The effervescent Donegal ambassador Noel Cunningham finally got his long-awaited ball at the weekend, and what a night it was!

Noel was awarded Donegal Person of the Year for 2019, but the pandemic halted all party plans until now. Over 400 people joined Noel for his special night with the Donegal Association at the Bonnington Hotel, Dublin last Saturday. Noel is a well-known figure around Co. Donegal and further afield as someone who promotes the county at every possible opportunity.

The event kicked off shortly after 8pm with Ardara Toastmaster Ian Boyle who introduced MC for the night Siobhan Shovlin. Noel was led into the room by President of the Donegal Association Elaine Caffrey. 

Donegal Association Committee
President Elaine Caffrey and Noel Cunningham

Jason Black, Former Donegal Person of the Year spoke to the crowd and mentioned in particular gender equality and referred to the parts of the world which he has visited who have so far to come in this area. The event was well attended by Former Persons of the Year including Stephen McCahill, Deirdre McGlone, Anne Marie Ward, John Carr and Daniel O’Donnell. Siobhan Shovlin also remembered former Persons of the Year who are no longer with us and have passed away since our last function Dermot Walsh, Sir Gerry Robinson, Dr. Lawrence Smyth and Dr. Tom McGinley. 

Jason and Sharon Black

Noel Cunningham thanked Jason Black for his service and all he does and continues to do for the county. He spoke of his great love for his family and remembered particularly absent family who were with us in spirit. He spoke about his struggles in life including addiction and the challenges he experienced growing up. He remembered his late dear friend Patricia Cunningham and commended Daniel O’Donnell for climbing with Charlie Bird for Motor Neuron earlier that day.

Noel also spoke passionately about the importance of respect, tolerance and inclusion. He talked about the homophobic abuse in our society and the sadness which it brings, and the effect which this has on our young people. He talked of the great honour of being Donegal Person of the Year and how sacred and extraordinary it is. Noel said against all the odds, he is still dancing and may the music never stop and may we continue to dance. 

Noel, Gary Gamble and Daniel O’Donnell
Noel with his brother Willie Joe

Wendy McCarry who is CEO of the Bluestack Special Needs Foundation spoke passionately about the organisation and how they have helped her family. She spoke about how they are expanding their services into other regions and how Noel is a hero within their organisation. The raffle made almost €6,000 for the charity and we thank people for their generosity including the sponsors. 

Gary Gamble was the interval act and was joined by both Daniel O’Donnell and Noel Cunningham on stage for a number of songs which set the scene perfectly for music by The Prickly Pears and the crowd danced the night away to the early hours. The Donegal Association wish Noel well for the year ahead and we look forward to joining him along the way. 

Liam McDermott with Deirdre McGlone
Best Dressed Lady Mandy Maher and Most Dapper Gentleman Eamonn Gillespie
Ailbhe and Aoibheann McMonagle with their friend Tricia
Marty Whelan and Marian Caffrey