The Carlow Business Awards 2018, hosted by Co Carlow Chamber, were delighted to welcome An Taoiseach to the annual event, held in the George Bernard Shaw Theatre, Visual on Thursday 27th September 2018 .
“This evening’s ceremony provides an opportunity to acknowledge the innovation, talent and entrepreneurial spirit which is thriving here in Carlow,” said Mr Varadkar. In April, I spoke at the launch of the new Netwatch Group, last year’s winner. This innovative firm now employs over 400 people and trades across four continents. It’s an example of how local ambition can have a global impact,” he added.
The Business of the Year award went to Autolaunch, and general manger Eddie Hickey expressed his “honour, privilege and pride to accept the award” and thanked the families of all his employees, including his own wife Helen and family.
“We started in 2002 with one employee; by the end of the year that had grown to three. We now have 420 employees and we are confident that we can grow that to 500 plus,” said Eddie.
To anyone hoping to start a business, Eddie had some sage advice: “once you know your customers, know your business and have the finances, I say go for it … life is too short.”
Another remarkable winner was Eileen Brophy, director of services at the Delta Centre, who was awarded the lifetime achievement award. Eileen’s emotional and poignant acceptance speech was one of the stand-out moments of the night, as she highlighted the long, arduous journey taken by local disability campaigners over 40 years to secure the rights and services their loved ones richly deserved.
Carlow football manager Turlough O’Brien received the Carlow ambassador of the year award, describing himself as ‘honoured’ by his selection.
“We set about writing a new script and changing mindsets and expectations. I never accepted that a line on a map or a mountain could determine how good a footballer you are,” said Turlough.
He remarked on the wonderful sight players saw looking into the stands at a sea of Carlow jerseys and flags and the county holding its own against teams like Dublin, Kildare, Monaghan and Tyrone.
“Role acceptance and role clarity is important for our team and it’s the same in business. Everyone has a role and if we all work in harmony, it’s amazing what can be achieved,” Turlough said.
Other award winners included Eileen Doyle of Cairdeas, Tullow, who won the spirit of the community award and Co Carlow Hospice, which won the community award. There was also a cheque presentation by the chamber to Carlow Special Olympics.
The president of Carlow Chamber of Commerce Yvonne Jones welcomed the taoiseach to the event and described the county as “the little county with the big heart”. She stated that the event shone a positive light on Carlow’s business community, describing them as “some of the most courageous people in our county”, people who “helped the county grow locally, nationally and internationally”.
Ms Jones paid tribute to the chamber’s valued members, the awards’ main sponsors Bank of Ireland and all the category sponsors. She also thanked chamber CEO Brian O’Farrell for his work in organising the event, ably assisted by Fiona Broadbery, and deputy Pat Deering for ensuring the taoiseach’s presence on the night.
Ms Jones also paid tribute to Carlow Rose Shauna Ray Lacey, praising her bravery in telling her stark, honest and personal story of family addiction on stage in the Dome, Tralee.
“She told her story, not as a victim but as a warrior, and won the hearts of the nation,” said Ms Jones.
A presentation of flowers was made to Shauna.
Fergal Brosnan, head of Bank of Ireland Carlow-Kilkenny, congratulated all the award winners and nominees, adding: “Carlow rising is alive and well thanks to you.”
MC for the proceedings was KCLR’s Eimear Ní Bhraonain, who did a terrific job, her upbeat, fun and entertaining presenting style ensured an enjoyable evening.
The arrival reception was hosted by Carlow Brewing and Walsh Whiskey Distillery, with David Ayres and Ken Nolan entertaining the guests after the formalities had ended.