Juliet Bernard (left) and Lauren Roca spoke at the last meeting of Mullingar Toastmasters.

Young Soroptimist speakers tell Toastmasters about female empowerment

Toastmasters International are celebrating their centenary this year, but in an evening that sparkled with energy and wit, the Mullingar branch showed no signs of ageing.

Club president, Brian McLoughlin and Toastmaster of the night, Geraldine Smith, kicked off proceedings with a welcome for local students who had taken part in the Soroptimists public speaking competition; they spoke on the theme of female empowerment. Then fáilte officer, Anisira Giarza, timekeeper, Niamh Tubridy, and grammarian, Margaret Keogh were asked to explain their roles.

With speeches entitled ‘Partnership and the Empowerment of Women’, the students didn’t pull any punches. Juliet Bernard spoke eloquently about gender inequality at home and abroad while Lauren Roca described the rise of domestic violence and ongoing pay inequality in Africa and Ireland. The audience were struck by their passion to put things right.

Next, Olive MacDonagh gave her icebreaker speech, ‘A Blessing in Disguise’, which charted her journey as a high-flying accountant in the Cayman Islands to setting up a wellness retreat in Westmeath, an experience in which she felt blessed.

Pat Kenny followed with a tantalising speech entitled ‘Mary the Teenage Runaway’. How many of us know that Mary Shelley, creator of the bestseller, Frankenstein, was an early exponent of female empowerment?

Between speeches, John Waldron, as part of his pathways programme in active listening, neatly summarised the essence of each delivery.

Speech evaluators, Lorraine Murphy, John Coyne, Patsy Fagan and Derek Walsh, praised the speakers for their use of smiles and surprises while making recommendations about eye contact and structure.

With a break for tea and chat, topics master, John Waldron, went into overdrive with quick-fire topics ranging from the beauty of spring to the importance of St Brigid. Surprising off-the-cuff responses flew back, including the saint’s promotion of smooth skin and her contribution to getting us an extra bank holiday. Thank you Brigid.

As Philip Howlin praised John’s ability to actively listen, grammarian, Margaret, complimented speakers for their original use of the word of the night, ‘vivacious’.

General evaluator, Pat Cavanagh, weighed in with mighty praise for all those who helped make the evening such a success, especially those behind the scenes.

Geraldine and Brian rounded off the meeting with further thanks and best wishes to the young speakers and their supporters. All in all, it was an evening that can only be described as ‘vivacious

The next meeting of Mullingar Toastmasters is at the Greville Arms Hotel on Thursday February 8 at 8pm, and all are welcome.

– Anthony Viney, public relations officer