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A new awards scheme, sponsored by The Munster Express and Dooley’s Hotel, seeks to recognise and reward groups and individuals across the south east who promote the region’s heritage and culture.

The South East Heritage & Culture Awards, which were presented for the first time on Wednesday last at Dooley’s Hotel, has already received considerable public support through the nomination forms published weekly in this newspaper.

Forms have been returned to The Munster Express from a host of tourist and culturally-themed locations throughout the region, to the delight of the six-strong adjudicating panel.

The scheme contains four categories, namely ‘Heritage Organisation’, ‘Heritage/Culture Group’, ‘Heritage Individual’ and ‘Culture Individual’ and the first recipients on Tuesday traversed the heritage and cultural spectrum.

All four award winners received fulsome praise from those who took the time to fill in nomination forms in recent weeks, and a sample of that feedback is contained below.

Hook Head Lighthouse received the Heritage Organisation award in recognition of the “stunning” and “exceptional” qualities it exudes in terms of location, staff excellence and making such an iconic area “available to the masses”.

Mountain Meitheal (Heritage/Culture Group), a voluntary body which has undertaken significant work in the Wicklow Mountains was saluted for “maintaining, conserving and building mountain and forestry pathways”.

Jack Burtchaell, well-known in Waterford city thanks to his outstanding walking tour now 19 years young, picked up the first Heritage Individual award. One nomination form detailed his “tireless efforts to tell the story of this historic city through all seasons and all weathers”.

The Culture Individual award went to Kilkenny Comhaltas’s Noreen O’Neill, for her “promotion of Irish music and dance, providing music workshops through the winter along with shows in the summer at Kilkenny Castle”.

It is intended that three more award ceremonies will be held between now and the end of this year, providing us with four separate winners in each category.

And to those who have nominated other persons and groups in recent weeks, fear not: every nomination form is being retained for the year and will be deliberated upon by the judging panel.

“The Munster Express is delighted to be associated with these awards,” said Kieran Walsh, the newspaper’s Managing Director.

“The south east is a region rich in heritage and culture and it is only fitting that those who promote and sustain our heritage, primarily in the field of tourism, are recognised in such a manner.”

Mr Walsh’s comments were echoed by co-sponsor June Darrer, Managing Director of Dooley’s Hotel.

“Throughout this region, we have many hidden treasures and we are blessed to be served by men and women from across the south east, who provide such an outstanding service,” she said.

Ms Darrer added: “Dooley’s Hotel is proud to be co-sponsors of this tremendous scheme, which, over the course of the year, will reward many of our regional and cultural ambassadors. And I would like to congratulate all who have received awards today.”

The scheme has also received support from Waterford City Council, Waterford County Council, Fáilte Ireland and the Heritage Council.

The judging panel is composed of: Kieran Walsh, Dermot Keyes (The Munster Express), June Darrer, Helena Boyce (Dooley’s Hotel), Donal Moore (Waterford City Archives) and Bernadette Guest (Heritage Officer, Waterford County Council).

For further details, please call Dermot Keyes, The Munster Express at 051-500100 or email heritage@munster-express.ie