The Bridge 2020 | Maynooth University Alumni Magazine

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Maynooth Alumni Magazine 2020

Crusade Against Covid MU turned to its greatest asset when the virus hit: its people

Unlocking Covid’s Mysteries

Meet the Silence Breaker

MU experts make remarkable contributions to the global challenge of Covid-19

MU honours Irishwoman Laura Madden: Harvey Weinstein whistleblower

Paying it Forward A homeless mother at 16, today Dr Katriona O’Sullivan’s work with Microsoft tackles disparity head-on

Plus Mountjoy prisoners and Maynooth students share their stories A global force of nature: Emer Timmons The Big Life Fix taps ingenuity of MU lecturer Minister Catherine Martin on Covid supports for the arts


Maynooth University

Contents 1 2

President’s Message


Winning Ways


Crusade against Covid


Adolescent migrants in Irish schools


Class of 2020

Maynooth alumna leads Ireland’s UN campaign

Minister Catherine Martin tells The Bridge how music at Maynooth has influenced her arts policy

26 Carbs and Covid-19

Dr Elisa Fadda contributes to global quest to understand Covid-19

U turned to its greatest asset – its people – when M Covid hit

28 Mapping the Virus


10 A final chapter and an enduring legacy

How one-time homeless mother Dr Katriona O’Sullivan overcame the odds

24 Opening Doors for the Arts

You did it! Welcome to the Maynooth Alumni Community

MU’s SALaM Ireland study explores how they’ve fared

22 Paying it Forward


s his presidency comes to an end in 2021, Prof Philip A Nolan considers his 10 years in office

MU data experts were behind Ireland’s go-to source for data on the spread of the virus

30 The Family Factor

New research examines link between sleep and autism spectrum disorders in families

12 Together, Apart

A digital first for our annual alumni arts and culture event

32 Fighting Climate Change

A Global Business Force of Nature

34 Wake Up Call?

Emer Timmons (BA, 1995) gets things done!

14 Meet the Silence Breaker


Réalta na Todhchaí Dónall Ó Héalaí (BA, 2010) ar an aistear ó champas go dtí an scáileán mór agus OMN ag dul chun tosaigh sa rangú agus lena cuid áiseanna úrnua

18 Trading Places

38 Opportunity to give back

Mountjoy/Maynooth partnership links students and inmates through storytelling

20 Making a Splash

MU alumni and lecturers feature in RTÉ’s 2020 TV line-up

MU alum sounds optimistic note about long-term structural change in Western economies

36 Ag Teacht Aníos…

2020 President’s Medal Award Winner Laura Madden

16 From mentoring, to remembering to re-skilling

MU experts tackle climate change from all angles

MU’s Student Emergency Fund is a lifeline for students with financial struggles due to Covid-19. You can help

40 Sports Roundup


MU athletes won’t be deterred

Editor’s Note A chairde, I was meeting an alumnus for coffee in Dublin city centre on 12 March, 2020, when I got the text alerting me to the news everyone else around Ireland was hearing too: schools and universities would close effective that evening. It was time to hunker down – for the first time – as public health experts around the world struggled to understand what was facing us locally, and indeed, globally. The anxiety was palpable. As I rushed to catch a train back to campus, like everyone I began to ponder what it meant for our students, my team, my family, near and far. Thoughts were on the immediate, certainly not on the next 12 months. What ensued in those early days and weeks may not come to a surprise to Maynooth alumni. Even while uncertainty swirled, numbers fluctuated and isolation afflicted us all, as a university we turned to our strengths. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work making sure the core business of the university would continue. Teaching moved online within a week. Researchers from disciplines across the University put their hands up, lending their expertise to policymakers in efforts you can read about in the pages ahead. Staff collaborated to loan our Library’s napping pods to health care workers at Tallaght Hospital and implement a laptop lending programme for students. Our indefatigable campus services crew delivered equipment to quarantined staff, brought groceries to self-isolating students, and completely transformed the campus with safety measures. As the months rolled on, amid see-sawing phases of restriction,

The Bridge Editorial Team: Rebecca Doolin, Karen Kelly, Niamh Connolly, Lisa McVann and Daniel Balteanu Print – Essentra Design – Wonder Works

changes in work patterns, Covid tests, home-schooling, restricted movement, and for too many, illness and loss, the university community has coped. It has adapted in previously unimaginable ways – innovating on the fly with new online learning technologies to ensure the Maynooth learning experience would still be as rich as possible. Students stepped up in big ways. Facing lost employment, a lack of internet connectivity, health and familial concerns, still, they adapted and have proven to be as resilient as we always knew they were. With the support of Maynooth Students’ Union and a new Student Support Hub, students and staff did its best to not only protect one other’s physical health, but their mental health as well. The Maynooth alumni community also rose to the occasion. We received generous donations in support of students facing financial constraints due to Covid for which we are tremendously grateful. Read more about how you can help on page 39. The most common refrain I hear from Maynooth graduates is that the University is a true community. That’s never been more apparent than it was in 2020. We don’t yet know what 2021 will bring, but the 80,000+ Maynooth alumni community has every reason to be proud of its alma mater, perhaps now more than ever. Sincerely,

Rebecca Doolin Director of Development and External Relations Cover Images – Corporate Photographers Dublin and Daniel Balteanu Special thanks to: Keith Arkins Photography and guest writers, Kathy Donaghy and Peter McGuire Why not join your alumni community and be part of the conversation?

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President’s Message One of the last events I attended on campus before Covid-19 brought public activity in Ireland to a standstill was a ceremony honouring Laura Madden, a brave Irish woman who became one of the first women to speak publicly about the conduct of Harvey Weinstein. It was one of the most moving events I’ve attended in my time at Maynooth. As she told her story, the bravery of what it took for her to find and raise her voice for the good of other women— women who have experienced sexual assault—was overpowering. Hers was a story of collective action, of bravery in face of an overwhelmingly daunting situation, with her health and well-being very much on the line. Madden’s experience foreshadowed a different kind of daunting challenge, need for collective action, and indeed, bravery that would be called upon us all just a few weeks later, albeit in a completely different context. The nation responded in extraordinary ways to the onset of Covid-19. And you’ll be pleased to hear the Maynooth University community has too. From a near overnight shift to online teaching and remote working, to providing essential on-campus services and planning for any number of eventualities, I can’t thank Maynooth staff enough for stepping up at time of so much personal and professional adversity. I invite you to read in the pages ahead about some of these impressive—and innovative—ways in which staff and students adapted this past year. It’s impossible to recognise everyone who made sure our students were looked after and the provision of their education would continue. Or the many research colleagues whose brainpower is contributing to the national, and indeed, international understanding of the virus. A couple of examples, though: Take the work of Dr Elisa Fadda, who worked with colleagues across the world to use high-performance

computing to unveil the atomic structure of the coronavirus’s spike protein. The results indicated, for the first time, key vulnerabilities of the SARS-CoV-2 S protein that can be targeted specifically for potential therapeutics. Or the All-Island Research Observatory based at MU. Director Justin Gleeson and colleagues teamed up with public and private sector partners to create the publicly accessible national Covid-19 Data Hub that so many of you—and those of us on the National Public Health Emergency Team—went to for trusted data on the virus. Professor Chris Brundson has, along with Justin, been an invaluable member of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, and many colleagues including Professors Aphra Kerr, Andrew Parnell, Bernard Mahon, and Paul Moynagh have made important contributions to the national discussion and response. Or our students, many in the nascent stages of adulthood, spreading their wings for the first time, who were suddenly told to stop, to retreat, to limit contact with their peers at a time when almost nothing seemed as important. Yet, even with their worlds upended, they proved they were up to the task. I and others have known, for a long time, that resilience is a common trait among Maynooth students (and former students, I’m sure you’d agree). In 2020, our students learned this for themselves. It’s been a true privilege to lead this institution for nearly 10 years. As I near the end of my tenure in this most unusual of years, I have never been more conscious of the special place that Maynooth University holds in the education pantheon of Ireland. Warmest of wishes to the Maynooth alumni community at home and around the world. Sincerely,

Professor Philip Nolan President, Maynooth University


Maynooth University

Class of 2020 You did it! Maynooth University conferred 3,782 graduates this year with a range of degrees and diplomas at undergraduate and postgraduate level. This was a graduation like no other for the Class of 2020, as students were conferred in virtual ceremonies in September and October, hosted by the University in the Aula Maxima on campus, to comply with public health measures.

seen for a century. You’ve all been affected by this. Your lives and studies have been severely disrupted, and some of you have the additional strain and grief of seeing loved ones severely ill or losing loved ones to Covid-19.

