Judges, audience members and industry professionals were treated to an eclectic selection of stories from promising young journalists at this year's National Newspapers of Ireland Press Pass award ceremony at the Convention Centre in Dublin yesterday.
Secondary school students from around the country were awarded prizes for stories on topics including technology, relationships and a lucky gay bull.
Ciara McArdle from Pobalscoil Tríonóide in Youghal won the overall award for her article on the perils of social media.
“So many people use social media and technology in their everyday lives, but I feel nobody looks at the negative sides of it, and nobody really points it out,” she said.
“I just really wanted to try my best and felt I could excel at something like this. If I was ever going to write something, be it a book or a novel, I’d really want it to change someone’s opinion on something,” she said.
Awards were also handed out for categories including sport (Ella Curtin, from St Marys secondary school, Macroom), opinion (Aisling Eaton, from Our Lady's, Drogheda), features (Éanna Ó Cosgora, Coláiste Iognáid, Galway), news (Donna Fitzgerald, Coláiste na Sceilge, Cahirciveen) and photojournalism (Orla Doheny, Rosemont School, Dublin)
High standard “The entries into the competition are of a very high standard and demonstrate that a love of writing and appreciation of the power of language and images is valued among transition year students,” said Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan, who added that the quality of contestants was testament to improved literacy standards in Irish schools.
The Minister reserved special praise for Maeve McWalter's piece on Benji, a lovelorn Co Mayo bull who was spared a trip to the slaughterhouse by Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon.
“I always liked English from junior cycle and I loved my teacher from the Junior Cert – she really got people involved in everything,” said the Mount St Michael student .
“I’d be from a farming background so the story kind of caught the attention of the people from around my area.
“I was doing work experience with a vet who thought it was hilarious, and I suppose it’s kind of topical at the moment with the same-sex marriage referendum,” she added.