Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Top Youth Award for inspirational teen

Local teenager Feargal Gregory is celebrating after scooping a prestigious award at Thursday’s Youth and Future Talent Achievement Awards (YAFTAS). 

The 19 year old was named Inspirational Young Person of the year at the awards evening which took place in the Millbrook Lodge Hotel in Ballynahinch.

Each year the Newry Youth Forum and the Down Youth Forum host the YAFTAs to recognise the achievements and successes of the young people from Newry, Mourne and Down District in seven different award categories: Good Relations, Inspirational Youth Person, Innovation & Creativity, Good Relations, Community Safety, Inclusion and Voice of Young People.

The Culloville teenager is well known for his sporting prowess as a Gold medal winner, at the special Olympic swimming, and for his open water swimming achievements over the last number of years. The former St Paul’s student is a member of the Youth group, ‘Incredible Peer Educators’, which was established to help train young people with additional needs to become peer mentors for a younger age group with learning needs.

Fergal has fully embraced his role, completing various training courses including Makaton training and an OCN qualification in buddying. He participates in a vast range of hobbies and activities and is an active member of his local community, where he is much loved for his infectious smile and warm personality, which friends say lights up every room he enters.

The highly accomplished young man has been inundated with messages of congratulations since winning his award, with a Newry, Mourne and Down spokesperson describing him as “an excellent example to all young people not to be defined or limited by your disability.”

Slieve Gullion Councillor Pete Byrne also spoke of his “deep sense of pride” at the local man’s latest achievement. 

Fergal Gregory from Culloville pictured receiving his Inspirational Young Person of the Year award at the YAFTA awards on Thursday night.

Praising Fergal’s work on the inclusion programme at St. Oliver Plunkett’s Youth Club in Crossmaglen Mr Byrne said “it is right that we acknowledge and also thank Fergal not only for representing us in south Armagh but for representing the whole of Ireland on the world stage.’

‘I left the ceremony feeling inspired and refocused as a public representative. The YAFTAs is an annual reminder that our district particularly south Armagh has much to be proud of and with young people like Fergal Gregory living in our community we should be bursting with pride. Huge congratulations to all the young people who were nominated and received awards this year.’

Fergal’s proud parents Kevin and Aine, and his siblings Niamh, Shea, Molly and Finn say they are extremely proud of his all his success and achievements. Mum Aine told The Examiner, 

“We are so proud of Fergal’s YAFTA award.  It’s fantastic for him to be recognised as an inspirational young person.  Emma, a dear friend of ours who runs a local Lourdes group who Fergal travelled with last Easter, once said when you judge someone based on their diagnosis, you miss out on their beauty and uniqueness – this is so true for Fergal and anyone living with a disability! Fergal’s achievements highlight what can be achieved by young people who just happen to have Down Syndrome.  He is such a great character who continues to inspire us every day.”

Congratulating all the YAFTA winners and nominees, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Roisin Mulgrew said choosing a winner from over 70 excellent nominations was “extremely difficult.”  

Feargal Gregory, winner of the ‘Inspirational Young Person’ category at the Youth & Future Talent Awards (YAFTAs) with Esther Millar, Education Authority, Representative from event sponsor, Specsavers and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Roisin Mulgrew.

“The YAFTAs are an excellent platform to acknowledge and reward the talent and achievements of our district’s most inspirational young people,” she added.

Education Authority Youth Officer, Esther Millar said, “The YAFTA Awards provide an opportunity to recognise and reward the selfless and creative efforts of young people as they better the lives of the people around them and promotes a very positive awareness around young people’s contribution in the local community. The commitment of both of the Youth Council groups to work collaboratively to facilitate the YAFTA event has been tremendous.”

Councillor Pete Byrne with Fergal after receiving his award.