Business votes with its feet at record-breaking WEA dinner

Paddy Kielty with one of the unique WEA award trophies which will be handed out to 21 winners tonight

THE north's business community has voted with its feet by making the Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards another record-breaking sell-out.

Despite the distraction of a general election, nearly 600 people will pack into Titanic Belfast this evening for a rousing night of fun and celebration, melded with sumptuous food and the formal recognition of some of the most phenomenal companies and organisations in Northern Ireland.

A stunning night of entertainment has been lined up for the black-tie guests, who'll range from business owners and directors, through to junior employees and even apprentices.

The evening starts with a drinks reception courtesy of Diageo, and after being welcomed by Irish News editor Noel Doran, guests can settle back and be entertained from the famous staircase of Titanic Belfast by the St Patrick's Junior Choir from Drumgreenagh, who last week wowed millions of ITV viewers on the live semi-final of Britain's Got Talent.

After dinner (the executive chief at Titanic Belfast has created a mouth-watering bespoke menu specifically for the Workplace & Employment Awards), compere Jim Fitzpatrick will introduce Co Antrim man Brian Higgins, chief executive of suicide and self harm crisis centre Pieta House in Dublin.

His address will focus on how businesses and their people must take responsibility for “walking towards the light” in terms of better workplace awareness, support and positivity. And guests can expect a special twist at the end of his presentation . . .

Just before the presentation of 21 awards to an impressive winners' list comes a (doubtless irreverent) presentation from Co Down-born comedian Paddy Kielty, who has been the star attraction at the Irish News awards for the last three years.

And then comes the formalities, when companies and organisations from a diverse range of sectors - all of whom have pushed the boundaries, raised the bar and risen to the many challenges a last incredible year has thrown at them - will be recognised for putting their people front and centre of all they do.

Tonight's awards are being supported by eight key business partners in Carson McDowell, Mount Charles, Phoenix Natural Gas, Queen's University, Ulster University, Henderson Group, Armagh City Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council and Titanic Belfast.

:: A full list of winners and those highly commended will be included in tomorrow's Irish News, and this will be followed by a special 32-page commemorative Workplace & Employment Awards supplement on Thursday June 22.

:: You can follow tonight's dinner on social media at @IrishNewsWEA

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