Meet the Team

The Gaisce Team is here to support and help our Participants, PALs and Gaisce Partners.

The Gaisce Team

AllCEOBusiness SupportOperations and DevelopmentCommunications

Avril Ryan

Chief Executive Officer

Louise Place

Business Support Manager

Alex Davis

Governance and Business Support Officer

Chris Moloney

Business Support Administrator

Deirdre Phelan

Administrator (Part-Time)

Sarah Gallagher

Head of Communications and Engagement

Shane Barr

Digital Media and Social Content Officer

Hannah Dempsey

Communications Officer

Karol Quinn

Head of Programme and Strategic Development

Marion Irwin-Gowran

Project Manager

Paul Darby

National Development Manager & Development Officer for Wexford, Carlow and Kilkenny

Eve O’Brien

Learning Manager

Ger Brady

Development Officer for South Dublin and Kildare.

Joy Winston

Development Officer for North Dublin and Wicklow.

Mary Yore

Development Officer for Cavan, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon and Westmeath​.

Stephen Peers

Development Officer for Clare, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, Waterford and Cork.

Siobhan Noctor

Development Officer for Donegal, Galway, Mayo and Sligo.

Jennifer Gallagher

Project Officer

Kate Kelly

Education Officer (Part-Time)

Gaisce Council

Dr Shane Bergin

Dr Shane Bergin is a physicist and an assistant professor in science education at UCD’s School of Education.

Shane’s public engagement work engages diverse audiences. Since 2016, Shane has had a regular (monthly) slot on RTE Radio 1’s ‘Today with Claire Byrne’ show; a weekly slot on Newstalk’s science programme, Futureproof; and has co-presented a three-part live science television series (Future Ireland). Shane has co-authored a children’s science book, Peigí’s Adventures in Science, that explored issues of diversity and inclusion in a science context. Shane has produced and presented two podcast series: 101 The Ways we Learn, explored the nature of learning; The Trust Race (to be released in 2023) explores six controversial science-related topics and their effects on public trust in science. The quality of Shane’s public engagement work has been recognised through awards such as: the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science; and the European Commission’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) achievement award for science communication.

Beyond research and public-engagement interests, Shane has worked with others on policy matters. Since 2018, Shane has advocated for a Citizens’ Assembly on the future of education in Ireland. The 2020 Programme for Government commits to holding such an assembly in the near future.

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.

John Cunningham (Chair)

John Cunningham’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.

Jenny Gannon

Jenny Gannon is a Kilkenny native, a primary school teacher, and 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 Jenny 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 they 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.”


Lydia Gratis

Lydia Gratis is the President of the European Union for Deaf Youth (EUDY), making her the 1st Black president in its 35 years of existence. Prior to being president, she was president of the Irish Deaf Youth Association, one of the 30 deaf youth associations across Europe (2017-2019) Lydia then went on to establish Ubuntu European Deaf Youth, a youth group for Black and Brown Deaf youth all over Europe, supported by the European Union for Deaf Youth, a European non-profit organisation consisting of 30 national associations all over Europe. With the mission to create a Europe where all young deaf people are able to come together and share their experiences across cultures and boundaries, so they can enjoy their rights on an equal basis with others. Full social and political participation empowered by non-formal training and cross-cultural youth exchange, including access to education and employment. Lydia directs non-formal education workshops on social justice and wellness topics specifically tailored and centred to social justice and community development in the deaf community globally unifying across differences via her platform Saved By The Sign. Lydia is also on the board of Ireland’s national association of the deaf, Irish Deaf Society, and the media manager for the platform “Deaf Women’s Space”, a global platform dedicated to host workshops and seminars for deaf women by deaf women globally in international sign language. Lydia majored in Anthropology and International development at Maynooth University and previously worked at the Sign Language Interpreting Agency (SLIS), as the Social Inclusion and Communications Officer responsible for establishing and testing a voucher system in which deaf people in Ireland can one day have access to free interpreting for all public and private events and services.

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 practised 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!

Orla Leahy

Orla Leahy is in her final year of the Bachelor of Civil Law (Law and Irish) in University College Cork. Orla was awarded the Quercus University (Academic) Scholarship for the College of Business and Law in 2021. During her time in UCC, she has travelled to Oulu, Finland, to undertake a Generations’ Lab with the European University of Cities in Post-Industrial Transition (UNIC). Orla has held the positions of News Editor and Irish Editor of the UCC Express, Internal Convenor and Conference Director of the UCC Law Society, and has hosted shows with UCC98.3FM. She has also volunteered as a Peer Support Leader. Orla interned in Criminal Justice Policy at the Department of Justice for the third year of her degree.

Orla is a Bronze, Silver, and Gold Gaisce Awardee, a former Gaisce Youth Leader, and a President’s Award Leader. Having achieved her Gold Award in 2020, Orla established and chaired the UCC Gaisce Project in 2021, a university wide initiative bringing together Gaisce participants and PALs, anchored under Civic and Community Engagement, with the aim of creating an opportunity for every student and staff member to engage in the President’s Award.

Adam Peerbux

Adam Peerbux is a dedicated professional with 15 years of experience in youth and community development. Passionate about fostering positive change, Adam utilises various platforms to empower young people and help them unlock their full potential. Throughout his career, Adam has spearheaded renowned initiatives, including the prestigious national scholarship awards offered by EIL Intercultural Learning’s EIL Explore programme. Deeply committed to social justice, Adam actively advocates and champions for mental health and gender equality ventures. With a diverse background encompassing mental health, human rights, social care and innovation and enterprise, Adam brings a wealth of expertise to his role as a member of the Gaisce Council. Adam is also a former GAA player and currently coaches with Glanmire, UCC and Cork GAA/LGFA.

Aoife Prendergast

Aoife has undertaken a diverse breadth of work with a variety of client groups and settings. She has substantial academic lecturing and management experience in both the UK and Ireland in a variety of roles including her current position as Careers & Employability Manager for TUS Midwest, responsible for leading work placement and employability activities for undergraduate students in TUS campuses in Limerick, Co. Clare and Co. Tipperary. Prior to the commencement of this role, she was a Lecturer in the Department of Applied Social Sciences at TUS Midwest and Lecturer at TU Dublin, National Training Projects Co-ordinator and Community Health Co-ordinator for NHS Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, UK.

She was appointed as the Chief Editor of the European Journal of Social Education in October 2017. Aoife was selected as Secretary for the Irish Association of Social Care Educators (IASCE) 2015 -2019 and Secretary General and Irish representative on the European Social Education Board (FESET) from 2016 -2021. In 2021 she was selected as President of FESET.

Since 2020, Aoife has held the position of Secretary of the National Equality Council of the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI). Most recently, in 2021 Aoife was awarded the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning ‘Teaching Hero’ Award as well as the prestigious Shannon Region Ambassador Award in 2019 for contribution to conference delivery in Limerick by Shannon Region Conference and Sports Bureau and Fáilte Ireland. In 2018, Aoife was shortlisted for the Shannon Consortium Regional Teaching Excellence 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 support to adults with intellectual disabilities.

Anna-Marie Turley

Anna-Marie is Department Manager, Entrepreneurship & HPSU Operations at Enterprise Ireland. As part of her wider commitment to developing innovation and entrepreneurship in society, Anna-Marie is a regular judge at the BT Young Scientist, Ireland’s premier science competition for school children. She has also been a judge and business adviser to Enactus Ireland, a non-profit organization working with third level students to become change agents within their communities. A native of Monaghan, Anna-Marie holds a B.Sc. (Hons) in Computer Science, an MBS in Management Information System from the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School and a MSc in Business Practice from UCC.

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.

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