Donegal students scoop top journalism awards


 March 14, 2017
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Talented Donegal TY students from Buncrana and Glenties beat off thousands of entries to win journalism awards at NewsBrands Ireland’s annual Press Pass Awards.

Siofra O’ Dwyer from Scoil Mhuire in Buncrana was awarded the 1st prize in the Opinion category and Mark O’Donnell from St Columbas Comprehensive in Glenties was awarded 2nd prize in the Features category.

Siofra and Mark were awarded for their excellent writing skills and original journalism at the annual NewsBrands Ireland Press Pass Awards which took place in Dublin’s Convention Centre on Friday, 10 March 2017.

70,000 Transition Year students have participated in NewsBrands Ireland’s Press Pass programme, which develops literacy and critical thinking skills and leads students to analyse the society they live in.

The national competition seeks original journalism entries in 5 categories: Features, Opinion, News, Sport and Photojournalism. 8,000 Transition Year students took part in this year’s initiative and 16 of those students received awards.

Siofra O’ Dwyer from Scoil Mhuire in Buncrana was awarded the prestigious 1st prize in the Opinion category for her piece entitled ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun…damental Rights’.

Siofra O’ Dwyer and Eugenie O Dwyer, Buncrana

Speaking about the piece, the judging panel said: ‘When it comes to an opinion piece, many just draw on their own experiences. What is interesting about the piece that is awarded first place in this category is that the author brings in a plethora of examples to show how a highly political topic affects different women on different levels.

“The women seeking asylum in this country that cannot seek an abortion after she has been raped, the woman who so desperately wants a baby but finds out there is a foetal abnormality which means her child will not survive, the 3451 women who travelled from Ireland to England and Wales to have an abortion in 2015.

“Her research is factual but emotive, her opinion piece is well structured and thought out, her use of language is engaging, repeating again and again, ‘I am angry’, and of course, there is that fantastic phrase that finishes up a great piece… ‘Get your rosaries off our ovaries, if you please.’

“It is purely coincidental that these awards are announced on a week where we celebrated International Women’s Day where thousands of people marched in Dublin to repeal the eight amendment.

“No matter when this piece was written though and despite your own personal opinion on this highly contentious issue, this is an opinion piece that strikes a chord.”

Mark O’ Donnell from St Columbas Comprehensive in Glenties was awarded 2nd prize in the Features category for his fun and detailed write up on a remarkable idea instigated by Brian Carr of Glenties in Donegal.

Mark O’ Donnell, Glenties

According to the judging panel: “The simple yet genius idea was the ideal topic for Mark to write about – but we have to stress that the runner up spot was not awarded to Mark just because the subject manner was fascinating.

“It was a clever, well-researched and articulated piece of work which was an obvious contender and worthy winner of our 2nd place prize.”

Finian McGrath T.D., Minister for State with special responsibility for Disabilities, presented students with their awards. He said: “Newspapers have a vital role to play in any free society. They are watchdogs, chroniclers and the eyes and ears that go where most can not be.”

NewsBrands Ireland Chairman, Vincent Crowley recognised the quality of journalism produced by the winning students and said: “We are consistently impressed by the standard of work that the young people of this country produce. This year is no exception. It bodes well for the future of journalism in this country and for Ireland more generally.”

The winners were selected by a panel of newspaper editors and journalists, chaired by Professor John Horgan, the former Press Ombudsman.