THE Manchester Mayo folk with their families and friends certainly celebrated in style the 33rd Annual Mayo Association Dinner Dance that was held once again at the Lancashire County Cricket Club, Old Trafford.
300 guests were treated to a great night out by the hard working committee who ensured that annual event was its usual great success.
Even the Gerry Guthrie band was imported over from Mayo for the night, and they certainly went down very well with a very appreciative audience.
The winner of this year’s prestigious Mayo Association of Manchester Award went to local man Joe Flynn who heads the Irish Education Group in Manchester.
He was a very popular choice on the night with the guests thanks to his dedication to the Irish community for the last 26 years.
Joe was especially proud to receive the Mayo award as his Mother was an O’Malley who came from from Currane in Achill.
Joe was born to Irish parents who met and settled in Manchester in the 1940’s. Mum from Currane in Achill and Dad from Ballinamore in Leitrim. Joe attended St Aidan’s Primary School and St Gregory’s High School in Manchester and then went on to Liverpool University. He started his teaching career in Manchester, and by the 1980’s he was working for the City Council’s Education Department in a central support team. One of the mandates was to promote multicultural education in response to the Moss Side riots and other incidents in the city.
It was then that Joe realised how invisible the Irish had become to the education system. Children were taught the history of Africa, Asian and Caribbean civilisation and culture, but nothing about the history and culture of the largest ethnic group in Manchester, the Irish.
In the era of the anti-Irish jokes, children were very reluctant to declare that they were from an Irish family. As a result, Joe co-founded the Manchester Irish Education Group with Mayo man Tom McAndrew and a couple of other Manchester teachers in 1986.
Their aim was to promote Ireland and the Irish. To try and fulfill this, they undertook many initiatives in schools, colleges and the general community including Irish materials for schools, Irish speakers in schools and many evening talks.
The group’s annual conference which is held in Manchester Town Hall is now celebrating its 18th year. The group also runs an annual children’s music festival for over 30 schools involving over 900 children, also held in the Town Hall.They also run heritage/education trips to various places to learn about for example Michael Davitt or the Blasket Islands and its writers.
With Joe’s interest in promoting Irish culture with young people and his knowledge of schools and youth groups, he was invited to join the National Advisory Committee of the Irish Youth Foundation. He now judges applications for funding and makes recommendations to the foundation trustees who have now distributed over 2.5 million pounds. Joe has been instrumental in powering this group along for the past 26 years.