The ceremonies were watched by 17,602 viewers in 53 countries.

“Through all of this, you somehow found the resources and the resilience to complete your studies and it has been our privilege to confer on you today the degrees that you so richly deserve.”

2020 marked the first conferring for a new Bachelor of Civil Law (Law & Criminology), with 41 students graduating with this degree. President of Maynooth University, Professor Philip Nolan, congratulated graduates as they embark on their life journey: “This has been a most unusual year. In your final year of study we were all struck by a pandemic, the likes of which we have not

“I know you all miss the joy and ceremony of a normal graduation day, coming together for a ritual and a celebration that appropriately and wonderfully marks this important transition in your life. We will have that day, as soon as we can, we will convene and celebrate together, for a second time, your wonderful achievement.”

In Memoriam John Hume (RIP) In August 2020, Maynooth lost one of its most celebrated alumni, the inspiring humanitarian, John Hume. The Derry native studied French and Modern History at Maynooth and prior to becoming a politician, worked as a teacher. An activist during the 1960s in the Civil Rights Movement, a political career beckoned, and he was subsequently elected to Stormont in 1969. Co-founder of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) in the 1970s, he subsequently became its leader from 1979 until 2001. As one of the architects of the peace process, from the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985 to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, he fervently strove to keep peace on the British/Irish political agenda. His work did not go unnoticed and commendations followed, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998. He was named ‘Ireland’s Greatest’ in a public poll by RTÉ in 2010, and in 2012 was made a Knight of St Gregory by Pope Benedict. His presence and legacy endure in Maynooth, through the John Hume Building and John and Pat Hume Doctoral Scholarships. We send our condolences to his family and friends. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

John and Pat Hume

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Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, Professor Philip Nolan and President of the UN General Assembly Ambassador of Nigeria, Tijjani Bande

Maynooth alumna leads Ireland’s campaign to secure seat on UN Council I

n June, Ireland was elected to the UN Security Council and will now take a seat on the 15-member body in 2021 and 2022. Ireland’s delegation was led by Maynooth alumna Geraldine Byrne Nason.

In the preceding months, as Ireland competed for a seat on the Council, the Irish Government invited over 20 UN Ambassadors

from Africa, Asia and the Middle East to visit Ireland to discuss peacebuilding and conflict resolution. Maynooth University hosted the group for a day of workshops to discuss the challenges in building sustainable peace, drawing on Ireland’s lived experience of conflict resolution. Led by Ambassador Byrne Nason, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the UN, (BA 1980, MA 1981, LLD 2015), the group was joined by architects of the Good Friday Agreement, including Bertie Ahern and Mark Durcan. The visit also included the President of the UN General Assembly Ambassador of Nigeria, Tijjani Bande.


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A rapid response to the Covid-19 crisis Maynooth University staff and students stepped up with vital research and initiatives when the pandemic struck

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An app to predict disease path Prof Andrew Parnell is leading a team at the Hamilton Institute to generate computational tools to help Ireland predict the epidemiological and economic consequences of easing restrictions during the recovery of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Spotting genetic changes in virus Dr Fiona Walsh in the Department of Biology is partnering in a project led by Teagasc and the APC Microbiome Ireland Sequencing Centre to examine the genetic makeup of Covid-19 viruses circulating in Ireland. All the above research was awarded funding under the Government’s Covid-19 Rapid Response Research and Innovation Programme coordinated by Science Foundation Ireland.

Millennials’ difficulties with workplace disruptions Prof Audra Mockaitis in the School of Business is studying how different generations respond to remote working and has found that millennials (aged 24 to 40) are experiencing more difficulties in coping with workplace disruptions and require more supervision than other generations. Maynooth Students’ Union officers model healthy behaviour on campus

MU drone helps identify public health risks Dr Tim McCarthy in the Department of Computer Science is developing a drone coordination and operations centre, and platform, to analyse data which can detect where human activities could pose a risk to public health through the spread of Covid-19. The platform for emergency services aims to support local authorities, organisations and Government agencies to manage general movement and the easing of social distancing restrictions in public spaces.

New antibodies tests on the way A project led by MU Prof Sean Doyle is developing two new tests for antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 which will help to identify who may have developed immunity to Covid-19. His team includes Dr David Fitzpatrick, Dr Rebecca Owens and Dr Ozgur Bayram of the Department of Biology and the Kathleen Lonsdale Institute for Human Health Research.

Resistance to Covid-19 vaccine A collaborative study by Dr Philip Hyland in the Department of Psychology found that almost half of the people surveyed were feeling lonely; 23% reported clinically meaningful levels of depression; 20% reported clinically meaningful levels of anxiety. Only 65% of people surveyed last spring indicated that they would accept a vaccine for themselves and their children.

Schools in lockdown study Dr Majella Dempsey and Dr Jolanta Burke in the Department of Education studied primary school principals’ and deputy principals’ responses to school closures, and good practices that could be replicated by schools facing challenges during closures.


Maynooth University sheds light on death rates Dr Gerard McCarthy studied the geographical spread of death notices posted in website, finding a record number of death notices in April. Dr McCarthy’s second collaborative study with MU’s Rebecca Dempsey and Prof Andrew Coogan, and University of Limerick’s Dr Pádraig MacCarron, found that Covid-19 killed more people in one month than the most recent severe flu season killed in three months, debunking the myth that Covid-19 mortality rates are no worse than the flu.

Leaving Cert students 2020 study Prof Sinéad McGilloway and Dr Jolanta Burke led psychology research on how Leaving Cert students were dealing with the pandemic, and their overall health and wellbeing. The survey of 1,000 Leaving Cert students found almost 75% of participants preferred calculated grades over the traditional Leaving Cert. Almost half of the students (46%) who completed the survey reported high levels of depression and/or anxiety, and a similar proportion (44%) reported that they were not coping well in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Beliefs about infectious diseases

the idea in 2017 while studying for a BSc in Robotics and Intelligent Devices.

PPA and equipment to fight Covid-19 The Department of Biology loaned research equipment including a real-time PCR device and associated instrumentation to the National Virus Reference Laboratory to enhance the State’s capacity to carry out molecular testing for SARS-CoV-2.

Moving online in record time All teaching staff adapted to move all teaching online in record time in Spring 2020, with many academics and students engaged in remote learning for the first time. They experimented with platforms, mastered new pedagogies and survived endless wi-fi challenges. Over the summer the Centre for Teaching and Learning, together with IT Services, implemented the brand new Panopto virtual learning platform in record time.

