Tom Jennings, second lieutenant, Castlebar Order of Malta, laying a wreath at a new plaque dedicated to the voluntary ambulance services at Mayo Peace Park.

Order of Malta in Mayo county town marks 80th anniversary

One million hours of community service since 1943 lauded

Castlebar Order of Malta celebrated 80 years community service today with a ceremony at Mayo Peace Park.

Glowing tributes were paid to the organisation and its dedicated volunteers for its outstanding service to the town and district since its foundation in 1943 during the emergency.

In his tribute, Councillor Michael Loftus, cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, said it is estimated the unit has contributed one million hours of service to the town and its hinterland.

The Crossmolina-based representative confirmed the council's commitment to securing funding of €500,000 towards the restoration and enhancement of the unit's HQ.

The building, located at Pavilion Road, has fallen into decline due to site subsidence issue.

Minister of State Dara Calleary echoed Councillor Loftus' words of support, stating he and his fellow Mayo Oireachtas representatives are fully aware of the urgent need for the investment.

"Many events in the community simply cannot go ahead without the support and involvement of the Order of Malta and the active participation of its volunteers.

"I appreciate the upgrading of the HQ is very much a priority issue for the organisation."

Liam McHugh, officer-in-charge, Castlebar Order of Malta, said a new plaque, which has been erected at Mayo Peace Park, immortalising the dedication of those who served in the local voluntary ambulance services over a number of generations.

"Their dedication to humanitarian efforts, as well as their sacrifice, has left an indelible mark on our community, of which we are very proud.

"Since its inception in 1943 our organisation has become a beacon of service and compassion.

"Over the past eight decades we have seen Castlebar Order of Malta evolving into a symbol of unwavering commitment and a testament to endurance and volunteerism.

"I take this opportunity to thank everybody who has been part of this journey. Your dedication has been a cornerstone of our success, shaping Castlebar Order of Malta into the force for good that it is today."

Patrick Downes, chair of Order of Malta Ireland, said the unit's 80th anniversary is a tribute to its dedication and perseverance.

"One million hours of service is remarkable and involved attending hundreds of community events like football matches and other gatherings.

"It's a lot of ground covered and a lot of hours in the week and, interestingly, Reek Sunday 2023 was 80th year of consecutive service by the Order of Malta at Croagh Patrick.

"It is true to say that Mayo has been the sweet spot for the organisation over the years with units in Achill, Ballina, Ballinrobe, Belmullet/Erris, Castlebar, Knock, Louisburgh and Westport," he stated.

Tom Jennings, second lieutenant, Castlebar Order of Malta, said the unit will always be very special for him and he will never forget the support he received from members during his recovery from injuries sustained in a freak road traffic accident in October 2022.

He thanked the Mayo Peace Park Committee for hosting the event and all the representatives from Order of Malta, Civil Defence, Irish Red Cross and St. John's Ambulance for their attendance while also extending gratitude to all elected representatives.

Fr. John Kenny, Adm., Westport, a former chaplain of Castlebar Order of Malta, paid his own personal tribute to the organisation, remembering the great work carried out by the late John Cunningham.