Hotel fire can’t stop Magherafelt journalist winning top UK awards

Patricia Devlin with her award
Patricia Devlin with her award

A former Mid Ulster Mail reporter has reached the very top of the industry by winning two of the biggest and most prestigious awards in the UK.

Patricia Devlin claimed the UK Regional Press ‘Reporter of the Year’ and she also walked away with the ‘Scoop of the Year’ title.

Still elated from her latest triumph, the Sunday Life journalist said she was overwhelmed by the messages of support and congratulations.

“It was just amazing to win the two awards, but most of all, I am delighted that our paper won the overall Newspaper of the Year,” she said.

Alongside Patricia’s trophies Sunday Life also took two further awards for Best Daily/Sunday Newspaper of the Year (over 25,000 circulation) and the Making a Difference Award.

“We all work really hard as a team here and these awards are for everyone involved.

“Winning the ‘Making a Difference’ award was a real boost, as that award is voted for by the public, and we were up against 37 newspapers from across the UK, so it was huge to win that.”

But the actual awards themselves became headline news, when a fire broke out in the London hotel where the ceremony was being held.

“We couldn’t believe it, it was total chaos,” said Patricia, “we were all evacuated when the fire broke out, and we just thought the rest of the awards would not go ahead. At that stage, we had not won anything, so when they started, the ceremony was behind schedule and we had to rush up and accept the awards and then sit down. That was probably for the best, as I didn’t have time to get too nervous.”

The 28-year-old from Magherafelt was praised by judges for her interview with Dungannon girl Michaela McCollum jailed in Peru in 2013.

Archive - Maud Kells chats to Mid Ulster Mail reporter Patricia Devlin.

Archive - Maud Kells chats to Mid Ulster Mail reporter Patricia Devlin.

“Patricia found brilliant stories that created compelling front pages, drove sales and gave readers a special reason to buy the newspaper. She even persuaded her editor to send her to Peru in pursuit of a huge story.”

Sunday Life editor Martin Breen said: “This is a remarkable achievement for Patricia and the rest of the Sunday Life team and testimony to the hard work they put in.”