Campus Services go above and beyond Colleagues across the campus moved mountains to prepare the campus for a safe reopening in September in line with

Dr Thomas Strong of the Department of Anthropology is researching how people’s beliefs about infectious disease inform health-protective behaviour. The international collaboration uses digital ethnography, citizen science, interviews and participant observation in Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand.

MU lends napping pods to Tallaght Hospital The Library’s napping pods at Tallaght Hospital were a source of respite for medical staff putting in long hours during the pandemic. Organised by Professor David Prendergast, Librarian Cathal McCauley, and Michael Rafter, Director of Campus and Commercial Services, whose team dismantled and reassembled the pods, Amazon Web Services volunteered to cover the delivery costs. Full marks to first-year student Brian Crinion, who came up with

Napping pods at Tallaght Hospital

all public health and safety guidelines and government requirements. Special kudos to the Campus Services crew, which went above and beyond to ensure residences, classrooms, lab and offices were as prepared and safe as possible.

Supporting our students Led by Student Services, the University brought colleagues from various offices and departments together to establish a one-stop Student Support Hub (online and on-campus) to help students navigate everything from timetable questions to Covid-related health queries.

Virtual Open Days The Admissions Office and Communications Office teamed up in June and November to provide sector-leading virtual Open Days experiences for all prospective undergrads. The Virtual Open Day includes the creation of a dedicated digital platform, hundreds of course videos, and live chats.

#PlayingMyPart Maynooth Students’ Union officers stepped up to the plate throughout the pandemic to support students’ needs. They also worked with the Communications and Marketing Office to put together a multi-channel student communications campaign aimed at promoting safe behaviours in the classroom, on campus, and in the community under the theme #PlayingMyPart.

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MU develops “Check-in App” to assist in campus contract tracing In the summer of 2020, as University leadership and staff sought to put in place a robust plan to allow for the safe return to campus for staff and students (and in line with all government guidelines and protocols), one thing became abundantly clear: stopping the virus from spreading on campus would be one key to keeping it open. That would mean identifying cases, and contacts, as quickly as possible. That’s no small task, even if the overall population on campus at any one time would be reduced. So, MU researchers put their expertise


and ingenuity to work. A team from the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Electronic Engineering went to work developing the MU Checkin App. Students were asked to download the technology and use it to scan QR codes labelled on every classroom seat and various other locations around campus. The purpose: to understand where people were located on campus, so in the event of a positively identified case, MU could assist the HSE in identifying close contacts quickly. As of the time of publication, Level 5 restrictions forced all but a small group of labs and practicals from taking place on campus – so the app has yet to really be put to the test. No doubt, though, that the Maynooth University Check-in App will be yet another bespoke and important tool to help the entire campus community play their part as (hopefully!) more on-campus learning resumes in 2021.

Will a Covid vaccine be effective in patients with obesity? Dr Andy Hogan

Thanks to a generous donor, Dr Andy Hogan and his team are hoping to find out In 2020, two global pandemics met: Covid-19 and Obesity. One in four Irish adults are living with obesity. Emerging evidence has shown that people living with obesity are at greater risk with Covid-19, with higher rates of hospitalisation, ICU admission and death. This places people with obesity as one of the most at risk groups. The most-likely exit from Covid-19 is the roll-out of a safe and effective vaccine. Worryingly, previous research has shown that vaccines such as the H1N1 influenza and Hepatitis B vaccines are less effective in people with obesity. A potential reason for this lack of efficacy may be defects in the immune system of people with obesity, as was observed when

studying the H1N1 influenza. A robust immune response is critical for successful immunity following infection with or vaccination against various pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2. Whether people with obesity generate protective immunity to SARS-CoV-2 remains unclear and forms a very important question. Dr Andrew Hogan (BSc 2004, PhD 2009) from Maynooth University’s Kathleen Lonsdale Institute for Human Health Research is aiming to address this unknown. Dr Hogan and his research team received a €65,000 gift from an anonymous donor this year to investigate if people with obesity previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 generate the same protective immunity as those with a healthy bodyweight. In a parallel study funded through a €300,000 grant from the National Children’s Research Centre, Dr Féaron Cassidy and PhD student Ms Andrea Woodcock from Dr Hogan’s team are trying to pinpoint the exact link in the vaccination chain that is broken in obesity. These studies will provide critical information and may lead to new vaccination approaches.


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MU researchers ask: How are young migrants faring in Irish schools? Since 2015, the world has witnessed the worst ever refugee crisis, with unprecedented numbers seeking refuge across the globe Over half of the world’s refugees are children aged under 18, many of whom have come from conflict-affected countries where they have experienced, often multiple, traumas. However, little is known about how these children and young people are faring in their host countries. How are they being supported in schools and in the wider community? What about their mental health and wellbeing – and to what extent have they been affected by the current pandemic? The ‘SALaM Ireland’ study* (, led by Professor Sinéad McGilloway, is a collaborative school-based project being conducted by a Maynooth University team. The study is part of a larger international research programme called ‘SALaMA’ (Study of Adolescent Lives after Migration to America) led by Washington University, St Louis (USA) in partnership with Qatar Foundation International (QFI), who are funding the research (€156,000). The new SALaM Ireland study is the first research of its kind in Ireland. It aims to assess the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of post-primary school students (aged 13-18 years) who resettled to Ireland from Arab-majority countries. It will also identify and explore the sources of daily stress in these students’ lives as well as the supports available to them. This ambitious programme of research will generate one of the first and most extensive data sets worldwide on the wellbeing of

Arabic-speaking newcomer students. The study findings will provide important insights into the experiences and needs of these young people and the nature and extent of any stress which they may be experiencing in their daily lives, both in school and the wider community. The study will also illuminate ways in which schools and communities support these students as they adapt to life outside their country of origin. Collectively, the results will help to inform practices and policies to better support this population in America, Ireland and possibly elsewhere in the world. The SALaM Ireland study is led by Professor Sinéad McGilloway, Founder/Director of the Centre for Mental Health and Community Research at MU Department of Psychology and Social Sciences Institute, in collaboration with senior co-investigators, Dr Rita Sakr (MU Department of English) and Dr Anthony Malone (MU Department of Education). MU became connected to QFI via Andrew Parish (BSc 1990) and fellow alum Paul Porter (BA 1990). Porter, who works at the Belfast Royal Academy, is currently working on a QFI-funded project that uses art to reach out to Syrian children and teach their students about Arabic. The school also initiated a ‘Study Buddy’ project in north Belfast to help immigrant students settle into school and to help give the school’s pupils an appreciation of their struggle, and to learn their culture and language.

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Photo credit: Shutterstock

University of Sanctuary opens doors

“I didn’t know what to expect, but Ireland feels like home”

By Peter McGuire


dodana Khumalo had his heart set on going to Maynooth, but it seemed like it might be out of his grasp.

