to a whole new level in terms of wider recognition. Artist Omin was chosen to do the work.
Dodo was renowned for her two passions in life, her great love of dogs and rugby, more specifically Young Munster RFC. She attended every game and was a regular at Thomond Park.
She was often seen walking around the city or at matches with her pram full of dogs. She rescued countless dozens of stray dogs and had been caring for 24 dogs when she passed away following a short illness in September 1995.
The mural off Mulgrave Street is a fitting tribute to a unique character.
May - Jack O’Connor
A bright, young entrepreneur whose ‘crazy curiosity about life’ has seen him receive numerous national and international awards - and even a feature in Forbes magazine - was named the Limerick Person of the Month for May.
Jack O’Connor from Kilcolman in West Limerick was shortlisted for the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World Award by Junior Chamber International. A past winner of the award was John F. Kennedy no less!
In 2020 Jack was the United Nations Youth Delegate for Ireland.
Last year he was chosen for the Washington-Ireland programme.
Sadly, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the University of Limerick international business student was not able to travel to the American capital to take part, as all sessions took place virtually.
His greatest success to date has been his establishment of the social enterprise start-up Moyo Nua, which has won international business awards and featured in Forbes magazine.
The project developed a seed planter to allow the user - usually a smallholder farmer in less developed countries - to plant seeds without having to bend over.
Moyo Nua was started as a Young Scientist project when Jack was in sixth year at Desmond College in Newcastle West.
It won the Science Development Award, sponsored by Irish Aid in 2017. The prize included a trip to Malawi sponsored by Irish Aid.
Jack has since volunteered there every year apart from the past two years because of the pandemic.
Jack described it as “a big moment and turning point in my life”.
June - HSE Mid West Community Healthcare’s Home Support Service
A group of people who are considered to be the “unsung heroes” of the health service during the Covid-19 pandemic, were named the Limerick Persons of the Month for June.
HSE Mid West Community Healthcare’s Home Support Service predominantly serves people in the community aged over 65 years of age.
The service helps these people to live longer in their own homes.
Its dedicated team of health care support assistants (HCSAs) support clients with everyday tasks and assist them to continue living independently.
They have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic during a time when they were both vulnerable themselves to Covid-19 and were also caring for very vulnerable clients.
There are 568 HCSAs directly employed by the HSE in the Mid-West region which includes Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary. 289 of them are based in Limerick.
These front-line staff supported nearly 1,800 older people in Limerick last year.
The team also works with other community supports such as meals on wheels and public health nursing services.
The health care support assistants have a different routine to suit each individual’s needs.
They do the practical things like the shopping, lighting the fire, cooking, assisting the client with their personal care such as washing, and they assist them with their medications.
As well as providing this practical assistance and support, HCSAs also found themselves, during the pandemic, providing a much valued listening ear and reassurance to vulnerable older people as some of them were terrified of Covid-19 and had no family members to support them.
July - Limerick-born Tokyo Olympians
The four Limerick-born competitors who represented the Treaty City and County at the Olympic Games in Tokyo last summer were the Limerick Persons of the Month for July.
The Limerick athletes who were selected to represent Team Ireland in Japan were:
- Sarah Lavin, Lisnagry, who competed in the women’s 100m hurdles
- Greg O’Shea, Corbally, who competed as a member of the Ireland Rugby 7s team
- Róisín Upton, Raheen, who was selected on the Irish women’s hockey team
- Carolyn Hayes, Newcastle West, who competed in the individual women’s triathlon event
A battling performance saw Carolyn finish 23rd at her first Olympics.
Carolyn’s father Tony said that joining his family around the television to watch his daughter compete in the Olympics, “Was like getting ready for a Christmas celebration”.
Greg O’Shea competed at the Games with the Ireland Rugby 7s team. Unfortunately, the side didn't manage to get past the group stages of the competition in Japan.
Reflecting on the Games, which of course took place against the backdrop of the global pandemic, Greg said: “We didn’t compete as best we could have but we still came 10th in the world which is amazing for the country.”
Róisín Upton also reflected on the mixed feelings associated with the summer Olympics. From a performance point of view, the Ireland side didn’t achieve their goal of getting to a quarter-final but they are determined to use the experience to develop and improve further.
Athlete Sarah Lavin, meanwhile, spoke of being “overwhelmed” by the response of the people of Limerick to her achievement in representing Ireland in the Olympics.
“I'm overwhelmed by how much everyone appreciates the hard work that goes into becoming an Olympian,” smiled the Lisnagry woman.
August - Limerick All-Ireland Hurling Champions
Limerick’s back-to-back All-Ireland winning hurlers were crowned the Limerick Persons of the month for August.
Limerick took their place in the pantheon of hurling greats last August crushing Cork to seal back-to-back All-Ireland titles for the first time ever.
There were glorious scenes played out in Croke Park and indeed all across Limerick on August 22 when the team reclaimed the Liam MacCarthy Cup. In doing so, they won their third All-Ireland in four years.
The All-Ireland final performance from Limerick was the stuff of dreams.
It was described by many as the most complete a performance as you’ll ever wish to see.
John Kiely’s charges defended their All-Ireland crown in emphatic style on a scoreline of 3-32 to Cork’s 1-22, extending their 100% record in the Championship.
Speaking after the game, the man himself John Kiely said: “A performance like that in the most important sporting fixture in hurling - to do that when you need it most, is a tremendous satisfaction."
