Panel sits in judgment on record number of WEA entries

Group at yesterday's Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards judging session. Seated - Patricia Rooney and Gary McDonald. Back (from left) - Ronie Magee, Tim Brundle and Mark Regan
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE 10th anniversary Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards has already broken all records - and that's even before the 500-plus guests sit down to dinner on the gala presentation night on June 16.

Entries this year smashed through the 150-mark for the first time, and more than 70 companies and organisations have made the heavyweight short-list, which is revealed in full on page 30.

A significant feature this year is that more than 40 companies/organisations were new to the Irish News awards, having not been involved in any of our previous nine initiatives going back to 2007.

A six-strong judging panel yesterday completed the onerous workload of choosing the winners and highly-commended organisations in 20 categories, including the addition this year of a new Entrepreneurial Spirit category focusing on entrants which have taken risks to stay ahead of the competition and which have demonstrated an entrepreneurial ethos.

Across the awards initiative as a whole, those on the short-list include more than a dozen organisations or companies who measure their workforces in the thousands, down to a clutch of small firms including a two-man operation.

Irish News business editor Gary McDonald chaired yesterday's judging session, where he was joined by representatives of a number of our business partners, including Mark Regan (3fivetwo Healthcare), Patricia Rooney (Tughans Solicitors) and, from Ulster University, its director of research and innovation Tim Brundle and human resources director Ronnie Magee. Also on the judging team was Alan Watts, director of the Halo angels investment group at the Northern Ireland Science Park.

The judges commented favourably on the exceptional quality of the award submissions, and while in some of the categories there was a stand-out winner, others were much closer to call and engendered considerable debate around the table.

The short-list published today reflects a mix of blue chip companies, innovative small firms, public sector organisations and educational establishments.

Among just a few of the 70-plus on the short list (in no particular order) are Lagan Construction, the NI Housing Executive, HLM, Boojum, Staffline Group, Maurice Flynn & Son, First Derivatives, Cavanagh Kelly, Action Cancer, CDE Global, Diageo, The Lava Group, Connect Telecom . . . and a clutch of others.

"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 that famous Titanic Belfast staircase in five weeks' time to collect their spoils," he added.

Irish News marketing manager John Brolly added: "We are thrilled again with the record number of entries in what will be a particularly special year for our Workplace & Employment Awards.

"The initiative goes from strength to strength, and thankfully it is based on the positive benefits that our winners experience from their association with these awards.

"This year the competition has been intense, but we've managed to create a short list of truly outstanding entrants, and June 16 will be a special and truly exciting night."

The glittering black-tie dinner in Titanic Belfast will be compered by BBC journalist Karen Patterson, and the guest speaker is Northern Ireland-born entrepreneur Alyson Hogg, founder of Vita Liberata tanning technology, who will share her phenomenal success story.

:: For a complete A-Z of those on this year's short list go to page 30.

:: For full awards details visit

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