The Gaisce Council comprises of 15 members. Gaisce Council members are appointed for a three year term and comprise President’s Award Leaders, Gaisce awardees, business supporters and those with relevant experience. The nomination of Council includes the appointment of a Chairman.

John Cunningham (Council Chairperson)

John’s career has spanned almost 35 years in marketing, management, business development and executive management in organisations such as Irish Permanent, Friends First, Zurich Bank and Alexander Mann Solutions. John is Commercial Director of Morgan McKinley a global player in the recruitment and talent solutions business. He is also a director and shareholder in CheckRisk. John has a long association with NGOs and supporting the arts in Ireland. He was a director in the Irish Youth Foundation and was Chair of the Immigrant Council of Ireland. He helped to found the initiative ‘IMMA 1000’, a fundraising programme that has seen the Irish Museum of Modern Art raise over €250K for Irish artists and was appointed to the board of the IMMA in 2018.  John is currently Chair of Gaisce – The President’s Award.

Emily Whelton

Emily Whelton heads up the Protocol and Civic Policy Division in the Department of the Taoiseach. Prior to this Emily worked in numerous roles in the Economic Division in the Department of the Taoiseach, including on key strategies and plans spanning various policy areas. Holds a Master’s in Business Economics and a Bachelor of Commerce Degree majoring in Economics from University College Cork.

Samantha Briody

Samantha is a chartered accountant with over 25 years’ experience across a range of industries and brings a depth of financial, accounting, tax and audit knowledge. Originally trained as a tax consultant with KPMG, Samantha holds a Bachelor of Corporate Law degree from UCG and a Professional Diploma in Accountancy from DCU. A mother of three girls, Samantha appreciates the challenges faced by young people today and it is this role, as a parent, that has provided her with the greatest challenges and achievements to date.

Dr Norah Burns

Dr Norah Burns holds a Bachelor of Laws in Law and European Studies and a Master of Laws in Human Rights in Criminal Justice from the University of Limerick. She has completed a PhD in Law in the School of Law in Trinity College Dublin. Norah completed a Master in Arts in Third Level Teaching and Learning in 2020 and has also completed postgraduate studies in human rights in Kings College London. In 2021 she was awarded a National Teaching Hero Award by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning and the Union of Students in Ireland. In 2018 she was chosen from 13,000 young people as a future young ethical leader in Europe by the Asia Europe Foundation. Norah was elected to the board of the National Women’s Council in 2020 and was nominated by the Minister for Higher Education to the Governing Body of Technical University Dublin in 2021. She is also a Silver Gaisce Award recipient.

Pauric Dempsey

Pauric Dempsey is Head of Communications at the Royal Irish Academy (, Ireland’s leading body of experts in the sciences and humanities where he has devised many projects including Women on Walls with Accenture and Modern Ireland in 100 Arts works with the Irish Times. He has presented radio programmes for RTE including Icons of Irish Science and Making Sense of it all and was Executive Producer on the Irish Mind TV series for CNBC and RTE. He was chairman of RTE’s Audience Council (2013-15) and in 2016 was  Associate Producer on Inside the GPO for Fishamble Theatre Company.

Denis Duggan

Denis Duggan, Chief Executive of Macra na Feirme.  He has previously served as the programme manager for Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Arena at the National Ploughing Championships, Ireland’s largest outdoor agricultural exhibition.  Enterprise Ireland is the Irish Government’s trade and business development board supporting Irish companies as they export goods and services internationally.  Under Denis’s stewardship of the Innovation Arena, Enterprise Ireland sought to discover new innovative agri-tech startup businesses and simultaneously acknowledge the high-end research and new product development that sustains established agri-businesses.   Denis holds an Executive Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from NUI Galway, a B.A in Sustainable Rural Development from Limerick IT, and has completed a Sustainable Development programme in Harvard University.  In the past, Denis was a volunteer and board member of Tipperary Regional Youth Service, amongst other voluntary organisations.

Dr Emma Farrell

Dr Emma Farrell is a researcher and lecturer in the School of Education, University College Dublin. Her research focuses on the philosophy of mental health and well-being and what we can learn from human experience. Emma is a founding member of Jigsaw, the National Centre for Youth Mental Health. She is an expert advisor to the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland and, in 2016, was appointed to the Government Taskforce for Youth Mental Health. Emma is a proud recipient of a Gaisce Gold Award.

