THE ‘Virginia Gallagher Mayo Person of the Year’ for 2018 is Sister Maureen Lally.
The 2018 Mayo Meitheal Award goes to Comharchumann Forbatha Ionad Deirbhile Teo and the Young Mayo Person of the Year is Swinford athlete Michaela Walsh.
In an age of globalisation, Sr. Maureen has been firmly focussed on the small communities that make up much of our county.
She empowers those communities to use a grass roots approach to achieve great goals, implementing new ideas from the bottom up. Her contribution to community development is immense.
Sr. Lally believes that rural communities can harness their own innate and traditional skills to thrive and prosper. She has used her experience as a home economics teacher and many years working as an adviser with Teagasc to foster these skills.
In conjunction with major institutions like Michigan State University, she pioneered the Tóchar Valley Rural Community Network (TVRCN), which brought together 18 communities from Balla to Murrisk, and helped to stem the predicted decline of agriculture and rural life in the area.
Sr. Lally had a firm belief that no community on its own can achieve as much as a network of communities working together toward shared goals.
TVRCN remains a voluntary grassroots rural community network, committed to the empowerment of rural people in the development of sustainable rural communities.
She humbly says the work has been “the spark that lights the ﬁre”, but not necessarily the ﬁre itself and that community members themselves fuel the ﬁre.
The TVRCN runs an alcohol and substance misuse programme, heritage trails, international youth exchanges, leading to significant job creation in the area. TVRCN has strengthened the people’s conﬁdence and belief in themselves.
The communities have learnt several ways of advancing their community development efforts and achieving their own vision for the future. They have also acquired the skills and knowhow of envisioning and following through with community goals.
She has also spearheaded the three-day Summer Solstice Walking Festival along the Croagh Patrick Trail, beginning in Balla meandering through the unspoilt landscape and rich heritage of central Mayo. She also served as a board member for the Western Development Commission.
She has been instrumental in bringing the Community Futures programme to Mayo, a proactive process where all community members have a voice in decision making and planned development.
She first introduced the process to Mayo County Council, and has been an active member of managing the programme since its inception which is now administered by Mayo County Council. Over 30 communities have now taken part. It is a partnership of agencies and she is the champion of that process.
Through her quiet influence, relentless positivity and loyalty she has contributed much to his native county.
In the words of one prominent academic with whom she has worked: “In a world where the loud and boisterous seem to reign supreme, we acknowledge and hail the work of a humble and reserved enabler, a true champion of the people.”
The award will be presented by the Mayo Association Dublin at a gala function on February 10 at the Ballsbridge Hotel, Dublin.