Tuesday 26 March 2019

'Enterprise comes in many forms in rural areas', says chair of IRD

IRD Duhallow Business Awards 2018, in association with The Corkman

Maria Herlihy

The chairperson of IRD Duhallow, Mary Wallace, delivered a keynote speech at the sixth annual IRD Duhallow Business Awards and said that the awards are important as they recognise that enterprise comes "in many forms in a rural area" like Duhallow. 

She said their media partners, The Corkman, enhance the whole awards ceremony and the build-up started weeks ago in the paper when the finalists were featured along with past winners. 

"I want to thank John Feerick and all the team at The Corkman for this year's supplement, which I would say is the best yet, and for The Corkman's continued support in helping to promote and grow these awards," she said. 

She also thanked the host of sponsors - McCarthy Insurance Group, AIB Bank and Irish Public Bodies - for their support.

She also thanked the judges who had the difficult task on deciding on the winners - James McAuley of MIG, Siobhan Murphy of The Corkman/Kerryman and Mick O'Connell from the ESB. 

With a smile, she said: "They told me of the enjoyable time they had when visiting all the businesses, but a less enjoyable time with the difficult task they had trying to pick winners with such high standards across all categories."

"We have estimated that throughout the IRD Duhallow area we have 20,000 people employed across our business, and as a rural development company we were founded by business people who wanted to make a difference and we have been tasked with a remit to ensure that we continue to support and develop local enterprise into the future," she said. 

She pointed out that their Enterprise Working Group identified four years ago that training and upskilling those employed by their local businesses was imperative to ensure their competitiveness and resilience into the future. 

"They actively sought a solution to the problem and it came in the form of Skillnets. We are fortunate to have a strong active Enterprise Working Group and I want to acknowledge publicly the Trojan work that this committee has put in to develop our Skillnets from a €45,000 grant in 2015 to our 2019 programme which will be just short of €500,000," she said. 

Since 2015, they have funded over 1,700 trainees from across almost 800 member companies to access affordable, quality, relevant training locally. And in addition to that, they have provided 100% funding to 228 unemployed trainees. 

She said that just last week she had the honour of presenting their Recognition of Learning ceremony which saw the first cap and gown graduates in over 24 years at the James O'Keeffe Institute as 11 participants were presented with QQI L5 Major Awards in Healthcare amongst the 200 certs that were presented. 

"Skillnet is undoubtedly one of our major success stories," said Mary. 

She also said that networking is a huge part of any business and nights like the awards ceremony play an important role for business growth and making connections that a person might not call on next week or even the week after but, at some point into the future, the contacts made at the awards night may well prove very fruitful. 

Next year, IRD Duhallow will mark three decades in business and its success is by rolling out programmes which compliment each other.

To highlight just some of their success she pointed out that 362 Community Work places have been supported; 3,919 houses have been insulated, which has contributed towards their carbon reduction targets. They have established and supported 20 Active Retired groups, operate domestic violence and bereavement helplines, established the Duhallow carers group. In addition, they have undertaken immense work in environmental sustainability. 

"None of this would be possible without the stewardship and visionary guidance of our CEO, Maura Walsh, who is ably supported by our Assistant Manager, Eileen Linehan. Through their guidance, dedication and unwavering tenacity they have grown and developed IRD Duhallow to be the outstanding organisation it is today," she said.


* Full coverage of the awards is featured in this week's Corkman newspaper