First, Intermediate Section, and third, all-Ireland, Victoria Zalewska, from Educate Together NS, with Pat Webb.

Mullingar children crowned Ireland’s top writers again in Rotary Young Writer Competition

For the second year in a row, primary school children from Mullingar have triumphed at the Rotary Young Writer Competition, and a prize-giving ceremony was held at Mullingar Library to celebrate their achievements on Wednesday, May 3.

Once again, the Junior and Intermediate winners from Mullingar went on to excel at national level. Neasa Kennedy of St Colmcille’s, Gainstown, was Ireland’s overall Junior winner for her poem ‘Peace’. Victoria Zalewska, of Educate Together, came third in Ireland’s Intermediate category for her short story ‘One Move Starts It All’.

Pat Webb, president of Mullingar Rotary Club, thanked all the schools who took part. The support of local schools and the success of their students demonstrates that “literature is alive and well here in Mullingar”, said Pat, who added “long may that continue”.

“It’s a fantastic thing when young people are using their imaginations on a blank piece of paper. The most enlightening thing children can do is actually use what’s up here in their brain. We have winners, but everyone who participated is a winner,” said Pat.

On the judging panel were Dónal Lawlor of Mullingar Rotary Club, who has a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, Jemma Curran, a playwright and actor, and Ciara O’Hara, a writer and editor.

Jemma gave a speech thanking everyone who entered and congratulating them on their efforts. “I know how difficult it can be to look at a blank page and then create something, so first of all, you must be commended on that. It is a truly excellent thing that you’ve done.

“Then secondly, for making our job so hard, because there was an excellent standard once again this year and it was a joy to read your work. It really was,” said Jemma.

She also spoke about the timely nature of this year’s theme, ‘Peace’, and the interesting ways that was interpreted. “It was something as simple as a cup of tea or a Daddy bear really, really wanting some time away from his kids, or something as life changing as finding somewhere safe after your home has been taken from you in the worst possible circumstances.

“So, I think the thing that’s really special about the work this year is that it shows just how varied and how beautiful peace is.”

Dónal Lawlor said we’re lucky to have so much talent in and around Mullingar, and such great schools. “We hope to run the competition again next year as it’s lovely for gifted young people to have a chance to shine. It was wonderful to see our winners go on to achieve glory again at national level, but everyone who took part should be proud.”

Several children who entered last year submitted their work again this year, and some won prizes. Victoria Zalewska was a runner-up in 2022.

Ciara O’Hara said: “We’re grateful to all the teachers who set time aside for the competition, and we’re delighted that so many children were encouraged to keep writing and to develop their skills, because that’s what the competition is about.”

Book tokens were awarded for first, second and third places at junior and intermediate levels, and for entries that were highly commended by the judges in each age category. Everyone who entered the competition received a certificate of participation.

Mullingar Rotary Club would like to thank the staff at the library for their help with organising the event and for providing the venue.

In her welcoming speech, Deirdre Broderick, executive librarian at Mullingar Library, congratulated the winners on their “beautiful” work and offered expert advice, urging young writers to “keep up the good work” and “keep reading because that’s really good for your mind and all the ideas that you have”.

The winners

Congratulations are extended to the following winners: Junior Category – first, Neasa Kennedy, St Colmcille’s, Gainstown; second, Lexi May Maloney Gahan, Presentation Junior School; third, Basant Darwish, St Mary’s PS; Highly Commended, Aoife Walters, St Colman’s NS.

Intermediate Category– first, Victoria Zalewska, Educate Together; second, Muireann Caffrey, St Colmcille’s, Gainstown; third, Alfie Rock, St Colman’s NS; Highly Commended, Aisling Dacaymat, St Colmcille’s, Gainstown.

Junior class all-Ireland winner Neasa Kennedy, Gainstown NS, with Ciara O’Hara.
Lexi May Maloney Gahan, Presentation Junior School, second place, with Ms O’Hara.
Basant Darwish, St Mary’s PS, third place, with Ms O’Hara, competition judge.
Basant Darwish, St Mary’s PS, with Ms O’Hara, competition judge.
First, Intermediate Section, and third, all-Ireland, Victoria Zalewska, from Educate Together NS, with Pat Webb.
Muireann Caffrey, Gainstown NS, second,, Intermediate Section, with Mr Webb.
Third place, Intermediate Section, Alfie Rock St Colman’s NS, with Mr Webb.
Highly Commended, Aisling Dacaymat, Gainstown NS, with Pat Webb, Rotary Club.