Annual Environmental Awards Ceremony 2020

Our Award giving ceremony was different this year as limited to an on-line event but as they go it still exuded the great sense of passion, activism, caring and commitment to sustainability and the environment though the descriptive introductions by nominators, acceptances by the winners and the citations by our special guests.   

Community & Voluntary

Rachel Power who was just one of 7 nominators of the winners in the Community and Voluntary Category Frank Dorr and Eileen Lynch. Rachel highlighted Frank and Eileen’s tireless efforts to promote awareness of environmental matters in Cork City and County through their work with SHEP Earth Aware and Elders for Earth. They have rallied people, organised meetings, visited politicians, supported campaigns and wrote submissions on various climate change and environmental topics over the last number of years. They have sought out imminent speakers from all disciplines to share their thoughts and ideas on how we might live sustainably. This work has been ongoing for years, with SHEP Earth Aware founded in 2014. They have supported a stronger climate change response at community level and have marched and stood in solidarity with young people including the Fridays4Future Cork group.

Eileen and Frank said that this was an award they accepted on behalf of the many others who support and work with them on the activities of SHEP Earth Aware and Elders for Earth. They outlined the many shared challenges we all face and their own motivation and commitment to continuing their work in raising awareness, taking action and looking for solutions in particular to climate change and biodiversity loss.

Carbery Housing Association who received a commendation under the Community & Voluntary Sector were introduced by nominator Caitriona Courtney. Carbery Housing is a voluntary community-based organisation working to fight homelessness in Cork City and County with a very strong focus on upgrading all the properties they purchase to make them as energy efficient as possible to help tenants get out of fuel poverty and because environmental protection is next on their list of priorities after housing people. They were one of the earlier Sustainable Energy Community groups to register in Cork and have an energy master plan in place for how they will carry out deep retrofits on all their homes, with 2 properties completed in summer 2020. They are also a partner in a European project that will pilot new technology that will fit houses with hybrid storage systems merging batteries and storage heaters. Caitriona especially mentioned the perseverance and resilience of Jose Ospina in maintaining the Association despite many set-backs.

Jose in his acceptance thanked CEF for this recognition and gave a passionate insight into his own motivation for striving to provide energy efficient, quality social housing to those most in need.

Lord Mayor, Cllr. Joe Kavanagh gave warm and heartfelt congratulations to both Eileen and Frank and Carbery Housing association commenting on Eileen and Frank’s presence outside City Council most Fridays’ in support of Fridays4Future Climate Strikes before restrictions came in. He commended Jose and Carbery Housing Association on all of their good work with Jose showing great promise as a Minister for Housing!

Orla Burke, representing the Cork City Public Participation Network (PPN) sponsors of the Community & Voluntary Award added her congratulations to Eileen and Frank and Carbery Housing Association, reflecting that these awardees champion the aims of the PPN with its structure of social, environmental and community and voluntary colleges.

Daniel Buckley gave an overview of the work of the very well deserving Outstanding Individual Winner, Ted Cook. Ted has been working to protect the natural environment for over 40 years. He was a founding member of the Macroom District Environmental Group, has been involved in campaigns to change Irish forestry policy and to this day engages with schools and community groups in Cork, promoting the importance of Irish native trees and woodland. Ted has a wonderful way with words and frequently reads out poetry inspired by nature at public events. As Daniel said “I have witnessed myself the enthusiasm and love for nature that Ted inspires in those who attend his public tree planting events and nature walks. He is a true force of nature and a wonderful advocate for trees and heritage”.  

Regretfully the irrepressible Ted, was curtailed by technology and his commitment to education, and could not join the ceremony in person on-line. We know that just that day he was at the Glanmire National School enthusing a curiosity and love of trees in another generation of children, which he does so well and was late returning to Kilbarry. We were pleased to get a subsequent message from Ted to say he is delighted with his bogyew sculpture as he adores the yew tree.  

Donal O’Leary received a commendation under this category for his unstinting work in raising awareness of food waste and building knowledge and engaging people and communities to compost. Delivering training in schools and community settings such as Tidy Towns groups, Community gardening groups and businesses, including the Master Composter Course which trains community members as composting experts to pass on their skills to compost. In her introduction to his work nominator Louise Harrington  said “Donal is the most knowledgeable person I have ever met on the subject of composting. He is excellent at engaging with people from a wide range of backgrounds and could captivate any audience on the topic.” Louise mentioned Donal’s generosity with both his time and expertise.

