Judges deliberate on Workplace & Employment Awards winners - now let the 'Titanic' show begin

Irish News business editor Gary McDonald (judging panel chairman, seated centre) with fellow judges Orlagh O'Neill (Carson McDowell) and Dolores Vischer (Queen's University), both seated. At back (from left) are Brian Byers (Ulster University), Nicola Wilson (Armagh Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council), Olga Pollock (Phoenix Natural Gas) and Cathal Geoghegan (Mount Charles). Picture: Hugh Russell

FROM banks to beers, rugs to runways, software to science, missiles to mouldings . . .

These sectors and subjects - and a wealth of others besides - were on the table for deliberation as a seven-strong judging panel met to pick the winners and those highly commended in this year's 11th Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards.

It was a daunting workload, with another all-time record high entry list across 19 categories, including two which are brand new for 2017 - Team of the Year and Employer for the Future.

And what an appetising and exemplary short-list the judges have arrived at, featuring an organisation with a workforce of around 5,000, down to number of businesses with fewer than 10 staff - and the whole gambit in between.

Irish News business editor Gary McDonald chaired yesterday's judging session, where he was joined by representatives of five of our seven premium business partners.

The panel included Brian Byers (Ulster University), Dolores Vischer (Queen's University), Orlagh O'Neill (Carson McDowell), Olga Pollock (Phoenix Natural Gas), Nicola Wilson (Armagh Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council) and Cathal Geoghegan (Mount Charles).

A significant feature this year is that more than 20 companies/organisations were new to the Irish News awards, having not been involved in any of our previous 10 initiatives going back to 2007.

More than 80 companies and organisations have made the short-list (the complete A-Z is revealed in full on page 32), which reflects a mix of blue chip companies, innovative small firms, schools and public sector organisations.

The winners will be revealed at a gala black-tie dinner in Titanic Belfast on Thursday June 8, when the co-hosts are top comedian Patrick Kielty and broadcaster/journalist Jim Fitzpatrick.

The judges commented favourably on the exceptional quality of the award submissions, where applicants remain unerringly determined to stand out and benchmark themselves against their peers.

"We were overwhelmed again not just by the sheer numbers, but by the exceptional quality of the entries this year," Gary McDonald said.

"The standard was impeccable, and every single winner will have thoroughly earned the right to step up to the podium in a month's time," he added.

Irish News marketing manager John Brolly said: "We're delighted that our Irish News Workplace & Employment initiative continues to stand out as an award that organisations really want to win.

"It is a really positive reflection on the how important people are in terms of providing a company with the edge in today's highly competitive environment.

"No matter what sector you operate in, people are key to success, and the companies and organisations who will emerge successful in our awards underline the phenomenal calibre of high-performing employees in Northern Ireland."

He added: "We've created a short list of truly outstanding entrants, so June 8 will be a truly exciting and special night."

:: For a complete A-Z of those on this year's short list go to page 32.

:: The 2017 Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards take place in Titanic Belfast on Thursday June 8. For awards information or to book a table visit

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