Two years ago, Ndodana’s father fled political upheaval in Zimbabwe and was granted international protection in Ireland. “When he left direct provision, I joined him in Monaghan,” says 20-year-old Ndodana. “Study opportunities are limited in Zimbabwe and there is very little employment. But leaving was a huge step for me; I didn’t know what to expect in Ireland.” Ndodana enrolled in Monaghan Institute and sat exams to qualify for a place in thirdlevel. “A friend told me about Maynooth University’s general science course. He said that the campus was beautiful and very welcoming for refugees and minorities. I knew straight away it was the place for me, but didn’t think I could afford the cost of college.” Ndodana applied for one of Maynooth’s three Sanctuary Scholarships, which are open to international protection applications, refugees and those who have leave to remain, but do not qualify for free fees. The scholarships include a package of supports such as pre-paid transport, subsistence costs, a laptop and, crucially, a fee waiver. “No words can describe how grateful I was

to be offered the scholarship,” Ndodana says. “It’s so hard for people who don’t have the funds to pay for college and who have to work several jobs. For me, it means that I can really focus on working hard and doing well in my general science course.” Earlier this year, Maynooth was officially awarded “University of Sanctuary” status in recognition of its initiatives to promote a culture of welcome for refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants. The award is an initiative of the University of Sanctuary Ireland (UoSI) to encourage and celebrate higher education institutions that are welcoming and inclusive. The Sanctuary Scholarships form a key part of the university’s efforts. Ndodana moved from Monaghan to Maynooth at the start of this academic year and, while Covid-19 restrictions have changed the campus experience, he is taking it in his stride. “Of course, it’s not what we had expected or hoped for in terms of meeting each other and making friends. I’m sharing accommodation with four other lads and have enjoyed getting to know them -- they’re helping me pick up the Irish slang! I have only met a quarter of my classmates, but we all understand that it is for the best. We just have to abide and do what we have to do -- though I am looking forward to getting involved in the college basketball team when it’s safe.” Ndodana says that he receives moral and emotional support from his Maynooth classmates and lecturers. “Ireland has been so loving and welcoming to me. I

haven’t experienced racism and I haven’t been made to feel different or separate. I really hope to stay here for the long-term, and I’m hoping to do a Master’s and get work in the pharmaceutical sector. I’m embracing Ireland like it has embraced me. It feels like home.” Science student and University of Sanctuary scholarship awardee Ndodana Khumalo


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HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry, Prof Philip Nolan, and Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan at a press briefing of the National Public Health Emergency Team

A final chapter and an enduring legacy As his presidency comes to an end in 2021, Prof Philip Nolan steps up to lead NPHET’s critical Covid modelling work by Peter McGuire


cademics - let alone university presidents - rarely become household names. But 2020 is a rare year and one that’s seen doctors and scientists take centre stage in response to the global Covid-19 pandemic. Step forward Professor Philip Nolan, President of Maynooth University, and, as the chair of the National Public Health Emergency Team’s (NPHET) Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, a key figure in the national fight against the virus.

Despite leading many changes at Maynooth and across the wider university sector over the past decade, Nolan may not have expected such a tumultuous end to his tenure as President, which draws to a close in 2021. The search is on for his replacement. Covid-19 presented challenges to Nolan on multiple fronts. As university President: how could he lead a swift pivot to fully online learning? As chair of the advisory group: how to ensure that the available data could be used to save as many lives as possible? As a parent and human being: how could he make sure to support his family and manage some kind of work-life balance? “Over the years, I sometimes wondered if my academic skills could

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“Everybody felt under stress and pressure when the first lockdown came in March and April, but my academic and administration colleagues have worked so hard for students and for public health. I won’t lie: it was a strain, but everyone really rose to the crisis.” be of use to anyone,” says Nolan. “After my medical training, I became a medical researcher and handled large data sets, before moving into leadership and administration roles in third-level. Working with NPHET brought me back to my earlier training and starkly reminded me that learning does not end with your degree - it only begins.” Nolan says that the pandemic has reminded us all of the value of expertise. “There are colleagues all over the third-level sector contributing their knowledge - sometimes in public roles and, other times, in quieter ways such as through their research or supporting students to learn.” With several vaccines now on the horizon, Nolan is particularly proud of his colleagues in Maynooth University and on NPHET. “Everybody felt under stress and pressure when the first lockdown came in March and April, but my academic and administration colleagues have worked so hard for students and for public health. I won’t lie: it was a strain, but everyone really rose to the crisis.” Keeping a clear head under pressure means making some time to breathe, and while Nolan hasn’t had a lot of it this year, he has tried to spend time with family and friends, to cycle where possible, and when confined indoors, to exercise, write his diary and take time to read. “I’ve been really inspired by the work ethic of people around me,” he says, but his record is inspirational in its own right. During his time as President of Maynooth University, he devised a new undergraduate curriculum which broadened the range of subject options, including allowing students to mix and match

subjects from arts and science: studying physics and philosophy or chemistry and economics, for instance. “It was about giving students flexibility and choice in terms of their options and encouraging them to look outside their core areas to gain fresh perspectives and spark new intellectual interests,” he says. In his 10-year term, Nolan also oversaw the expansion of the Law Department and the School of Business, with over 250 additional faculty members. He instigated major campus developments including Maynooth University’s largest capital project, a €57 million ‘Technology Society and Innovation’ building development, and the opening of the International College of Engineering at Fuzhou University in China. Under his leadership, Maynooth has become the fastest growing university in Ireland and the only Irish university in the top 100 Times Higher Education Young University Rankings. As chair of the Irish Universities Association, his vision was key in a major reform of the Leaving Cert grading system, which is widely credited with taking some of the heat and pressure out of the CAO points system. As he looks back on, what by any objective measure, has been an enviably successful career, does he have any regrets? “I’ve enjoyed the stages of my career: medicine, medical teaching and research and a university leader. My only regret is that I could not have a full lifetime for each of them.” Where will he go from here? “It’s been a busy year and I’m grateful to have served in these two roles. I’ll be taking some time to consider what’s next.”


Maynooth University


Rick O’Shea

Evelyn Conlon (BA 1977, HDip Ed)

Together, apart

An innovative 2020 approach to MU’s annual cultural event While alumni couldn’t gather on campus last spring for its annual Summer Soirée, the Development and Alumni Relations Office – together with the Faculty of Arts, Celtic Studies and Philosophy – produced a free, virtual arts and culture experience entitled, ‘Together, apart.’

Alannah Thornburgh (BA 2016)

Hosted by RTÉ broadcaster and presenter of The Book Show, Rick O’Shea, this virtual event premiered on Thursday, 25th June and featured pre-recorded videos by accomplished novelists, poets, playwrights, journalists, and international musicians, including talented MU alumni, coming together to celebrate the importance of the arts across Ireland and around the globe, particularly in times of uncertainty. Among them: Anne Griffin (2000), author and winner of the Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year 2019 award; playwright and novelist John MacKenna; award-winning Turkish journalist and political thinker Ece Temelkuran; award-winning writer and Irish Times journalist Áine Ryan (1977); and Felispeaks, spoken word artist Felicia Olusanya (2016). Don’t worry if you missed it, you can still see Together, apart on

John MacKenna

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Alumni Profile



Don’t tell Emer Timmons she can’t do something. She’ll most certainly prove you wrong. 1995 BA, Mathematics and Economics Founder and Managing Director, ET Solutions GmbH

