Maternity & Midwifery Forum

All-Ireland Maternity and Midwifery Festival Trailblazer Awards 2024

Last week the Maternity and Midwifery Forum’s All-Ireland Festival took place at the Helix, Dublin. Take a look at the winners from the All Ireland Maternity and Midwifery Trailblazer Awards Ceremony. The Awards recognised outstanding achievement and commitment to maternity and midwifery services over the past year across the island of Ireland.


Narrowcast Media Group produced, filmed and live streamed the Awards Ceremony on the day. You can watch back the ceremony on-demand today and catch up on all of the action from the day that you may have missed.

Watch the ceremony (below) and take a look back at some of the best photos from the day in this article.

Midwifery Practice Leader Trailblazer Award

Commended : Michelle Walsh  

Michelle Walsh, Clinical Midwife Manager 2, Parent Education department, Regional Hospital Mullingar, Maternity Department.

Michelle is an experienced midwife, currently also studying for a Masters by research at UCD looking at the impact of education on parental confidence particularly in relation to high crying infants. She works closely in the multidisciplinary team and is recognized for her endeavors to ensure positive experiences and improve outcomes for expectant parents attending Regional Hospital Mullingar, always striving to provide evidence based education for every woman and family she meets and goes that extra mile providing one to one education for those who need it. This included adapting the provision to an online platform during the COVID-19 pandemic. Michelle is a true midwifery leader and is very deserving of the award.

Midwifery Practice Leader Trailblazer Award

Winner : Deirdre Naughton

Deirdre Naughton, Director of Midwifery, Portiuncula University Hospital

Deirdre is a true leader in every sense of the word who fosters an environment of support, growth, and empowerment within our department. She has a remarkable ability to build and nurture a team of leaders, instilling confidence and motivation in each member. Under her guidance, our team has flourished, not only in terms of professional development but also in the delivery of exceptional patient care. What sets Deirdre apart is her unwavering commitment to supporting the academic and career aspirations of nurses and midwives on our team. She goes above and beyond to provide mentorship, resources, and opportunities for growth, ensuring that each team member has the tools they need to succeed. Whether it’s facilitating further education, advocating for career advancement, or simply offering a listening ear, Derdre is always there for her team. Her dedication has had a profound impact on our department. Thanks to her guidance and support, numerous nurses and midwives have been able to achieve their academic and career dreams, contributing to the advancement of midwifery practice and the betterment of patient care. In summary, Deirdre embodies the qualities of an exceptional leader: supportive, visionary, and dedicated to the success of her team. Her contributions to our department and the field of midwifery are truly deserving of recognition.

Special Award from parents

Oonagh King

Oonagh King, Bereavement Midwife, Dromore Listening Rooms For Bereaved Families

This was sent by a bereaved family supported by Oonagh and wished she was considered for this nomination.


“I wish to nominate the above venue as it’s an amazing tranquil safe much needed ideal venue for bereaved parents and families away from the hospital setting to meet the Bereavement Midwife Oonagh King who was so professional and went above and beyond to be kind, caring and above all listen and hold the space for grieving parents, siblings and grand parents.  Listening at the worst possible time in your life is life saving and with her excellent communication skills and expertise. The resources that were provided to me, my husband and my children were utterly amazing and they made me believe that every baby counts despite gestation or diagnosis. Oonagh the Bereavement Support Midwife supported me antenatal, intranatal and postnatally both emotionally and physically she fulfilled her role of “being with woman” more than I could ever have wished for. She signposted me and followed up to see how I was coping. The networking and support groups she guided me to attend and engage in made me the person I am today. She provided pre conceptional care and care in my subsequent rainbow pregnancy and for that I am eternally grateful. She supported me throughout my next pregnancy as my anxiety was at a level no one could imagine or realise but Oonagh was able to read my cues and identity that I was hysterical and was there to comfort, support and keep me grounded. She also supported my husband and often had tissues, water and little knitted hearts. The invite to the Service of Remembrance and putting my sons name in the Book of Remembrance and a little kind text on the dreaded Mothers and Fathers Day and times like my Due Date, Easter and Christmas.  Oonagh deserves to be awarded as a Midwifery Leader as the Listening Rooms are a huge trailblazer as the only safe venue in Ireland to help and support people like me in the worst girl gang ever and wearing the ugliest shoes that I will have to walk in for the rest of my life.”

