1029. Niamh Scullion
Niamh Scullion, from Belfast, has brought her community together by building a traditional Irish currach boat which offers open and accessible rowing opportunities for people of all abilities.
Her first ever rowing trip across the Irish Sea in 2012 inspired her to to bring her community together to build a currach. Over 80 volunteers took part in the construction of the 10 metre-long boat, which was supported by funding from the Heritage Lottery and was launched on the River Lagan in January 2017. More than 1,000 people have since been taken out on Belfast Lough and around the coasts of Northern Ireland in the currach, in particular supporting people with disabilities or from disadvantaged backgrounds with no experience of rowing.
In a personal letter to Niamh, Prime Minister Theresa May said:
“By bringing your local community together to build a traditional currach, you have helped people from all ages and backgrounds to access rowing and enjoy the beautiful coasts and waters of Northern Ireland.”
“Ever since attending the Eden Project Community Camp weekend three years ago, life has changed dramatically. At that time, this community boat project was just an idea and community activism was a new thing to me. But the camp and the supportive network of people who believed in that idea enabled it to come to life. Now we have a thriving community of people from all over Belfast and beyond, connected by their love of the boat, Mamach Mór.
“This award in recognition of the project and our charity ‘Lagan Currachs’ is wonderful for us to receive and it is testament to the amazing people of Belfast who have helped bring this idea to life and nurtured it and made it thrive. We hope many others will hear about the community currach through this award and come and join the crew, especially those who might be struggling. We want them to come and experience the adventure, the mental health benefits, the sense of connection and belonging to a big, open and supportive team and the love of a boat that has become such a huge part of our lives.”