His men of course went on to collect a dozen All Star trophies in December. It was the first time in hurling or football that any county had entered double-digits in any one All-Stars selection since the awards commenced in 1971.
And as we look ahead to their first Championship game against Cork on Easter Sunday we are all hoping that there is at least one more fairytale ending to the story of hurling’s green giants.
September - Róisín Ní Ríain
A County Limerick teenager who reached five swimming finals at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, was named the Limerick Person of the Month for September.
At the age of 16, Róisín Ní Ríain from Drombanna, was the youngest of last year’s 29 member Paralympics Ireland team.
Even though she didn’t win a medal, it was a remarkable Paralympics for the Limerick swimmer.
Róisín competed in six events in the swimming pool: 100m backstroke; 100m butterfly; 100m breaststroke; the 50m and 400m freestyle, and the 200m individual medley.
She qualified for finals in each event except for the 50m freestyle.
“It was just an unbelievable experience - like nothing I’ve ever experienced before,” smiled Róisín when she was presented with her award, in the company of her mother, Marian.
The stand-out moment for Róisín from the Games was walking out for her first swim.
“It was surreal to think that I was walking out to compete in the Paralympics,” she smiled.
Having started swimming at the age of four, Róisín’s success in reaching the Games and then performing so strongly in them was down to her training and dedication.
Róisín, who is visually impaired, trains at the National Centre Limerick which is based in the University of Limerick.
It’s not unusual for the Gaelcholáiste Luimnigh student to be in the pool there at 6am - while all the other students and, indeed, probably most of us are fast asleep in our beds.
October - Treaty United FC
Having treated Limerick sports fans to a phoenix from the ashes-style performance last season, Treaty United FC were named the Limerick Persons of the Month for October.
Accepting the award, Tommy Barrett, Treaty United men’s first team manager thanked all those who got behind the side which only began playing in the League of Ireland in 2021.
Following the demise of Limerick FC, the need for a senior soccer side in Limerick was realised with the founding of Treaty United in 2020.
The new club had the distinction of having a women's side before a men's side.
They applied for a licence to enter the First Division in November 2020, but when the fixtures came out in early February 'TBC' [to be confirmed] was one of the teams.
TBC eventually became Treaty, but not until 20 February - three days before their squad had to be finalised.
The club exceeded nearly all expectations, finishing in the play-offs in November, where they lost to eventually promoted UCD.
The big question is - what was the magic formula that saw an amateur squad that was pulled together just three days before the transfer deadline in February end up vying for promotion to the top-flight of Irish football by November?
According to Tommy, “The lads gelled well”.
“They weren’t playing for money,” he said, “and I suppose that helped in many ways that they all knew that there was no one on professional contracts or big money. They’re a good bunch of lads,” he said.
November - Ballysteen Carnegie Development Company
A committee which oversaw the transformation of a run-down library building into a modern facility which is now the heartbeat of their local community, were the Limerick Persons of the Month for November.
The Carnegie Library in Ballysteen, built by the Carnegie Trust in 1908, sat abandoned in the centre of the village located five kilometres from the town of Askeaton.
“At one time it was the most vibrant community centre but there was never a toilet there,” explained Siobhán Costello of how Ballysteen Carnegie Library and Community Heritage Centre came to be.
The building had always been held in great affection by people from near and far who would have enjoyed many a good night there, at the Irish Céilí dances. The library also hosted local concerts, political meetings and of course the library.
Following many public meetings and a subsequent public ballot, the decision was made to revamp the building.
A local committee, headed up by the energetic Siobhán Costello, called the Ballysteen Carnegie Development Company Limited, was formed.
It has been a challenging project for the committee not made any easier by Covid-19 restrictions.
A massive drive was instigated locally with fundraisers organised.
Their achievement is all the more impressive given that, despite the €270,000 price tag of the project, they are now “practically debt free”.
Already, since its official opening last November, the building is in high demand by a whole host of clubs and organisations.
“It has been an arduous journey resurrecting this building but no doubt a journey which will benefit generations for years to come,” said Siobhan.
December - Limerick City Centre Traders’ Association
A group which was founded with the intention of increasing footfall in the city and creating a better shopping experience for visitors, were named the Limerick Persons of the Month for December.
Limerick City Centre Traders’ Association was founded in January 2020 just before Covid-19 changed the retail landscape the world over.
Throughout the pandemic the group have been combining their efforts and working in partnership with Limerick City and County Council to bring “a real buzz” to the heart of the city.
The initial aim of the association was to develop a plan that they felt would benefit Limerick City. But then Covid struck.
“It accelerated our need to work together,” explained Caroline Long, Chairperson of Limerick City Centre Traders’ Association.
A whole month of activities took place in August and what the association quickly found was that “activities drove people into the city because they had something to come in for”.
Performances by jazz musicians, choirs and buskers had shoppers walking with a spring in their step - some even dancing along the city streets - while other activities included free Zumba classes and children’s entertainment.
Such was the positive response that the association set about planning a programme from mid-November to Christmas week with even more on-street entertainment to enjoy.
The association is always urging people to think local before pressing the purchase button for goods online.
“We’ve got to remember that every shop and every business that is open in Limerick is employing local people and these people are our families, our relatives and our friends. We need our shops open and we need our city vibrant,” said Caroline.