The Aquinas Prize Evening took place this year on Thursday 17 December and combined the Celebration of GCSE achievement, for the current Year Thirteens, and the Celebration of A’ Level achievement for last year’s Year Fourteen.

Professor Peter Shirlow, parent of current student Ruairi and past student Aoife, was the Guest of Honour for the evening. He is the Director of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool and recipient of the Blair Chair and he spoke of the satisfaction of seeing young people achieve their potential. The large audience listened intently to his keynote speech and he finished by saying that the most important thing for young people is to vote and take an active part in the politics of their own destiny. Professor Shirlow also spoke eloquently about the trials and tribulations of his own challenges in reaching university and his honesty and humility received warm applause from the audience of pupils, past pupils, their families and teachers

Principal, Mr Barry Kelly, then publicly congratulated the GCSE students’ achievements giving details of their impressive grade statistics. Their families and teachers are understandably very proud of their success. Mr Kelly then continued by congratulating the past students on their A’ Level achievements, again giving statistical details of their accomplishments.

Heads of individual Departments joined the platform party on the stage this year and also presented pupils who scored the highest in the year group with specific subject trophies.

Individual student success was reported to Aquinas from our main examining body CCEA, with Ellen Connolly, Keela McConville and Eve Maguire achieving first in Northern Ireland in French and Home Economics and third in English Literature respectively. The pupils were duly congratulated from the stage on their achievements. The landmark award for GCSE, the Monsignor Bartley Award for academic achievement, was won by Keela McConville who achieved eleven A* grades.

Finally, the three milestone awards for the evening were presented by the Professor Shirlow. The first one, the Paula Grant Award for Endeavour was awarded to Orlaith McClinton; the Monsignor Bartley Award for Academic Achievement was won by Claire Doran and the Bishop Walsh, Spirit of Aquinas Award was won by Matthew McCrudden. These prizes are highly valued, hard earned and the three pupils fully deserved them for all their efforts.

Music for the event was beautifully performed by our own pupils, with Dara Burns opening the event on the harp, Conor Taggart singing a tenor piece at the interval and a final ensemble piece of Christmas music by  Year Thirteen pupils.

The current Head Boy, Jack McAlinden and Head Girl, Ella Durkan presented Professor Shirlow with a gift and vote of thanks for his valuable contribution to proceedings and Father Grant brought the event to a close with a prayer and reflection.

The evening finished with pupils, past-pupils, families, teachers and guests enjoying refreshments in the Mall in a true mood of celebration. Many congratulations to all.