Betty McLaughlin was honoured with a IGC’s Gold Medal Award for her Outstanding Contribution to Guidance. Pictured here with Mary Egan and Theresa Burke, chairperson of the IGC Midlands branch.

Former St Mary's CBS guidance counsellor honoured for 'outstanding contribution'

The Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC) Midlands Branch held a dinner and awards ceremony in the Annebrook House Hotel, Mullingar on Friday December 2 last.

Attended by guidance counsellors from Westmeath, Longford, Offaly, Galway and Roscommon, the evening saw an 'Outstanding Contribution to Guidance' gold medal award presented to Betty McLaughlin, former IGC President and guidance counsellor at St Mary's CBS Mullingar. Betty was also presented with a framed photo from her time as IGC President.

Another lady, Mary Egan of Coláiste Chiaráin, Athlone, was also honoured on the night, on the occasion of her retirement from the IGC Midlands branch.

Fiona Murphy, IGC Midlands branch secretary, Mary Egan, Theresa Burke IGC Midlands Chairperson.

Speaking at the event, Theresa Burke, chairperson of the IGC Midlands branch, said the evening marked a chance to celebrate the two very special ladies - the great work carried out by Mary Egan on behalf of IGC Midlands, and Betty McLaughlin, who had made an enormous contribution to guidance in the branch and at a national level.

"I had the privilege of getting to know Betty quite well during my first term as chairperson in 2014, when Betty was running for election as President of the IGC," began Theresa. "Blown away" by the qualities Betty displayed during a very busy and thorough campaign, including "determination, a composed disposition, and a striking ability to engage with people", Theresa said it came as "no surprise" when Betty was chosen to lead guidance in Ireland at a time when students were put in jeopardy.

"We had endured very misguided cuts to funding and resources for guidance in schools in the budget of 2012, " explained the chairperson. "Betty immediately sounded the alarm with the Department of Education and Skills, the press, and every stakeholder she could imagine. I believe she ran as president to ensure that we had a strong presence at meetings with the highest authorities, to safeguard the service our clients and students deserve, and needed," she continued.

Mary Egan and Betty McLaughlin in the Annebrook Hotel.

Adding that while her presidential campaign focused on reversing cuts and restoring guidance in schools, Theresa said Betty also saw the need to raise the IGC profile and ensure the organisation’s voice would be heard during national debates on all sorts of well-being issues such as mental health initiatives, suicide prevention and pastoral care provision, to protect clients and students into the future.

"She continues to highlight the importance of guidance at a national level, through interviews and debates in the media, on Ireland AM, Newstalk, and the Irish Independent to name a few," said Theresa. "As president, Betty delivered on all her ambitions. She fostered relationships with members of the media, the NCGE, NCCA, NEPS, Managerial bodies, the National Parents Council, the Minister for Department of Education and Skills at the time, Jan O’Sullivan to name just a few. Betty has brought a real sense of professionalism to the work of the IGC at national level, and we have all learned from her as privileged branch members. She is a beacon of confidence and knowledge, as anyone who as ever asked a question in the WhatsApp guidance forum will have noted.

"Betty has served young people all over Ireland, through her involvement in the IGC at all levels, she has acted as our Branch’s National Executive Member, PRO, Standing Orders Representative, Member of the AGM Organising Committee, and chairperson. At national level, Betty has acted as PRO, chairperson of the Qualifications and Membership Sub-Committee, member of the National Allocations Sub-Committee and of course, and as IGC president from July 2014-July 2016," stated Theresa.

"In addition, Betty serves young people, teachers, and guidance counsellors through her work as JCT Wellbeing Team Leader and her work in educating future guidance counsellors, most particularly in the University of Limerick. What is incredible is that Betty does all this work, while also being a devoted mother, wife and grandmother to her beloved family - husband Gerry, and sons Shane and Michael, and the newest addition, her granddaughter Fiadh; And as a proud Kilmallock lady, while also supporting Limerick Hurlers over some very successful years of late."

Theresa added that she and her fellow branch members wanted to show their appreciation for all Betty does for the branch, the IGC and young people all over the country. She presented a framed picture of Betty as President of the IGC, with an inscription that states “Betty McLaughlin, in appreciation for your Outstanding Contribution to Guidance from the Midlands Branch of the IGC”, along with the IGC’s Gold Medal Award for her Outstanding Contribution to Guidance.

Speaking of Mary Egan, Ms Burke said she had come to know Mary when she moved from the Careers Department in Athlone Institute of Technology, now TUS Midlands, to St Joseph’s Summerhill, now Coláiste Chiaráin.

"Mary retired from full time guidance in Coláiste Chiaráin in May 2018 but remains working there to this day, a testament to her dedication to helping those in need. Mary has also been instrumental in keeping the IGC Midlands Branch running over the years, acting as chairperson, secretary, and as a member of the national executive.

"Mary is a lady who always offers great insights and a very caring approach to her work. I have learned so much from Mary through our supervision group, and you will be an incredible loss to us Mary. As a branch, we wish you well in your retirement, and hope it brings plenty of opportunity to engage in your love of reading, travelling, and spending time with family. We have a small presentation for you, and we thank your wholeheartedly for sharing your expertise and friendship with us," Ms Burke concluded.