Mayor of the County, Cllr. Mary Lenihan Foley gave a very inspiring congratulatory presentation. Acknowledging our own work in CEF and applauding both Ted and Donal who are well known within Cork County Council and many of Cork’s communities. They are also both very involved with Macroom District Environmental Group so focused on their own local area and communities too. Ted engages very much with the Heritage Officer, Conor Nelligan and has done many walks, talks, planting and wonderful features for the Council over many years whilst Donal engages with different sections of the Council most particularly the Environment Directorate and delivering workshops in mnay communities.

Louise Harrington proved a prolific nominator with a win for her nomination of Inch Hideaway under the Business and Commercial Award. Displaying exemplary ingredients of an eco-tourism product with their low impact campsite, including compost toilets, cob and wood build kitchen area, outdoor cob pizza oven, yurt accommodation created with local wood, heated by wood burning stoves, encouraging people to slow down, come away from technology and reconnect with the outdoors. In addition they owners, Colleen & Fabrizio  have planted lots of trees, pollinator friendly plants and a vegetable garden on the site  Inch hideaway reaches out and connects with the local community by making their barn space available for groups and events, such as Surf2Heal as a practice space for local musicians and other activities.

Neil Lydon, Deutsche Börse Group and Clearstream, one of the sponsors of the Awards, added his congratulations to Colleen and Fabrizio for embedding their sustainable ethos through their business. He emphasised how important it is for people to support local businesses such as Inch Hideaway which have a low footprint and offer such a sustainable tourism product on our doorstep. Whilst Clearstream, based in Albert Quay in the city, is a Financial Services Company they are also more aware of the need to apply non-financial factors of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) to their business and are making real efforts including the setting up of a Climate Working group in 2019 which is connecting in with all other sectors in Cork in a more proactive way since their move to the City centre.  

Circuléire, under Irish Manufacturing Research are the worthy Public Sector Award Winner. Shirley Gallagher highlighted the work that in particular Geraldine Brennan and David McCormack have done to create a National Platform of 28 partners, across sectors, to bridge the circularity gap through collaboration, knowledge and innovation. In their acceptance David said he was grateful for the public acknowledgment of the award in recognition of the work carried out and thanked the sponsors of the project.  He also pointed out that Circuleire was the 1st national platform for the circular economy in any jurisdiction . Geraldine gave kudos to the team, in creating something from nothing and recognised the collaboration required from all stakeholders to create the platform. Both are looking forward to creating opportunities in the national circular economy in the New Year and Geraldine made an announcement about funding availabilities that were now open. 

Special guest Claire Downey, Coordinator, Community Resources Network of Ireland (CRNI) said “we need collaboration through programmes like Circuleire across so many areas in order to make the right options the easy ones – in this case, making it as viable, accessible, innovative and fashionable as possible to prevent waste, reuse, remanufacture, and recycle.” Circuleire is welcome for so many reasons. It can help connect existing practitioners – like CRNI members – with business and industry and create collaborations and growth and thereby help mainstream activity in this area.

The Sustainable Agriculture Award for 2020 was awarded to the Duhallow Farming for Blue Dot Catchments. With an explanatory introduction from project scientist, Michael O’Connor and Michael Morrisey, Agricultural Scientist the Duhallow Farming for Blue Dot Catchments is a farmer focused approach to reducing the impact of agriculture on water quality and restoration of habitats. The project centres around the Blackwater River SAC, in particular the rivers Allow, Dalua and Owenanare. As one of the participant farmers, James O’Keeffe explained “a variety of measures can be adopted by farmers to achieve these goals. These include nutrient and sediment management measures, biodiversity measures, habitat retention measures and buffer measures.” Special guest Donal Daly, a catchment scientist formerly with the EPA who has years of experience dealing with water quality commended the project as the objectives have a broader focus beyond water quality encompassing biodiversity and climate change which he said are all connected. Donal said of the results based payments “I believe this is a vital approach for the future, farmers will be learning to do their own checking that the environment on their farms is ok, we need more project’s like this and more IRDs in the country”.

