Current Council

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

John Cunningham was appointed Chair of Gaisce – The President’s Award by Minister Katherine Zappone in May 2018. John’s career has spanned nearly 35 years in marketing, management, client-relationship management, executive management and business development at organisations such as Irish Permanent Building Society, Friends First, Zurich Bank and Alexander Mann Solutions, among others. John is Founder/CEO at People Dynamic Solutions, a business that acts as a platform to bring HR consulting propositions to Ireland in talent retention/attraction, internal mobility and inclusion, and is 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.

Marcella Bannon

Marcella is an independent Arts Consultant with 18 years senior management experience delivering and curating multidisciplinary artistic programmes. For 13 years, she was responsible for the leadership and operational success of two regional arts centres, encompassing arts development, creative partnerships, financial planning and stakeholder relationships.More recently, Marcella was Head of Literature at the Arts Council in 2017 and since January 2018, she is a Freelance Consultant. One of the projects in her consultancy portfolio is the Project Management of the Laureate for Irish Fiction initiative.  Marcella has a Degree in Fine Art, HDip in Community and Adult Education and an MA in International Relations. 


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.  


Lindsay Malone

Lindsay Malone is currently the Manager of the Faculty of Lifelong Learning with Institute of Technology Carlow. Lindsay has spent the last number of years as an Associate Lecturer teaching across Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts programmes. Lindsay has held Senior Management roles in a number of Youth based Voluntary and Community Organisations and prior to that worked in Management roles in the Private Sector. Lindsay holds a Bachelor of Arts (hons) Applied Social Studies in Social Care, A Post Graduate Diploma in Childhood and Youth and a Masters of Arts in Teaching and Learning in Further and Higher Education. Lindsay has served on a number of Boards and Committees and recently completed a Certificate in Charity Law, Trusteeship and Governance.    


Jimmy McGovern

Jimmy McGovern is the nationally elected Vice President for the Border, Midlands & Western Region of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), an organisation representing 374,000+ students on the island of Ireland. He also currently serves as a member of the U.S. Embassy Youth Council. Jimmy studied a BA in Mathematics with Sociological & Political Studies in NUI Galway, where the Student Body elected him as the Vice President / Welfare Officer and subsequently President of the NUI Galway Students’ Union. Notably, he served on the University’s Governing Authority and on the Board of Directors of the Students’ Union Commercial Services Ltd. Jimmy has also been a two time overseas volunteer in Zambia and is an active mental health advocate, where he has trained and worked in the area of suicide intervention. Jimmy is passionate about education, access to support and quality of life, advocating that all members of society are deserving of this.


 Justin McAleese

Justin McAleese is a PwC trained chartered accountant and is currently Head of Operations of a satellite communications company. In the period 2011 to 2016, Justin held various positions at Ryanair including Head of Investor Relations and Purchasing, and Executive Assistant to the CEO. In 2015, Justin was actively involved in the marriage equality referendum, serving as joint constituency co-ordinator of the Yes Equality Campaign in the Dublin Bay South constituency. Justin is an alumnus of the Washington Ireland Program and holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree and Master of Accounting Degree from University College Dublin.


Philly McMahon

Philly McMahon is a Strength and Conditioning coach and Dublin GAA player, who received his first All Star award while was also being named on the shortlist for GAA Footballer of the Year in 2015. Philly is a business owner and founder of charity Half Time Talk which educates, trains and empowers young, unemployed adults in communities nationwide. In 2017, Philly released an autobiography entitled “The Choice”, with a strong emphasis on the story of his older brother John who died in 2012 as a result of drug addiction. It was named Eir Sports’ book of the year.


Miriam Dollard

Miriam Dollard is the Head of Protocol in the Department of the Taoiseach. In her current role she co-ordinated the State Ceremonial element of the 1916 Centenary Programme.  She has also worked in the Corporate Affairs and European Union Divisions of the Department.  She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from University College Dublin and a Higher Diploma in Education from Trinity College Dublin.


