AT A special ceremony hosted at Fermanagh House in Enniskillen on Thursday, June 10, the Fermanagh Talking Newspaper Association (FTNA) was presented with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service – the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.

FTNA is a group of volunteers in Enniskillen who provide an audio version of Fermanagh’s two local weekly papers, The Impartial Reporter and The Fermanagh Herald.

The organisation has been running for more than 40 years by a very loyal group of volunteers. These consist of audio technicians, readers organised by a co-ordinator, a committee, magazine producer and office administrators.

The work is based in The Drumcoo Day Centre, that provides the recording studio.

It was announced in late May, 2020 that FTNA had been recognised as a recipient of the prestigious award, but due to regulations surrounding the pandemic, the presentation of the award was delayed.

During the ceremony last Thursday, where a number of FTNA volunteers gathered for the presentation, Rosemary Wilkinson, Deputy Lieutenant for County Fermanagh, read the Queen's Award Citation which highlighted the great work and commitment of the volunteers within the organisation.

She read: "For the last 40 years, Fermanagh Talking Newspaper have brought the lifeline of local news to those with impaired vision in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

"The 55 volunteers of FTNA ensure that for the past 40 years, and for years to come, this small disadvantaged group continue to receive the local news and information every week.

"The entire staff of FTNA are volunteers and their commitment is relentless in producing the USB on schedule every week of the year. There is no such service supplied by the state.

"In essence, this service enables community and social inclusion for those who are more than often elderly and alone and with impaired vision."

The award was presented to the organisation by Viscount Brookeborough, Lord Lieutenant for County Fermanagh.

Congratulating FTNA on receiving the Queen's Award for the "phenomenal" work they do, Viscount Brookeborough said: "This is Her Majesty, The Queen, saying a really big thank-you to all of you and for not just a job well done but for tremendous commitment from you, your families and what you do for the public around here. So I would like to say many congratulations indeed."

Speaking following the presentation of the award, the treasurer of the FTNA committee, Marion McLaughlin, commented that it is "such an honour to accept an award that recognises the contribution of volunteers to our community".

She said: "The first recording of the Fermanagh Lakeland Echo was delivered to our listeners more than 42 years ago in January, 1979, and by the time Covid-19 restrictions forced us to suspend our service in March, 2020, we had recorded almost 2,000 editions.

"That is a tremendous achievement made possible only by the dedication and service of volunteers."

FTNA secretary Philomena Mulligan thanked Howard Thornton for nominating the Fermanagh Talking Newspaper for this award.

"The group want to thank all our volunteer readers, technicians, committee and collectors and on this momentous occasion we particularly remember one of our wonderful long-serving technicians, Pete Reeve, who recently passed away," she added.