BY SIOBHÁN CRONIN
TWO tireless community workers were honoured with well-deserved monthly awards in The Southern Star/Celtic Ross West Cork Heroes awards last week.
Michael O’Sullivan from Rosscarbery and Nora Cremin from Bantry received the March and April awards respectively at a ceremonial lunch in the Celtic Ross Hotel last Friday.
The awards have been organised to acknowledge the work of often-unsung community activists and carers in our community and they will culminate in a gala awards night in early 2017.
Judges are Neil Grant, manager of the Celtic Ross Hotel; Niall O’Driscoll, community editor of The Southern Star and independent judge, Patsy Puttnam.
Accepting his award from Mrs Puttnam, retired garda Michael O’Sullivan said he appreciated that there were many other deserving ‘heroes’ who could be winners, but perhaps may never be recognised publicly as such. ‘Yet, I must say, that were it not for the voluntary work being carried out by volunteers in so many different areas of life, all over the country, Ireland would indeed be much the poorer. So perhaps today, I am one of the lucky ones,’ he said.
He also thanked those who had nominated him. ‘No words of mine can explain my happiness and my appreciation for their kind gestures,’ he added.
Among the groups he has been involved with, or founded, are: the Reenascreena Group Water Scheme; Rosscarbery Community Council; The West Cork Disadvantaged Area Extension; Rosscarbery Social Housing for the Elderly; the West Cork Bowling Association; Carbery Rangers GAA Club; Scór; Mount St Michael board of management, Rosscarbery and the Centenary Celebrations for the Sisters of Mercy.
‘I have worked with some extraordinary men and women in these areas, all devoted and dedicated to the shared aims and goals of us all,’ he continued, and thanked his family and especially his wife Mary. ‘She is a great woman and was always fully supportive and encouraging of me in my community work. Mary, too, is a very community-minded person but always went about her community work in a more silent way than yours truly, but was just as committed.’
Michael also spoke of the importance of community, and of keeping old traditions, like the Meitheal system of bartering and co-operation, alive. ‘We must remember that no man is an island, and that no matter how far we move with technology, there is no computer that can care and feel and love in the way that we humans can. We must look after each other. And what we give out to the world, we get back tenfold.’
In presenting the award to Bantry’s Nora Cremin, judge Niall O’Driscoll read out a letter of congratulations from the Breakthrough Cancer Research offices in Cork, thanking Nora for all her work down the years, and in particular for raising over €140,000 for cancer research.
Nora explained how, after being diagnosed with cancer and later leukaemia herself, she decided to set up a ‘bring and buy’ shop for unwanted items in Bantry. She began her stall at the Friday market, and later established it in a number of temporary premises in the town. ‘You could say we invented the pop-up shop,’ she said.
She recalled the late cancer specialist Prof Gerry O’Sullivan from Caheragh, who was then a consultant in the Mercy. “I swore by him,’ she said, recalling a consultation where she was delighted to give him an envelope containing €10,000 for cancer research. She said that after spending ten months in isolation in hospital, she made two promises – she would visit Lourdes every year, and raise money for cancer research.
‘I think I have raised over €140,000 now,’ she said. Thanking her nominators, and all her friends and supporters in Bantry, she added: ‘I feel research very dear to my heart and I would also like to pay tribute to staff in the lab in UCC who are doing wonderful work.’
Apart from this fundraising work, Nora is also very active in other areas of the community. Over the years she has trained the adult choir in St Finbarr’s Church, Bantry; was treasurer of Atlantic Challenge Irl for 16 years; was secretary of Bantry INTO for 21 years and was one of the founder members of Bantry Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. She was also one of a committee of eight responsible for the Capt Francis O’Neill monument in Tralibane, Bantry.
• Tell us who your West Cork Hero is. See page 39 for a nomination form.