Milltown community tribute leaves winner Owen O'Shea lost for words
As a public relations officer for Kerry County Council, it's up to Owen O'Shea to have answers - but on Saturday, him being lost for words was an entirely understandable occurrence.
That's because he arrived to a surprise ceremony at The Plough Bar in Milltown where he was named as the recipient of the locality's Stephen Lawlor Community Award for this year.
Mr O'Shea acted as chair of the 2018 Fleadh Cheoil Chiarraí, which took place in the town during the summer, but aside from his work with Comhaltas, he is also known for his involvement in politics, with the Credit Union, and numerous volunteer efforts.
Maurice Harmon acted as emcee for the occasion, while Milltown Chamber Alliance Cultural Officer VIncent Prendergast spoke of Mr O'Shea's commitment to volunteerism with many groups, and his leadership skills. But Mr O'Shea was himself in modest form as he accepted the honour.
"My work as chairman [over the Fleadh] was made easy by the team of over 100 local volunteers," he said. "I've enjoyed all my community work, and I love the meetings and the craic at events.
"It's great to be out, doing something positive, building community, and meeting new people. The recent culture of individualism needs to be challenged, and we must reach out to people and help them feel part of a strong and supportive community."
He went on to thank his wife, Cecelia, for her support, including with the Fleadh, and he also tipped his cap to another champion of volunteer work, the late Denis Courtney.
The significance behind the award, named in honour of the late Stephen Lawlor, who passed away in 2013, was not lost on Mr O'Shea, either.
"He was an exemplary community member, working hard with various community projects and events, including the Tidy Towns and Comhaltas," he said, before thanking Mr Lawlor's mother, Ann, who had travelled from her home in Longford to present the award.
Meanwhile, Mr O'Shea's latest book, 'A Century of Politics in the Kingdom: A County Kerry Compendium', co-written with Gordon Revington, goes on sale this month.