SKIBBEREEN climate activist Saoi O’Connor has been named this year’s Outstanding Individual at the Cork Environmental Forum’s Awards ceremony.
Saoi received the recognition for her leadership role in Cork’s climate strikes and for what judges called ‘galvanising the commitment of others to raise awareness and communicating widely on the climate crisis.’
She began her climate action on January 11th, outside Cork’s City Hall and has no plans to stop any time soon as she says ‘nothing has changed.’
The Fridays for Future Cork group, of which Saoi is a member, received a commendation for their consistent commitment to calling on the Government to honour the Paris Agreement and act on climate change.
Established in 2001, the Cork Environmental Forum work to promote sustainable development in the region by connecting with key community groups and running their own programme of sustainability events and projects.
At the ceremony in the Firkin Crane Theatre in Cork city, CEF chairperson James O’Donovan pointed to ‘the strengths we have in Ireland to make the positive changes required and that this event is a recognition of just some of those contributing to this trajectory.’
Whilst not shying away from the dual crises of biodiversity loss and climate change that challenges us all, CEF’s Bernadette Connolly said that this is a chance to ‘pause and reflect on what is being achieved by all the individuals, groups and organisations being honoured here.’
Other West Cork people who were honoured were mother-and-daughter team Madeline McKeever and Holly Cairns (also a Social Democrat councillor) who run Brown Envelope Seeds on Turks Head. They were acknowledged for the ‘significant work they do in continuing to provide open pollinated seeds which are a very important basis for diversity and resilience in the food system.’
Madeline noted: ‘100 years ago I would not be receiving this award as this is what every grower was doing.’
Lifelong environmentalist Mark Boyden was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. He founded the Coomhola Salmon Trust (near Bantry) and the Streamscapes programme in 1989 which has been delivered throughout the island of Ireland. Judges said the award recognised ‘his decades of contribution to an inclusive catchment management approach as well as in the broader context in his role as chairperson of the Sustainable Water Network.’