Maura Walsh, CEO, IRD Duhallow in her acceptance stressed that the project is dependent on relationships and the co-operation of farmers and the local community. One of the main aims of the project is to increase community knowledge of biodiversity and to raise awareness of the importance of protecting our rivers. This project can build on the previous learnings and experiences of former LIFE programmes that IRD has implemented.  

This year CEF was delighted to Award two Lifetime Achievement Awards. The first of these was presented to Michael Ewing, former co-ordinator of the Irish Environmental Network, for his decades of work for the environment but most especially for the contribution he has made over many years in support of the Aarhus Convention. In her citation, Professor Áine Ryall, School of Law UCC & Vice-Chair UN ECE Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee, said Michael was ahead of his time in recognising, at a very early stage, the significance and the potential of the Aarhus Convention. He understood what the Convention was seeking to achieve. He pushed hard to ensure that the right to information, the right to participate in decision-making and the right of access to justice in environmental matters would be meaningful in practice.  He made the contents of the Convention understandable to a wide audience. This Lifetime Achievement Award is very richly deserved. I congratulate Michael Ewing – a true ‘Aarhus champion’.

The final Award of the evening was a Lifetime Achievement Award to long standing CEF member David Lee who has dedicated so much of his life to protecting water quality and supporting a catchment management approach to our rivers and water bodies. Sinead O’Brien, Sustainable Water Network Coordinator, spoke about the two worlds of top level policy and local level action and how often there is lack of connection between our two worlds.  She said “David is that link.  He is a wonderful example of an environmental champion who has spent many years comfortably working in both worlds and  acting as a bridge between them. While he has been working away tirelessly in his area of Cork establishing the River Funshion Catchment Group and most recently on the river Farahy, doing river assessments and fire-fighting all sorts of issues and pollution incidents, he has also been an extremely knowledgeable and invaluable member of the SWAN board of directors  for the past 12 years, providing a strategic steer to our national umbrellas network of 25 NGOs in relation to our input to national policy and providing that link to the reality of water protection on the ground.”  Donal Daly, who added his congratulations to David added “Scientists like me just doing scientific analysis, often in a bit of a bubble, will not bring about the changes and progress we need to protect and improve our natural resources – the asset we all depend on, particularly in the context of the climate crisis, biodiversity crisis and water quality deterioration. In particular, we need people with drive, character and

practical knowledge working locally if we are to succeed. David is one of these people!

Established in 2001, the Cork Environmental Forum Awards honour the sometimes little known actions of groups, organisations and individuals around the county that have contributed to the health or richness of the Cork environment.  2020 marks the 20th Award giving ceremony and CEFs 25th Anniversary.  

Both Shirley Gallagher, CEF Chairperson and Bernie Connolly, CEF Coordinator, congratulated all of the richly deserving Award winners, again thanked the adjudication panel, all of the special guests and everyone who attended the Ceremony. It has been a difficult year in so many respects and this uplifting and inspiring event gives us all a sense of hope when we see the level of activity being carried out by so many dedicated people across Cork City, Cork County and beyond.  Many of the recipients to the fore in this year’s awards are reflective of years of unrelenting activism and work to address problems with our environment from water quality, to climate change, biodiversity to homelessness, resource efficiency and circularity, and protection of habitats and nature, including through legal instruments.  So true to CEF’s outlook, never give up, can do & work in collaboration. The resonance of the Awards is the strong sense that no one is doing this alone, there are many others who care and are taking action that really makes such a difference.

CEF is delighted to see such great quality across all nominations and thank everyone who took the time and effort to make a nomination. The task of the selection panel, consisting of Matt Jones & Isabelle Sutton (CEF Board) and Justin Byrne, Irish Environmental Network (IEN), was a very difficult one given the merits of all entries and it is so uplifting to see the level of activity being carried out by so many dedicated people across Cork city and county and beyond, many of them on a very long term basis. CEF is also recognising the many decades of work by Michael Ewing, formerly Coordinator with the IEN and CEF member David Lee.

If you would like to join us to applaud and celebrate their achievements please join us at an on-line zoom cermony on Thursday 10th December 2020 from 7pm -9pm by booking through Eventbrite link here.

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