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Michelle Hennessy and Maria Delaney at the Irish Red Cross offices earlier today
Michelle Hennessy and Maria Delaney at the Irish Red Cross offices earlier today
Image: Tony Gavin via Irish Red Cross

Two Journal Media reporters win Irish Red Cross Journalism Excellence Award 2021

Maria Delaney and Michelle Hennessy won for their series Tough Start which investigated challenges faced by Traveller children.
Nov 28th 2021, 1:30 PM 17,051 0

TWO JOURNAL MEDIA journalists have won the Journalism Excellence Award at the Irish Red Cross Humanitarian Awards 2021.

Noteworthy investigative reporter Maria Delaney and The Journal senior reporter Michelle Hennessy won for their long-form series TOUGH START.

The prestigious award recognises outstanding contributions to humanitarian storytelling and celebrates writing which inspires change for the good. The award ceremony – due to take place this evening – was cancelled due to Covid, but the winners were announced today.

At the announcement, Pat Carey, chair of the Irish Red Cross said the awards are “in recognition of those who are dedicated to exceptional humanitarian excellence”. 

Speaking after receiving the award, Delaney said: “It was vital that Travellers were at the centre of this investigation and this award acknowledges everyone who told us about the systemic problems facing the community.

“Our entire team is absolutely delighted and would like to thank every single person who supports Noteworthy, especially those who helped fund this project.”

The Journal’s Hennessy added that “it’s such an honour to get this kind of recognition for our work”.

We could not have done this important topic justice without the input of the Traveller organisations and community advocates who spoke to us for the series. I particularly want to thank the Traveller children I interviewed for trusting us with their stories and sharing their experiences so openly.

Reporter Cormac Fitzgerald also worked on the series, uncovering startling details of poor living conditions for Traveller children, and interrogated the housing policies of government and local authorities on this point.

The joint series delved into the uphill struggle facing Traveller children in healthcare, education, accommodation and justice across seven articles, a podcast and live event. 

It revealed a lack of targeted health actions, reduced hours in school being routinely used on Travellers, children experiencing discrimination from members of the gardaí and ongoing issues with provision of Traveller-specific accommodation.

The Journal Media reporters were nominated for the award alongside journalist Donal O’Keeffe as well as filmmaker, photographer and activist Felipe Lopes. A special mention was also given to RTÉ’s Katie Hannon. 

Last year, The Journal reporter Órla Ryan won the Irish Red Cross Journalism Excellence Award 2020 for her work in Kenya and Lebanon where she reported on women’s rights and refugee camps.

The Irish Red Cross said that “the multi-part series exposed the gargantuan challenges faced by children from the Traveller community across key areas impacting their development and opportunities, including access to healthcare and education, and humane living conditions.

“At the core of this process was a centring of the Traveller experience and of Traveller voices.

The Traveller community has traditionally not been afforded much of a voice in Irish media, politics or society at large. A key objective of this project was to return that voice to that marginalised community. The series has attracted extensive praise and support from Traveller groups that confirms this objective was achieved.

Managing Editor of Journal Media Susan Daly, congratulating Delaney and Hennessy on their award, said: “The Tough Start series is one of which we are immensely proud. Maria and Michelle – along with their colleague Cormac Fitzgerald – worked tirelessly across a number of months to bring to light the breathtaking scale of challenges facing Traveller children every day, often from the moment they are born.

“This was an important cross-publication partnership between The Journal and Noteworthy, and one in which we could give the space, time and platform for the voices of Travellers to be heard, their concerns recognised and answers sought.” 

The Humanitarian of the Year Award was presented to Tammy Darcy for dedicating her life “to helping teenage girls realise their rightful place in the world” through her non-profit organisation The Shona Project, which also won the Innovation for Change Award. By the end of this year, it will have worked with over 20,000 girls in schools across Ireland.

Teenage climate justice activist Saoi O’Connor was named Young Humanitarian of the Year “for inspiring leadership”.

Other winners were Hotel Doolin in Co Clare, Ireland’s only carbon-neutral hotel, who picked up the Corporate Impact Award and the Digital Charity Lab who won the Digital Influence category for their work providing digital skills to non-profits.

Catherine Corless also received a lifetime achievement award for her investigations into the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Co Galway.

Noteworthy’s TOUGH START investigation was done in collaboration with The Journal. It was funded by you, our readers, with support from The Journal as well as the Noteworthy general fund to cover additional costs. 

You can support our work by submitting an idea, funding for a particular proposal or setting up a monthly contribution to our general investigative fund.

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