Maureen and Paul McEvoy and their 8 yr old daughter Lacey-Lou


Student Midwife Trailblazer

Winner: Lee-Ann McCaul

Lee-Ann McCaul, Student Midwife / Craigavon Area Hospital, Southern Health and Social Care Trust.

Leanne is a student midwife in NI that has gone above and beyond to help support bereaved families in our Trust in NI. She has excellent communication skills and attention to detail.  She has volunteered to help fundraise a lot of money for Cradle, which is a resource bag given to all parents that includes toiletries following them receiving bad news about their baby and having to be admitted to hospital early for delivery.   She is kind, caring and always willing to help and support the Bereavement Team at the Dromore Listening Rooms, a purpose built area away from the hospital where we meet bereaved families for emotional support and guidance.   She helps at the annual Service of Remembrance each year and shows huge interest in attending additional training to boost her knowledge and skills to help these families.   She is more than deserving to win the student award for all her amazing work and helping to make a difference to bereaved families in NI.


Midwifery Practice Education Leader

Commended: Orla Gavigan 

Orla Gavigan, Clinical placement Coordinator, National Maternity Hospital

Nominated by a group of interns who have been supported by Orla in the past four years, she is recognized for her obvious love for maternity care and the students providing it. They say: When we lacked spirit, she gave us hers.  When we lacked bravery, Orla was right there showing us how it’s done. When we couldn’t advocate for ourselves, Orla done the advocating as well as empowering us to be able to advocate for ourselves, each other and in turn the women and families we care for every single day. Nothing is ever too much, if we need a shoulder to cry on, Orla is there, if we need a kick up the rear end, you can be sure Orla is there. We often don’t need to ask, Orla has such a way with people she can read a room and be exactly what is needed at that moment. Orla provides a stable, comforting base for students to grow from and is a trusted confidant and mentor to all.  Orla is the embodiment of the standards of midwifery. Her kindness has helped us through, her stories of life and work have helped us through, and her dedication to midwifery and students has shone a bright light on the way forward for us all.

Midwifery Practice Education Leader

Winners: Caroline Keegan and Jenny Duggan

Caroline Keegan, Assistant professor of midwifery, Galway University and Jenny Duggan, Advanced midwifery practitioner, Galway University Hospital.

Caroline and Jenny are recognised for their persistence in introducing water birth to the West of Ireland. 

They planned the implementation of a birthing pool in the design of a home from home room on the labour ward at Galway university hospital.

Eighteen months later the home from home suite was opened complete with a state of the art birthing pool. They motivated staff through gathering the evidence and research, displaying on the labour ward to reassure midwives and doctors and then created water birth training/study days for the five maternity units in the Saolta hospital group. This included practical skills/drills/ evacuation from the pool aiming to build confidence and motivate midwives by acknowledging them as experts and leaders in their field. Feedback from the sessions include: “Very relevant and helpful”, “Very inspiring”, “It was an honour and privilege to be the in the presence of facilitators and midwives with such passion and high regard for the profession of midwifery…”

Along with collaboration with Julie Higgins, (ADOM for the Saolta group),and home birth midwife Carmel Cronolly, approximately 100 staff were trained in water for labour/ birth and the home from home room was opened in November 2023. They never gave up, resolving to overcome any hurdle by creative thinking, professionalism and team working!


Maternity and Midwifery Forum Editorial Team

April 24

If you would like to make an award nomination for your colleague or yourself, please use our online form here, and we will see you at the next festival event of the series – FREE Midlands Maternity and Midwifery Festival – 14th May.