Emer Timmons was the only woman in her maths and economics course at Maynooth in the early ‘90s. Today, the woman who has risen to the upper echelons of global business, been tapped by governments and global corporations around the world for her strategic thinking, and was recently honoured by the Queen with an Order of the British Empire, is trying to make sure that kind of scenario never plays out again. Timmons is the kind of success story that is best explained by her relentless drive – a systematic pursuit of a set of well-defined professional goals. The set of business verticals in which she’s gained experience could be seen as a box-ticking exercise in how to rise up the corporate ladder – yet that would be wholly unfair. For Timmons, it may have been strategic, but first-hand experience is something she says is critical to success in management. “It was all about getting the experience. I always put my hand up, even if early on I didn’t ask for more money,” she says. “What I wanted to do warrants many different types of international experiences.” Timmons says her decisions post-university were “absolutely critical.” “I started with Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) in technology and found my passion. I worked seven days a week, 16hour days. Boy, did I put my hours in and don’t regret a minute of it.” After two years, Timmons saw an opening with Denis O’Brien’s venture ESAT following deregulation of the telecoms market. Timmons was employee #12 at ESAT. “People thought I was crazy,” she recalls. “I took a 45% pay cut with no benefits, but I knew it was an important opportunity, so I took it. I believed in where I wanted to be and saw the door open.” Timmons’ career took off from there and she never looked back. While working in the Middle East she was told getting a license in the competitive Dubai market wouldn’t be a runner, but convinced the global corporation to give her a chance to prove herself and her company. They gave her the tumultuous markets of Iraq and Afghanistan. Timmons, once again, saw an opportunity and took it, and made it the

most profitable part of the business and a win-win for all. She was then offered the entire region. Over her career, she has worked her way through various channels of business: fixed line, mobile, ISP, distribution, business development (both B2B and B2C), marketing and international (she supported clients in over 174 countries throughout her career). Timmons was able to use all of her experiences when she became the first female president of British Telecom in its 175-year history. She successfully transformed and ran a multibillion P&L and spent 10 successful years there. Timmons has become renowned for turning around unprofitable business lines and making a name for herself. Over the last 20 years, Timmons has lived in America, Europe and the Middle East. She now lives in Switzerland, with a house in her favorite wine region of Burgundy. She says her third home is on a BA flight, being one of BA’s annual most frequent flyers. The lesson she learned from that early career move: “Your gut instinct is right 95% of the time. Yet, it’s the other 5% people spend their time worrying about. Listen to your gut.” Among the many awards Timmons has won are the prestigious Gold Stevie Award for Global Female Senior Executive in Business

Services and UK Female Corporate Leader of the Year, CBI Businesswoman of the Year, and UK Woman of the Year in Tech. She was the only European leader to be named one of the “21 Leaders for 21st the Century.” Timmons has addressed the United Nations on the need to reduce the gender pay gap. She also is co-chair of Leaders as Change Agents, an independent expert committee set up to advise the UK government and support a target for 33% of executive level FTSE 350 business leaders to be women. Two years ago, Timmons saw another kind of opportunity: She set up her own business, ET Solutions, based in Switzerland. “Now I’m doing it for me, not someone else, and using my experience to help more companies to be successful,” she says. She advises on a range of strategic international businesses issues for her clients, which include global corporates, sovereign wealth funds, governments and venture capital firms. And yet, Timmons hasn’t forgotten where she came from. Despite having lived outside Ireland longer than in it, she loves to return to see her mother. She’s also planning to get involved with helping current MU students navigate their own career paths and, perhaps even more importantly, foster the confidence they’ll need to thrive along the way.


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Meet the silence breaker: Laura Madden Monaghan woman Laura Madden was awarded the President’s Medal 2020 by MU for her courage in speaking publicly about the sexual predation of Harvey Weinstein


hen the New York Supreme Court handed down a 23-year sentence to Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in March, it was one of the few stories that took top billing over the Covid-19 pandemic.

Just weeks before, a jury had found Weinstein guilty of the rape and sexual assault of two of the five women who testified against him. His legal team had pleaded leniency, citing pre-existing health issues and his “historic fall from grace.”

But for all the women who had told their traumatic stories and faced down media publicity and a smear campaign by Weinstein’s lawyers, the severity of this sentence was of vital importance. One of those women, Monaghan native Laura Madden, expressed relief when she heard that Weinstein would spend 23 years behind bars. “It’s an incredible result for the women who so bravely took the stand,” she said. “It’s vindicating to see the justice system work in favour of Weinstein’s victims at last.” As the first woman to go on the record for a New York Times exposé by journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, Madden’s role was pivotal in bringing to light the activities of Weinstein who for two decades had succeeded in silencing his accusers with nondisclosure agreements.

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Madden had travelled from her home in Wales to Maynooth University to address an International Women’s Day event just five days before the landmark sentence was handed down. Surrounded by her family and friends, she was awarded the President’s Medal 2020 for her courage in publicly speaking of Weinstein’s sexual predation. In conversation with RTÉ and BBC broadcaster Audrey Carville, Madden described a 22 year-old woman, setting out on an exciting career in the film industry; the devastation of Weinstein’s assault; and her crucial decision to speak out publicly over two decades later. “Something I have learnt since going public with my story is that you cannot fix a problem you cannot see. By shining a light on the collective experiences of women, a global reckoning has begun,” she said. On her response to seeing Weinstein finally brought to account, Madden, a former producer at Miramax said: “I’m not sure I have any strong desire for revenge, because my life has moved on. But I think that society needs to see harsh sentences for predators.”

“It was a watershed moment, to hear teenagers say their world is the same as the world I was growing up in.” Carville asked about the toll it’s taken on her life: “I think it’s taken the last two years to really unravel what it did to my life. It certainly altered my career, it altered my confidence,” Madden explained. “I never believed that I had the right to work in that business, because I felt I got there through compromise. But now I feel I’ve had a chance to transform that feeling and see that it wasn’t


something that I did wrong -- it was what he did to me that was wrong, and he should carry the shame.” Madden recalled the moment she decided to break her silence; when an employee of Weinstein phoned her to reminisce on their happy time at Miramax…and to dissuade her from talking to journalists. “I felt outrage, I felt that after 25 years that they believed I would be so easily manipulated. I felt ready to talk and to expose that predation. Nobody wants to have to tell their daughters that they were sexually assaulted. I was really nervous of telling them… but rather than being shocked and horrified, they threw their arms around me and said: ‘We’re so proud of you, you have to go on the record and stand up and change things, because these abuses still exist and they’re not going away..’ “It was a watershed moment, to hear teenagers say that their world is the same as the world I was growing up in. It made it clear that I did have a role to play, and it was defining.” To borrow a phrase from Nora Ephron, after years of self-doubt Laura Madden had become the heroine of her own life, not the victim. Prof Linda Connolly, Director of Maynooth University Social Sciences Institute (MUSSI), participated in the panel discussion, detailing the cultural and political context of both women’s silence and testimony through history. Dr Anne O’Brien, lecturer in Media Studies at MU, discussed research in her book, Women, Inequality and Media Work. Awarding the President’s medal, Prof Philip Nolan said: “Ms Madden is an extraordinary woman who bravely decided to speak about her trauma despite facing a tremendous headwind of pressure, power, and potential retribution. Her display of courage helped shed light on industries in which overwhelming imbalances of power are exploited to perpetrate and cover up acts of violence. She, along with other women who came forward, ignited a broader global movement, inspiring women around the world to publicly share their stories under the hashtag #MeToo.”

Professor Linda Connolly, Dr Anne O’Brien, Laura Madden and journalist Audrey Carville


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Ready to upskill or pursue a new career path? New skills-based courses on offer starting early 2021 Are you currently without work, thinking of returning to learning, or interested in acquiring new skills relevant to your current role? Maynooth University is now offering a suite of accredited skillsbased courses for these uncertain times.

For more information:

MU is pleased to participate in the Government’s €47.5m “July Stimulus” programme for higher education skills-related courses. During this academic year, we are offering a suite of short, flexible yet focused courses in the following key areas:

Digital Business

starts January

Design Thinking

starts January

Sustainable Business & Responsible Management

starts February

Introduction to Law

starts February

Whistleblowing Law & Practice

starts February

Organizational Change

starts May

Strategic Leadership

starts May

Each course will be delivered flexibly, over several intensive daylong or half-day workshops, via online or blended teaching. Participants who complete these short courses will obtain an accredited certificate. They also are part of MU postgraduate degree programmes, making them an ideal first step on your journey back to education or as a “taster” of a new educational journey. Applicants should meet normal postgraduate requirements or demonstrate relevant experience.


