DUBLIN, 28th MAY 2015 – Minister for Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, was Guest of Honour at the 61st Texaco Children's Art Competition Awards Ceremony held at The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham today when she presented prizes to the top winners in this year's Competition.

Welcomed by James Twohig, Director Ireland Operations of Valero, the company that markets fuel in Ireland under the Texaco brand, Minister Humphreys viewed the prize-winning entries and spoke to the 126 young artists who had travelled from all parts of Ireland to receive their prizes, amongst them the 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizewinners in each of seven age categories.

Leading the list of winners was Frances Treanor, an 18-year old artist from Tydavnet in Co. Monaghan who, until her graduation last summer, was a student at St. Louis Secondary School in Monaghan Town. Executed in the most unusual of mediums – black ballpoint pen – her prize-winning self-portrait, which was said by Competition adjudicators to have been carried out 'with the skill and delicacy of a master’, won first prize in the senior 16-18 age category of the Competition.

Frances' portrait won her a cheque for €1,500 and an invitation to visit Tokyo later this year. There she will attend an international exhibition hosted by the International Foundation for Arts and Culture in the city's National Art Center in which her winning entry will be displayed.

Also in Category A (16-18 years), second prize (€1,000) was won by Oliwia Widuto (age 16), a student at Loreto College Coleraine, for her work entitled 'Gramps on Morphine', while third prize (€750) was won by Janné Strydom (age 17), from Gorey Community School, for her entry entitled 'Wexford Harbour’. No stranger to the Competition, Janné was a Special Merit Award winner in 2011 and 2012.

In Category B (14-15 years), first prize (€450) was won by Vitaly Dergachev (age 15), a pupil at Wesley College, Ballinteer, for his painting entitled 'Wisdom’. Vitaly was a Special Merit Award winner in 2014. Second prize (€350) was won by Lucy Deegan (age 15), from Gaelcholáiste Cheatharlach, Carlow Town, for her work entitled 'Herons’. Lucy was a Special Merit Award winner in 2013 and 2014. Third prize (€250) went to Clíona Fitzpatrick (age 14), from Malahide Community School, for her study entitled 'Tomatoes and More’.

In Category C (12-13 years), first prize (€350) went to Nicole Forster (age 13), a pupil at Wilson's Hospital Secondary School, Multyfarnham, Co. Westmeath, for her portrait entry. Second prize (€250) was won by 12-year old student Sadhbh Simpson, from Loreto Dalkey Primary, Co. Dublin, for a work entitled 'Treehouse’. Sadbh was a Special Merit Award winner in 2009. Third prize (€200) went to Ethan Cheung (age 13), from Bangor Grammar School, Co. Down, for his pencil sketch entitled 'Portrait of my Dad’.

In Category D (9-11 years), first prize (€250 Art & Hobby gift voucher) was won by 9-year old Stephen Walsh, a student at Ratoath Senior National School, Co. Meath, for his colourful painting entitled 'Hydrangeas’. No stranger to the Competition, Stephen received a Special Merit Award in 2014. Second prize (€200 Art & Hobby gift voucher) was won by Orla Nolan (age 11), from Newtown Dunleckney National School, Bagenalstown, Co. Carlow, for her delightful work entitled 'Poetry Of The Feet’, while third prize (€150 Art & Hobby gift voucher) went to Charvi Goyal (age 11), from Loreto Primary School, Rathfarnham, Dublin, for a study entitled 'School Self Portrait’.

In Category E (7-8 years), the first prize (€200 Art & Hobby gift voucher) was won by 8-year old Laoise McDonald, from The Paint Box, Barna, Co. Galway, for a colourful piece entitled 'Blooming Flower’. Second prize (€150 Art & Hobby gift voucher) was won by Pippa McIntosh (age 7), from Kinsale Art Academy, Co. Cork, whose creative collage is entitled 'Jungle Journey’, while third prize (€125 Art & Hobby gift voucher) went to Monaghan student Sophia Goodman (age 7), from Scoil Naoimh Éanna, Carrickmacross, for her entry entitled 'The Nice Flowers’.