Jenny Gannon

Kilkenny native Jenny Gannon is a primary school teacher and is a graduate of Dublin City University and St. Patrick’s College. She was appointed to Gaisce – The President’s Award Council in 2021 by Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman.  In 2019, she received a National Civic Merit Award for her contribution to volunteering with young people as a President’s Award Leader at a ceremony at Farmleigh House. She is also the National Programme and Training Commissioner of Irish Girl Guides. Speaking about her appointment to the Gaisce Council Ms Gannon said: 

“Gaisce enables young people to challenge themselves, learn new skills and expose themselves to experiences they may otherwise not have the opportunity to experience.  I believe that the Gaisce experience helps to shape our youth. Through my involvement in the Irish Girl Guides, I have had the privilege of seeing numerous young women work on and achieve their Gaisce award and no matter which level the attained – bronze, silver or gold – the experience has been a transformative one in some way for them. They have grown in confidence and self-belief, increased their skill level and oftentimes developed a new interest that they take with them into later life.” 

Áine Kerr

Áine Kerr is a serial risk taker and trailblazer with more than 10 years’ experience in the specialist cross-over space between journalism and technology. Co-founder and COO of Irish start-up Kinzen, she is a former Global Head of Journalism Partners at Facebook in New York, former Managing Editor at social media news agency Storyful, and a former reporter with The Irish Times, The Irish Examiner and The Irish Independent. She is a former member of the European Council’s committee of experts on quality journalism in the digital age and is an advisor to the Institute for Future of Media and Journalism (Fujo).  Áine is a Fellow of the Sulzberger Leadership Program in Columbia University, NYC and has a Masters in Journalism (MAJ) and Bachelor of Education (B’Ed) with Dublin City University (DCU). Áine is also a qualified and accredited Executive Coach and is the host of Reignite on RTÉ Radio One.  She has been recognised with an Alumni Award by DCU and awarded Woman of the Year in Media at the annual Irish Tatler awards.

Dr Ali Khan

Dr. Ali Khan is currently completing an MSc in Global Governance and Diplomacy at the University of Oxford. Prior to this he practiced as a Dentist/Dental Surgeon in private practice in Dublin and concurrently obtained an Executive MBA with Distinction from Trinity College Dublin. During his time in Trinity College Dublin, he served as Head of Postgraduates of Trinity’s Student Managed Fund and Chairman of the Postgraduate Subcommittee of the TCD’s College Historical Society, the world’s oldest debating society. He graduated in Dentistry/Dental Surgery from University College Cork in 2016. As well as serving as Chairman of the UCC Student Council, he received numerous university and national honours & awards, including the prestigious Gaisce: President’s Gold Award from President Michael D. Higgins and the UCC Student Leadership Award from President of UCC, Dr. Michael Murphy. He completed a Paediatric Dental Residency at Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) at Crumlin in 2018 and an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Residency at Cambridge University Hospitals in 2019. He also obtained Membership of the Faculty of Dental Surgeons from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 2019. Ali’s provision of quality healthcare extended beyond his work in clinical practice as he has also done some work as a Healthcare Consultant with Accenture, a Fortune Global 500 Company. Ali was born and raised in Cork, Ireland. In his free time, he loves rugby, cricket, travelling and the arts. He particularly loves the theatre having acted in several shows in school and during his time in UCC as well as with private theatre companies in Cork. He has also recently taken up the saxophone!

Paul Sweetman

Paul is a Director with Instinctif Partners, the EMEA business communications consultancy. Previously, Paul was Director of Ibec’s Financial Services Ireland and Technology Ireland trade groups and, served as a board member of Digital Europe and FIT. Paul is a Chartered Engineer, holds a Professional Certificate in Governance from the Institute of Public Administration and is a recipient of the Silver Gaisce Award

Vincent Teo

Vincent Teo is an experienced Chartered Accountant and a Certified Internal Auditor with over 18 years of experience working in the field of Internal Control and Process Improvement Assessment, Internal Audit, Risk Assessment, Regulatory Compliance and Financial Reporting. Vincent is a Partner with accounting firm Crowleys DFK, where he heads the firm’s substantial public sector portfolio overseeing all service deliveries to Central Government Departments, Public Entities, Regulators and Commercial State Agencies. A native of Malaysia, Vincent served on the Board of the Ireland Malaysia Business Association and was appointed Chairperson for a 5-year term in 2014. Vincent also chairs the Audit Committee of a large scale charity providing a range of supports to adults with intellectual disabilities.

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