Putting Mentoring on the MAP Encourage mentees’ strengths and help them work on their weaknesses

Funded by the HEA Innovation and Transformation project “Future Ready,” MU launched an Alumni Mentoring Programme in October 2020 as a joint initiative by the Experiential Learning Office, Access Office and Development and Alumni Relations Office. This programme will see mentors (former students with professional experience) provide one-on-one career-focused support, inspiration, and guidance to mentees current Maynooth Access students.

Develop their confidence and networking skills

Provide insight into potential career opportunities

The purpose of the MU Alumni Mentoring Programme is to support the development of student preparedness for work, life and engaged citizenship through informed career insights and empowering students to achieve their career aims. It also seeks to advance the networking propensity of MU students from underrepresented groups. Starting as a pilot project this year, the hope is to expand the project to reach more MU students in 2021-2022.

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An activist for change Shamsun Nahar Chowdhury was appointed to the Independent Anti-Racism Committee at the Department of Justice Shamsun 2017 Nahar Chowdhury 2017 MA International Development

Shamsun Nahar Chowdhury believes that racism is a lived reality for many people in Ireland. Her hope is that a highlevel committee to which she has been appointed will contribute to real change for generations to come. A graduate of the MA International Development programme, Shamsun Nahar Chowdhury was appointed to the Independent Anti-Racism Committee established by the Department of Justice and Equality. The 16-member committee is tasked with creating a National Action Plan Against Racism. Shamsun Nahar was born in Kenya and spent time in Bangladesh before moving to the UK to study in 2013. She holds

a Bachelor of Law (LLB Hons) from Northumbria University, and a Master of Laws (LLM) from Durham University. She also has a Postgraduate Certificate in Law Practice and training and practice in Mediation. She moved to Ireland in 2016 and is now furthering her love of education by training to teach English as a foreign language. A passionate advocate for societal equality, Shamsun Nahar regularly engages with communities to initiate dialogue on issues faced within the migrant community in Ireland. This includes ongoing conversations with migrant women groups to explore platforms and possibilities for voicing unique issues affecting them. Commenting on her appointment to the Committee, she said: “Racism in Ireland is undeniable and an everyday reality for many people living here. I hope the committee’s recommendations will contribute to real changes, help to eradicate racism, and ensure Ireland is fully inclusive – a place where diversity is valued both now and for

Maynooth College celebrates 225th anniversary

Support them with advice on CVs or interview skills

If you’re interested in becoming an alumni mentor, we’d love to hear from you. Email Find out more about the Alumni Mentoring Programme at

Although several books have been written about Maynooth College, to commemorate its jubilee year, Salvador Ryan (BA 1995) and JP Sheridan in 2020 created a multidimensional perspective of an institution that has held a singular place in modern Irish church history with the publication of, We Remember Maynooth: A College Across Four Centuries. As editors, Ryan and Sheridan said this book, rather than a history, is a treasure chest of reminiscences by former students and staff who have been shaped by this unique centre of learning. With circa 100 contributions, it is richly illustrated, both in black and white and in colour, with many images never seen before. Topics covered include: the sporting history of the College; the student who advocated boycotting the cinema but then went on to become a Hollywood star; what constituted ‘secret feasting’; the famous Song Contest; and notable visits from Princess Grace, via Peter Sellers, to Robert Mugabe.

generations to come.” Members of the Independent Anti-Racism Committee are drawn from diverse backgrounds, and the group will aim to build on international best practices to create a report with suggestions on how best to measure and combat racism across all areas of society.

While this book offers graduates the comfort of familiarity, it also offers much that is new. To purchase the book, visit: www. Professor Salvador Ryan is Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Pontifical University, St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Rev. Dr. John-Paul Sheridan is Director of Education Programmes; Erasmus+ EU Programme Co-ordinator, Pontifical University, St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.


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Trading Places:

Story Exchange comes to life in new Mountjoy-Maynooth partnership By stepping into each other’s shoes and telling each other’s stories, students from Maynooth University and a group of young prisoners realised they had much in common By Kathy Donaghy A ground-breaking Story Exchange Project saw 10 students from the Maynooth Access Programme (MAP) and 10 inmates from Mountjoy Prison’s Progression Unit come together and learn that while they might inhabit different worlds, in reality they weren’t all that different. The project, which began last spring with Gaisce - The President’s Award scheme, was the first formal activity in the newly formed Mountjoy-Maynooth University (MJMU) Partnership, which aims to promote new pathways to university for prisoners, former prisoners and people with convictions. The project saw participants aged between 19 and 25 come together using global organisation Narrative 4’s Story Exchange tool as a way to build empathy and understanding. The story exchange

works by randomly partnering people from the group and getting them to tell each other a story from their lives. When everyone comes together again as a group, they re-tell their partner’s story in the first person. For Erika Savage, a 20 year-old post-graduate student and MAP ambassador from Dublin, the project has had a massive impact on her life. “It gave me a sense that we’re not that different. If we’d met in different circumstances we’d be friends,” she says of her experience of going into Mountjoy’s Progression Unit and working with prisoners on the project. “The Story Exchange means you connect on different levels – it’s bringing out those shared experiences. The different experiences were just as important because they made you appreciate what it’s like for someone else,” she says. As MAP ambassadors, Erika says they were able to dispel some of

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They’re not seeing us as scumbags, as we thought they probably would see us. But then again we thought we’d see them as ‘poshies’ – they’re far from poshies and I think we’re far from scumbags with the things we’re doing,” says Eoin*, a Mountjoy inmate. their lives,” he adds. Progression Unit Governor Donnacha Walsh believes the Story Exchange format could be more widely used across the prison system if more higher education institutions were willing to come on board. “The Story Exchange was a powerful tool – it’s a case of ‘I tell your story and you tell mine’. The group gelled and they bonded and they became a very powerful group of young people sharing each other’s experiences of life,” says Walsh. According to Grace Edge, manager of Maynooth’s Access Programme, the project provided an effective way of bringing higher education into the prison in an informal way. “It’s all about breaking down barriers between custody and college. And while we want to promote and facilitate higher education, it’s also about developing our MAP ambassadors and our own students. It’s a two-way street,” says Edge. She believes the Story Exchange Project is a model for how higher education and prisons can work together and perhaps more partnerships, like the MJMU one, will be formed in other parts of the country with other prisons and other universities. A report on the Story Exchange project by researcher Sarah Meaney, states that: “Much of the power of a project like this lies in the revelation, through dialogue, of all they have in common. This deepening insight into themselves and their lived realities is a process of self-transformation.” the inmates’ ideas that you have to be ‘rich’ to go to college. “I’m in college full-time but I also work at weekends – it wasn’t handed to us. I think they realised college is something they could do, that it’s really attainable,” she says. “It was such a privilege to get to know them. There was no judgement and we were all on the same level. That connection came from sharing something really personal with someone and hearing that story back. It’s not easy to do that – to trust someone you don’t know with a story.”

Or, as one of the participants on the project summed it up for the report: “It just goes to show that we’re not that different at the end of the day. Our circumstances are different, but we’re not different.” *Asterisk indicates name has been changed.