Lydia Bracken

Dr Lydia Bracken is a Lecturer in Law and Director of Clinical Legal Education in the School of Law, University of Limerick. In these roles, Lydia teaches, encourages and supports young people and supervises and co-ordinates skills-based learning in the School of Law. Lydia’s research interests are in the areas of children’s rights and family law and she has published nationally and internationally in these areas. Lydia is committed to legal reforms that ensure that the best interests of children and young people are secured. Lydia’s PhD thesis examined the implications of the best interests principle in the context of same-sex parenting in Ireland and was supported by a Department of Children and Youth Affairs Research Scholarship. Lydia is also a qualified barrister with knowledge of a range of legal areas.Lydia’s current professional activities include membership of the Advisory Group for Research Evidence for Policy Program and Practice (REPPP), which is funded by the DCYA, and she serves on the AHSS Athena SWAN Steering Group at UL. She has also experience of the charity/CVO sector from her previous advocacy volunteer role with the ISPCC.


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.  


Paul Sweetman

Paul is Director of Financial Services Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the financial services sector. Previously, Paul was Director of Ibec’s Technology Ireland group 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.


Karen Buckley

Karen Buckley is an educationalist based in Dublin and has enjoyed working in a range of settings from traditional, formal, second level through informal adult and community learning, to Higher Education. A proud graduate of Maynooth University, Karen holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and Sociology, a Master of Arts Degree in Sociology and Post Graduate Diploma in Education. Karen is a doctoral candidate in MU Education Department where she is exploring Teacher Education, Identity and Professional Development practices among educators. Karen is an academic developer in the Teaching Enhancement Unit in Dublin City University, which aims to foster excellence in practice through leadership and teaching, the provision of professional development opportunities for staff, and the scholarship of teaching and learning.  Attainment of her Gaisce Bronze award, through community involvement endeavours, ignited Karen’s passion for youth development, education and active citizenship. Karen hopes to perform a key role in securing better outcomes and brighter futures for young people during her term on the Gaisce Board of Council.


Feargal Hynes

Feargal is currently Head of Operations & Development at Druid, an internationally renowned theatre company based in Galway.Feargal, a BComm graduate from UCD, is a former President & Executive Director of UCDSU Ltd and UCDSU CS Ltd. He is the teenage founder of SkyHigh Promotions and has worked extensively in the Arts and Entertainment industries. He was previously a consultant for a number of Irish companies in the area of strategy building and organisational development. He currently also serves as Chairman of both UCDSU CLG & UCDSU CS CLG. 


Emma Farrell

Dr Emma Farrell is Education and Training Officer at Jigsaw, The National Centre for Youth Mental Health – an organisation she helped establish and has been involved in since its inception in 2006. Emma’s PhD focused on the lived experience of third level students with mental health difficulties and she continues to teach, supervise and research as a Visiting Research Fellow in the School of Education, Trinity College Dublin. Emma was a member of the Board of Directors of Jigsaw (2014-2016) and is currently an advisor to the College of Psychiatry in Ireland. In 2016 Emma was appointed as Co-Chair of the Youth Mental Health Taskforce Youth Reference Group with Niall Breslin by Minister Helen McEntee. Emma is the proud Gaisce gold medal recipient.


Maura Lyons

Maura Lyons is the CEO of Leave No Trace Ireland, the national outdoor ethics programme which inspires the responsible use of the countryside in Ireland. Maura is a graduate of Science from University College Cork.  She also holds a Master’s Degree in Communications from D.I.T and a BSc in Psychology from the University of Glasgow. Previously, Maura worked with Enterprise Ireland, which is the Irish Government’s trade and business development board which supports Irish high potential companies as they export goods and services internationally. Maura coordinated specialised trade missions within the digital media and environmental sector to Scotland.

Maura also worked with Fáilte Ireland in assisting the development of Ireland’s first Coastal Blueway Kayak and Snorkel trails in Mayo and Galway. She is passionate about the outdoors and holds senior outdoor coaching qualifications in white-water kayaking, canoeing, snorkeling, power boating, sailing, lifeguarding, surfing, skiing,  climbing, and Mountaineering.  Maura has been awarded for her efforts in innovation at the “UCC entrepreneur Awards” as well by her volunteer efforts as “Volunteer Citizen of the year” by the President of Ireland. 

Maura firmly believes that maintaining positive relationships, regular exercise and a positive workspace are as important to your holistic health as the food you eat. She is passionate about continuous self- improvement and leading by example. She is currently undertaking a Ph.D. with NUIG in this area.  She undertakes regular mentoring and coaching and enjoys discovering new ways that are available for optimum health and wellness. Recently, she completed her first trans-Atlantic sailing voyage from the Caribbean to the Azores. Maura currently sits on the Council for Gaisce – The President’s Award.

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