3 Mar 2020

STAR Awards 2020: Young Offenders star praises adult learning projects


Hilary Rose was a special guest at the STAR Awards Ceremony, kicking off the AONTAS Adult Learners' Festival 2020. 

(L-R, Tara Farrell, AONTAS Chairperson; Niamh O'Reilly, AONTAS CEO; Hilary Rose, Irish actor and writer)

Star of hit TV show ‘The Young Offenders’, Hilary Rose joined adult learning projects from across Ireland at a special awards ceremony in Dublin on Monday, 2nd March 2020. This initiative takes place each year as part of AONTAS’s Adult Learners’ Festival and celebrates the achievments of adult learning projects. 

Commenting at the awards ceremony, Hilary Rose said: “Adult learning is such a positive part of Irish communities and the groups here today represent that.”

“These projects are helping people with mental health difficulties and intellectual disabilities, assisting women to re-enter the workforce, supporting the families of prisoners, and creating employment for at-risk young people. Their work is so important and so valuable, and I am delighted to be here today to help recognise and celebrate their achievements.”

2020 Winners

Since their inception in 2007, over 1,000 adult learning projects have been recognised through the STAR Awards.

From a shortlist of 22, seven winning projects were unveiled at today’s event:

The NLN (National Learning Network) Focus Recovery Programme in Cork was announced as winner in the ‘Health and Wellbeing’ category. It is a full-time training programme for people who have had a mental health setback, providing skills to support their recovery and plan ahead for further education, training and employment.

The Cultural and Heritage Studies Local Training Initiative at the National Print Museum in Dublin received the award in the ‘Third-level Access and Engagement’ category. Learners on the programme train to be tour guides and work within the museum, as well as studying subjects like archaeology, history, customer service and communications.

The Dillon’s Cross Project from Cork won the ‘Social Inclusion – Small / Medium Organisation’ category. The programme supports female relatives of prisoners and ex-prisoners, providing participants with an opportunity to achieve their educational aspirations.

The Bedford Row Traveller DRIVE Initiative from Limerick was announced as the winner in the ‘Social Inclusion – Large Organisation’ category. This programme supports members of the Traveller community to apply for a professional vehicle driver’s licence to increase their employment prospects.

Muirhevnamor Local Training Initiative in Dundalk won the ‘Sustainable Employment – Small / Medium Organisation’ category. On this course, learners aged 17-35 years achieve QQI awards in Employability Skills, as well as other accredited employment-related certificates, such as Forklift Driving, HACCP, Safepass and Manual Handling.

Ability@Work in Cork was the winner of the ‘Sustainable Employment – Large Organisation’ category. This programme is a specialised employment service supporting young people with intellectual disabilities and / or autism to find paid employment.

Healthcare Opportunities for Women in Limerick won the ‘Special Recognition for an ESF Initiative’ category. This programme supports women who have been out of work with training and advice to build a career as a healthcare professional. The ESF is the European Social Fund, one of the sponsors of the STAR Awards.

Need to invest in adult learning
Commenting at the event, Niamh O’Reilly, CEO of AONTAS, highlighted the need for increased investment in adult learning:

“The projects receiving awards today – and, indeed, all those that entered the awards and are participating in the Adult Learners’ Festival this week – show how important adult learning is for communities right across Ireland,” she said. “In particular, adult education plays a vital role in communities with high levels of unemployment, isolation and marginalisation. Given the crucial role adult learning plays we are reiterating our call for the next government to increase investment in adult and community education. In particular, we want to see a Minister of State appointed with special responsibility for Adult, Community, and Further Education and Training.”

Adult Learners’ Festival
The STAR Awards ceremony kicked off the AONTAS Adult Learners’ Festival, which is running throughout this week, from 2nd to 6th March, with hundreds of events and activities happening nationwide. Regional events may be found through our One Step Up calendar - The full programme for the Festival is available at:

To find out more click the links below:

Adult Learners' Festival 2020events taking place nationwide

AONTAS Annual Policy Day 2020

Like AONTAS on Facebook and follow @AONTAS on Twitter

The STAR Awards is proudly sponsored by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), the Open University in Ireland and the Open College Network Northern Ireland (OCNNI) and European Social Fund (ESF).