Recalling the first day students came into the prison, Eoin*, one of the young men from Mountjoy’s Progression Unit who took part, says he was very nervous initially and didn’t know what to expect but inhibitions and preconceptions quickly fell away. “For prisoners being there – you don’t have to put on a front like you do on the landings, like you have to be this tough guy or anything. There was none of that. It was just sitting down, being normal, just working with normal people,” says Eoin. “They’re seeing us as normal as well. “People are trying to change their ways. There are people who’ll look at all the bad you’ve done, but you can’t grow without making mistakes. Courses like this will help people see prisoners are trying to change and move on with

Student Ambassador Erika Savage


Maynooth University Inventor Trevor Vaugh and seven-year old James Smyth, RTÉ The Big Life Fix

The Big Life Fixer

Trevor Vaugh arrived to our screens on The Big Life Fix last year, bringing “a little humancentred design” to real life situations, and impressing viewers with his down-to-earth practicality and ease in front of the camera. Little surprise that the lecturer in Design Innovation at MU has become RTE’s go-to inventor in its programming schedule, also appearing in Home School Hub, and on The Business, on RTÉ Radio 1, detailing the history of PPE. The Big Life Fix made for compelling viewing, offering up a mix of designers, engineers, cutting-edge technology, and plenty of personality. But it also provided insight into the range of obstacles facing people with disabilities – among them seven-year-old James Smyth, who lost both legs due to a rare spinal condition, Caudal Regression Syndrome. Trevor, who heads up the Maynooth University Innovation Lab (Mi:lab), was tasked with finding a creative, effective and tailormade solution to James’ mobility needs. “When you see James’ garden, which goes for hundreds of metres, it struck me that a seven-year-old boy should be able to run through that garden and have a lot of fun,” Trevor explained. The solution needed to be safe, flexible and easy to manoeuvre on his sloped garden in Raphoe, Co Donegal. And importantly for a

seven-year-old boy, it needed to look snazzy to use around friends and family. “It had to be something that other kids would be jealous of. It couldn’t look like it was a disability toy -- it had to be cool and James is fascinated by dinosaurs,” said Trevor. After weeks of working, re-working and testing, he came up trumps. Enter the ‘Dino kart’ -- a nifty all-terrain green dinosaur with handheld controls that could be easily mastered. “We wanted to give James a big expression so it’s got these huge dinosaur roars that you can hear from the end of his garden.” The Big Life Fix was broadcast in March and April during lockdown – a tonic for our times. For this inventor, seeing design innovation brought to life was personally rewarding. “Working with such awe-inspiring people and trying to make their lives just a little easier has been the most challenging and humbling experience of my life.”

My Uni Life: a unique journey A

five-part RTÉ series has shone a light on students helping to change the face of higher education. My Uni Life followed the lives of seven students at various stages of their university journey, including MU computer science student, Alpha Ike.

From the challenges of disability and social stereotyping to later stage college life, the students represent seven of more than 5,000 students whose desire to succeed is supported each year by the

Access and Disability programmes run by Irish universities. The series provides an insight into their personal challenges over a 12-month period, as they navigate the current Covid-19 pandemic while trying to grapple with the move to remote learning. Speaking about his experience of studying while the nation is gripped by a global pandemic, Alpha Ike, a student from Cavan, said: “I think that an interesting aspect of the documentary is the way it transitioned from being about college life to capturing a piece of history for people involved. I was a different person at the start of the process, in a very different world, and I appreciated being part of the story of how people coped in this new world.”

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In the spotlight

Making a splash: MU lecturers and alumni were on RTÉ’s TV schedule for 2020

Múinteoir makes her mark on RTÉ Home School Hub


ne múinteoir was busy making her mark in RTÉ children’s programming during school closures: MU alumna and primary school teacher Clíona Ní Chiosáin proved a hit with young people in RTÉ’s Home School Hub.

Little wonder RTÉ approached her about its successor, After School Hub, which continues to provide parents working from home another precious hour to work uninterrupted. This was not Clíona’s first venture into TV, and she was recognised by many parents on Twitter as having played the title role of the IFTA award-winning TG4 teen drama Aifric, in the mid-noughties. A graduate of the BA class of 2012, and a 2017 Master’s of Education, Clíona’s links with Maynooth run beyond one generation – she’s the daughter of Anna Ní Ghallachair, senior lecturer and Head of the School of Celtic Studies at MU. Mol an páiste agus molann tú an mháthair.

At Maynooth University, 28% of full-time undergraduate student population are mature students, students with disabilities and school leavers from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Dr Rose Ryan, Director of Access, said: “This documentary brings alive the barriers experienced by many students in accessing a third level qualification and highlights the sacrifices that they and their families have to make to get what others take for granted.” My Uni Life was a collaboration between RTÉ and the Irish Universities Association (IUA).

Computer science student Alpha Ike

Múinteoir Clíona Ní Chiosáin, RTÉ Home School Hub


Maynooth University

Paying it Forward Dr Katriona O’Sullivan beat the odds as a homeless teenage mother. Now she’s trying to change them. With generous philanthropic support and expertise from Microsoft, the tech giant and MU lecturer have partnered on a series of outreach-focused STEM innovations – with real-life impacts on the line.


reamSpace is the name of the €5 million immersive STEM education hub Microsoft Ireland opened at its Leopardstown campus in 2018. Maynooth University is one of the leading research partners in the project, with Dr Katriona O’Sullivan at the helm.

Space to dream, however, is not something Katriona herself had much of as a child. “There’s poverty and there’s underneath poverty. That’s where my family was,” she said. Katriona had a baby at 16 and found herself homeless, living in a hostel in Birmingham. Eventually she followed her Irish parents back to Summerhill in Dublin, where she worked the overnight shift as a cleaner in Connolly Station. “I had no prospects, none that I knew at the time anyway. I was always bright, but no one in my family was educated. Education wasn’t valued. You don’t know anyone who is educated and you don’t value it. It becomes an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality.” It was then Katriona said she “accidentally stumbled on education” through a friend in the Trinity Access Programme. “So I marched into the Trinity Access Office straight away and

asked, ‘How do I get into this?’” From there, her world changed. “I never felt so special as I did in a classroom. My brain opened. It was my first sense of self-esteem.” Although Katriona said she felt isolated at Trinity for a long time, she was grateful for the opportunity. “I eventually realised that access to education, and to technology, was access to living really and it’s a right we all have. I spent many years feeling like I was a charity case.” That she was not. Katriona graduated with a first and secured a funded PhD in Psychology. What followed was a series of positions, including a post-doc at the Trinity Access 21 project. “This is when I began to come into my own as an academic, and as a human being really.” She partnered with Google on the company’s Trinity Access 21 Programme and found that while she enjoyed teaching, she loved research and working with industry to apply that research and bring it to real people. “I found my home in making sure people like me got access to education, by finding partners and making sure that what we’re learning gets out there into society.” In 2017, she made the move to Maynooth University to coordinate a new programme called Turn to Teaching aimed at diversifying teacher education in Ireland.

