The work of the fifth and sixth-class pupils at Glasheen Boys’ National School emerged as clear winner of the People’s Choice Award at the ECO-UNESCO Young Environmentalist of the Year, taking more than 8,200 of the 30,000-plus votes cast online.
It was the only award chosen by the public out of more than 12 categories, with winners presented with prizes by former president Mary Robinson.
The Glasheen boys began their project after noticing damage and graffiti to many amenities and signs at The Lough near their school in the city’s southside.
The freshwater limestone lake is home to ducks, swans, fish and bats and features a nature reserve on its central island, but many birds which had been living on it died in a botulism outbreak in 2009.
The pupils started a campaign calling on locals to look after The Lough, designing and printing an information brochure which they distributed in the community. Their lobbying of Cork City Council has also led to the upgrading of signage around the amenity.
More than 50 primary and second-level groups were shortlisted for yesterday’s awards ceremony in Dublin, with one of the top prizes going to Coláiste Muire from Ennis, Co Clare. Their All Washed Up project involved mobilising their community to clean up waste washing ashore on local beaches from ship containers lost in a sea storm last summer.
Students from St Joseph’s Secondary School, Stoneybatter, in Dublin’s inner city, were the overall senior winners for bringing rural ideas to an urban setting, showing how easy it is to grow your own food.
The girls of Presentation Secondary School, Tralee, earned a special biodiversity award for their campaign against the poisoning of the white-tailed eagle in Kerry. Another Tralee girls’ school, Mercy Mounthawk, won the senior water category for their Doing it for the Ducks project.
“It is inspiring to see the passion and talent of young people from every county in the island on display. The innovative projects are a testament to the hard work and effort put in by all the groups involved, who make a real difference in their local communities and beyond,” said Mrs Robinson, president of the Mary Robinson Foundation — Climate Justice.