In Category F (6 years and younger), the youngest age group in the Competition, first prize (€150 Art & Hobby gift voucher) was won by 5-year old Ciara Ward, a pupil at St. Malachy's Primary School, Castlewellan, Co. Down, for her artwork entitled 'Fabulous Flowers’. Second prize (€125 Art & Hobby gift voucher) was won by Seán O'Reilly (age 6), from St. Anthony's Boys National School, Ballinlough, Co. Cork, for his work entitled 'Button Tree’. Seán was a Special Merit Award winner in 2014. Third prize (€100 Art & Hobby gift voucher) was won by Poppy Love (age 6) from Hansfield Educate Together National School, Dublin, for a study entitled 'Me And My Dog Cheeko’.

In Category G, reserved for entries from children with special needs, first prize (€400 Art & Hobby gift voucher) was won by 16-year old Conor Marley, a student at St. Gerard's School and Support Services, Belfast, for his painting entitled 'Natural Close Up’. Second prize (€300 Art & Hobby gift voucher) went to Roisín Murray (age 16), from St. Michael's School Holy Angels, Chapelizod, for her sketch entitled 'Christopher Reeve Superman’, while third prize (€200 Art & Hobby gift voucher) went to Michael Ahern (age 18), from Our Lady of Good Counsel, Ballincollig, Co. Cork, for his work entitled 'Night Boat’.

25 counties feature on winners' list – Dublin is most successful county overall

This year, twenty-five counties were represented in the overall list of 126 winners thereby underlining the appeal that the Competition has for students across Ireland. Amongst the twenty-one top prize-winners, Dublin was the most successful county taking six top prizes with other top awards in the seven Competition age categories going to three students from Cork, followed by Carlow, Down and Monaghan (2 each) and Antrim, Derry, Galway, Meath, Westmeath and Wexford (1 each).

Dublin was also the most successful county when Special Merit award winners were included with 37 winners overall, followed by Cork and Carlow (9 each), Wexford (8), Westmeath and Meath (7 each), Down, Limerick, Antrim, and Louth (6 each), Monaghan (5), Wicklow, Laois and Mayo (3 each), Waterford, Tipperary, Kildare and Galway (2 each), and Clare, Derry, Donegal, Kilkenny, Offaly, Longford and Roscommon receiving one each.

Final judging was carried out by the Chairman of the judging panel, Professor Declan McGonagle, Director of the National College of Art & Design, assisted by preliminary judges Dr. Denise Ferran (Artist & Art Historian), Eoin Butler (Artist & Lecturer in Visual Arts), Seán Kissane (Curator: Exhibitions, IMMA), Aoife Ruane (Director, Highlanes Municipal Art Gallery, Drogheda) and Colleen Watters (Head of Learning & Partnership, Ulster Museum, Belfast).

Addressing prize-winners, parents and teachers present at the awards ceremony, James Twohig, Director Ireland Operations of Valero, praised all of the winners for their skill and enthusiasm and thanked the many teachers from schools throughout Ireland who have given their support to the Competition throughout its 61 years history.

The Texaco Children's Art Competition is the longest running sponsorship in the history of arts sponsoring in Ireland – and popularly regarded as Ireland's longest-running sponsorship of any kind. It has an unbroken history that dates back to the very first Competition held in 1955. This year, as has been the case throughout its life, it has been a platform on which young artists have had their talents recognised and a springboard on which many have risen to national and international prominence. Aside from giving students the space to give expression to their talent and skill, the Competition has focused a spotlight on the quality of art teaching in Irish schools and the importance that the educational establishment attaches to the subject of art education.

Past winners whose early interest in art and the arts may well have been encouraged by their participation in the Competition include artists Graham Knuttel, Robert Ballagh, Bernadette Madden, Dorothy Cross, fashion designer Paul Costello and former broadcaster and artist Thelma Mansfield. Other notable past winners include Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn TD (a four-times winner), PR guru and columnist Terry Prone, ICTU General Secretary David Begg, actress Jean Anne Crowley, musician Ethna Tinney, Trinity College Professor of Contemporary Irish History, Eunan O'Halpin and the late novelist Clare Boylan.