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Journalism award for Ennis’ Eoin

AN Ennis student has been named as the overall winner of a prestigious all-Ireland competition.
DCU student Eoin Murphy is the 2021 winner of the €2,000 Mary Mulvihill Award, the science media competition for third-level students that commemorates the legacy of science journalist and author Mary Mulvihill (1959–2015).
Eoin, a student on DCU’s MSc in Science and Health Communication programme, won the top prize for his audio documentary Black Market Oxygen – The Peru Project, which examined the contrasting experiences of Ireland and Peru during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The piece was inspired by a photograph in The Guardian showing a stand-off between hundreds of impoverished and desperate families attempting to leave Peru’s capital, Lima, on foot to return to their home villages, and riot police, who blocked their path in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The documentary, which Eoin wrote and narrated, is a stark reminder that old age and underlying conditions are not the only factors that exacerbate vulnerabilities to Covid-19.
“The incredible speed of innovation, which the scientific community has demonstrated since the beginning of 2020, will only be truly realised in years to come,” Eoin notes.
“But what is already clear to see is that the inequality which exists around the world means that the poorest nations are being left behind in their battle to combat the spread of Covid-19.”
A native of Ennis, Eoin is a biochemist, a passionate science communicator and an educator. He currently combines his work as a part-time student at DCU with his role as a teacher of biology, mathematics and general science in Ballinrobe Community School, in County Galway.
Now in its fifth year, the competition invited entries this year on the theme of ‘Virus’.
Entrants were encouraged to consider the concept in its broadest sense – not only in terms of infectious agents, such as SARS-CoV-2, which has come to dominate our lives – but also in terms of computer viruses and other metaphorical uses, notably the media phenomenon of ‘going viral’.
The diverse entries included considerations of different aspects of virology, such as human endogenous retroviral sequences, which play essential roles in human biology, and bacteriophages, the viruses that attack bacteria, which have therapeutic potential as next-generation antibiotics.
Another entry analysed the ‘infodemic’ that has accompanied the present pandemic, and another focused on the difficulty faced by asylum-seekers in direct provision trying to maintain social distance in over-crowded accommodation.
The formats employed were equally diverse. They included an illustrated children’s book on viruses rendered in verse, a dedicated website on HIV with an embedded podcast, and a sampler for a graphic novel, as well as entries in various other text, audio and video formats. Students from nine third-level colleges across Ireland submitted entries.
“The judges were greatly impressed with the volume and variety of this year’s entries,” said Anne Mulvihill, a sister of Mary’s and a member of the judging panel from the inception of the competition.
“Eoin Murphy’s excellent audio piece was a unanimous winner and, given that Mary did a lot of audio work, it’s additionally fitting that the piece is in this medium.
“There was also consensus amongst the judges on giving the highly commended award to Matthew Thomas’s strong essay. We congratulate both winners and send our thanks and appreciation to all the entrants who took part in this year’s competition.”

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