WEA winners revealed on high-octane night of drama - and emotion

Irish News group marketing and communications manager Annette McManus and business editor Gary McDonald with awards host and comedian Neil Delamere
Gary McDonald Business Editor

FINANCIAL services firm FinTrU, architectural practice White Ink and Derry-headquartered Alchemy Technology Services were each double winners at last night’s revived Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards in Titanic Belfast.

Almost 400 guests attended a glittering culmination to the initiative, which champions resilience, team-building and positivity in the workplace, and which returned for the 16th time after a two-year Covid-enforced break.

But a night of glitz, glamour and sumptuous food was also tinged with sadness and emotion as tributes were paid at the start of the evening to Irish News chairman Jim Fitzpatrick, who died last weekend at the age of 92.

Irish News editor Noel Doran acknowledged the "one empty seat" and described Mr Fitzpatrick's passing as "an enormous loss of a great friend" before leading a one-minute's applause in celebration of a remarkable life.

"The singular contribution of Jim to public life here has been comprehensively chronicled over recent days, so rather than revisit it I will simply say that he is irreplaceable, and our thoughts are with his family, including son and daughter Dominic and Anne, who are with us this evening.

"Jim was always a strong supporter of this workplace initiative. He thrived on taking an active involvement and meeting everyone participating over the years."

The ceremony, hosted by award-winning comedian Neil Delamere, was a high-octane evening comprising music, comedy and the sheer drama of announcing 18 winners of the WEA award, which has become the ‘must-have’ accolade for corporate Northern Ireland.

White Ink won both the Employer for the Future and Best Place to Work (small business) categories, with the judges commenting: "This is how working for the future should be done. Growing the business from the inside out, ensuring that staff are fulfilled, watching out and learning from each other, listening and valuing."

FinTrU clinched both the Employee Development Programme and Best Place to Work (large business) category, with the judges saying: "This is an organisation which is wholly committed to its 1,000-plus staff and which has created an environment of family. It is not only a successful business, but has become integral to the fabric of its communities."

Alchemy, founded and developed by Derry man John Harkin, came out top in the categories for Innovation and Leadership and also of Best Place to Work (medium category), with the judges praising its "open and transparent approach to everything it does, including its leading salary, bonus and promotion structures".

Over the course of the evening the awards were handed out by representatives of this year's key business partners Options Technology, First Derivative, Carson McDowell, Queen's University, Ulster University Business School, and Titanic Belfast, as well as representatives from the Irish News.

From left, Joanne Clague from Queen’s University Belfast, Page McLaughlin of Options Technology, Irish News group marketing and communications manager Annette McManus, Irish News editor Noel Doran, Orlagh O’Neill of Carson McDowell, Irish News business editor Gary McDonald, Liz Toner from First Derivative and Professor Gillian Armstrong from Ulster University Business School. 

Special guests last night included Belfast lord mayor Councillor Christina Black and political representatives Caoimhe Archibald (Sinn Fein), Cara Hunter (SDLP) and David Honeyford (Alliance).

Among the many other winners last night were Henderson Group/Spar NI (Corporate Social Responsibility), CavanaghKelly and Farrans Construction (both Wellbeing in the Workplace), Alchemy Technology Services (Innovation and Leadership), Re-Gen Waste (Next Generation Initiative) and Seating Matters (Team of the Year).

Also, one lucky individual walked off with a fantastic prize package of a seven-night four-star holiday for two to Verona, courtesy of Travel Solutions, in a raffle which benefitted the NI Children’s Hospice.

:: All last night's winners will be featured in a special commemorative awards supplement in The Irish News on Friday July 8.

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