Donegal hotelier and broadcaster Noel Cunningham is set to hold the ‘2019 Donegal Person of the Year’ title for two years in a row due to the Covid-19 crisis.
In an unprecedented change, Noel will represent the county for two years due to the postponement of the Donegal Association in Dublin’s Annual Gala Ball to 2021.
It was hoped that the Gala Ball could take place in 2020 to honour Noel’s role, but in the interest of the health and safety the Association has decided to postpone the event until next February 27th, 2021.
Therefore there will be no nominations for a 2020 Donegal Person of the Year.
“Given the unpredictable future for our county and indeed our country who better than Noel to carry that title and help us promote our county and carry a message of positivity into the future,” said a statement from the Donegal Association in Dublin.
“We, the Donegal Association in Dublin would like to take this opportunity to express our condolences to the many families who have been affected by Covid 19. We would also like to pay tribute to the many front line staff and volunteers who have shown such leadership, care and compassion since the beginning of the pandemic. You are all in our thoughts and we have made donations to both the Friends of the Elderly meal delivery in collaboration with the Bonnington Hotel and to the Donegal Dublin Business Network who put our donation towards the purchase of PPE for Letterkenny University Hospital.”
Commenting on the updated events, Noel said he was aware of the precarious situation that would come with people gathering to celebrate and do good work, which is what he wants to do as Donegal Person of the Year.
Noel said: “Covid 19 has made that impossible. It is wonderful to have an opportunity next year when we all put our shoulder to the wheel and get out there and promote every golden inch of Donegal. It couldn’t be a better time to hit the ground running. In all the sadness with no celebration, the great thing is we will do that next year and my role will be much more acute and urgent next year.”
Noel’s hopes for the county is that we will open with our arms outstretched to welcome back visitors, tourist and locals alike.
He said: “My hope will be that they will come in greater numbers because for the foreseeable time ahead we are going to be holidaying at home. I also know that the great people in Donegal will ensure that the welcomes will be better than ever. Lingering doubt will be gone and people from Northern Ireland and further afield will know that a heartfelt welcome lies in the hills.
“I also hope that businesses in other areas that are non-hospitality based will find new ways of conducting their businesses in the new reality that is post Covid. I hope to be at the forefront at any aspect of promoting our county in any area of business, community, charities and hospitality. As they too have been devastated in recent months.”
Noel continued: “John Carr was instrumental in bringing Donegal to Dublin as Donegal Live showcasing what we are about. I would hope that we could rekindle that in the year ahead to remind Ireland that we are back in business and we are an extraordinarily special place. Social media and digital marketing weren’t as important at this time and this shone a great light on our county. A showcase of our county in our capital would be amazing!
Noel concluded by saying that he is overwhelmed by the huge outpouring of congratulations and support since the announcement. He hopes in the year ahead when hard work and dedication are required that he will lead that charge. He hopes in February that we can have a celebration to really reaffirm the great work that is being done by the Donegal Association and the work which will be done post Covid 19.
The Donegal Association will be in contact with anyone who has purchased tickets over the next few weeks.
They said: “We have no doubt that the Gala Ball will be worth the wait and we are really looking forward to seeing you all soon and enjoying your company and celebrating our great county and our Donegal Person of the Year!”