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DreamSpace STEAMS ahead “When I got to Maynooth, I felt like I had arrived home. In the student body I saw people who are diverse, intelligent, capable, and ready to grow and develop. I could see myself. In the staff I saw a desire to collaborate. I’d never experienced that before. I am all about inclusion and working together. Maynooth is like that. It’s not all about competing with one another.” Not long afterwards, Katriona was invited to speak at the World Education Forum in London about the importance of diversity in teaching. “My parents died of drug addiction, and suddenly I found myself talking to HRH Princess Beatrice about the importance of diversity at the World Education Forum.” There, she had drinks with Kevin Marshall, Head of Education at Microsoft Ireland, and her friend Senator Lynn Ruane. Once back home, Katriona reached out to Marshall with a pitch. “I used the same skills to survive being 16 and homeless, the same skills I used when I went into the Trinity Access Office. I’m very good at networking. I learned early on that who you know can be as important as what you know. So I emailed Kevin and asked how Maynooth can be involved in what they were looking to develop with schools. Kevin had worked with Maynooth in the past and said ‘let’s do something together.’” Soon thereafter, Microsoft funded its first grant to Maynooth, a €50,000 research grant evaluating the initial work happening in DreamSpace. Since then the Microsoft-Maynooth partnership has grown exponentially. Microsoft has provided nearly €500,000 in research grants and donations toward Katriona’s work. The company has co-funded her lectureship post at the ALL Institute, along with research support staff, and projects including the development of the AI Academy for STEM teaching training programme for girls. “We are delighted to be working with Katriona O’Sullivan and Maynooth University,” Marshall said. “Katriona has added huge value, insight and good humour to the DreamSpace team. The quality of work is outstanding, and we hope to achieve even more in the coming years.” There are several other projects in the pipeline, including the development of STEM Passport, a set of micro-credentials for student engagement in STEM to be recognised as a pathway to career and college, with other industry and education partners. The work also attracted funding from Science Foundation Ireland Covid-19 Rapid Response Programme. “The work we are doing together is an extension of my life experience. It is about building fairness in society so everyone gets access to education and to the skills that will help them prosper.

This isn’t about charity; it’s about championing people like me. Microsoft recognises that girls, working class people, people with disabilities, are really valuable to industry. The next step is building more partnerships like this,” Katriona said.

RTE’s Home School Hub provided a much-needed educational platform for children when schools closed last spring, and relief to families living under lockdown restrictions. During the Covid-19 pandemic, one million young learners missed months of school and relied on materials to learn at home. With this in mind, a project led by Dr Katriona O’Sullivan, Digital Skills Lecturer at Maynooth, and Dr Kevin Marshall, Microsoft Ireland, aims to help families to access remote supports for home-based learning, even if school life has been interrupted. Funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the collaboration between Maynooth University, Microsoft Ireland and RTÉ will extend the DreamSpace HomeSpace segment of the RTÉ Home School Hub. This segment focussed on developing student’s skills and creativity in STEAM subjects -- science, technology, engineering, the arts and maths. This research aims to identify how DreamsSpace HomeSpace encourages students, in particular students who are disadvantaged, to learn STEAM subjects, and ensure they have access to remote learning through the distribution of “unplugged” STEAM lessons. Dr O’Sullivan explained: “We’ve observed that inconsistencies in accessing technology solutions which maintain school-home relationships are adding a massive burden to families. Unfortunately, we have seen class and gender impact on this engagement.” She added: “The burden of maintaining children’s education is mostly lying at the feet of mothers. Despite many trying to maintain their own employment, economically disadvantaged families have had the least capacity to engage in education.”

Intel funds 10 scholarships for science postgrads Longtime partner and neighbour Intel Ireland has stepped up yet again, funding scholarships for outstanding MU students pursuing a Master’s degree in the Faculty of Science and Engineering. Students from the Departments of Electronic Engineering, Maths and Stats, Computer Science and Theoretical Physics were all eligible to apply. This year 10 students were chosen, securing scholarships for €3,000 each to help them develop their understanding and skills for the needs of industry. The successful awardees include six Taught Master’s students from Electronic Engineering and four from Maths and Stats. Huge thank you to Leixlip-based Intel Ireland for their ongoing support of Maynooth University.


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Minister Catherine Martin at Government Buildings for Budget 2021

Opening doors for the arts Cabinet Minister and Green Party Deputy Leader Catherine Martin is committed to her background in music and the arts – and to the friendships made at Maynooth University


atherine Martin is not unique in switching lanes from teaching to a career in politics: the current Dáil has 19 teachers and former principals. But not many cabinet ministers can claim to have busked on Grafton Street as a student – and with renowned harpist Laoise Kelly, who also studied music at Maynooth University in the early ‘90s.

In another life, Martin’s studies might well have led to a very different world as a professional Chamber singer, pianist and composer. “I guess I knew I wanted to study music. I loved English literature and the Irish language, but music was my passion,” she explains, outlining why Maynooth was her university of choice. “I did a lot of research and was told that wherever Professor Gerard Gillen was – this was the place to go. That’s why I choose Maynooth for music. The music department is in such a beautiful campus. There was a village atmosphere, I lived on Parsons Street at the time, it was very handy and close to everything.” Emeritus Prof Gerard Gillen is a celebrated organist and expert in Church music, and was a former Head of the Music Department.

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Minister Catherine Martin graduating with BA (Music and English) in 1994

It was somewhat unusual for a first year to be selected for the solo of the Chamber Choir Christmas event, broadcast by RTÉ, but an exception was made in 1991 – Martin competed and was chosen by Prof Gillen for the solo. “I was up against senior, more established singers. It gave me a lot of confidence that he was recognising me,” Martin says. “I had studied piano all my life, but I switched to voice from that moment. I’d had some singing lessons, but that was the confidence changer for me and I went on to do performance.” In 1991, Martin composed and sang the winning song of the Maynooth Song Contest, having known about the contest growing up as a teenager. “It was so competitive that it was hard to even get an entry form to run in the heats.” She has also sung in the National Concert Hall, and was invited to perform at the bicentenary celebration of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, in 1995. And of course, she regularly sang at lunchtime recitals in the University Chapel, colloquially known as the ‘the Gunn’. “Anytime I go back to the campus I call into ‘the Gunn’. It’s a special place, a place of refuge, silence and contemplation. If you’re having a tough time, or doing exams, you could go in there. Sometimes you would walk in and there’d be an organ scholar practicing, and it was really special to hear.” She stays in contact with her university friends, including Dr Martin O’Leary who taught her composition, Dr Patrick Devine, now retired, who taught her piano; and Dr Adrian Scahill, who is the Deputy Head of the Music Department. “Sometimes he plays the organ and I sing at weddings,” she laughs. “All of those became friends, and when I was elected to the Dáil, Patrick Devine visited me in Leinster House for a coffee. I’ve kept friendships throughout.”

A native of Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, Martin graduated from Maynooth with a BA in Music and English in 1994 and H.Dip in 1995, and taught at St Tiernan’s Community School in Dundrum for 15 years. She won a Dáil seat for the first time in 2016 and in July, lost out in the leadership contest to Eamon Ryan by only a narrow margin. Martin says she’ll contest again for party leader, believing it’s important for girls to see women in leadership positions. “I’d never say no, and I think it’s important I would not say no, because I think it’s a signal to young girls out there – that this TD or deputy leader ran for the leadership, she just missed out on it but that’s not going to deter her, she’ll run again. Sometimes doors close, but when you look there’s another way in. It’s a responsibility as far as I’m concerned to the next generation.” Given her background, she is aware that artists are reeling from the impact of Covid-19. “I feel that we talk a lot about how amazing the arts is, and how much we love and value it, but now is the time to show that, and stop the talk. So this is what I signalled with the biggest Arts Council budget – an additional €50 million on last year – and a €50 million live events support package. “I want people to be able to perform again, so that means we have to subsidise the tickets, because unfortunately, even at Level One, venues aren’t at maximum capacity. There needs to be subsidies to help musicians get back on stage and those who work behind the scenes to get paid and to help independent venues put on those gigs,” she says. “I’ve lots of friends who are musicians, or work behind the scenes, and I’m acutely aware that they’re not earning; they’re not playing -- which isn’t good for their mental health. And all of us are missing out, which isn’t good for us either as a nation.”


Maynooth University

3D models of SARS-CoV-2 S protein non-glycosylated (left); glycosylated (right)

The secrets of carbs and Covid-19 Dr Elisa Fadda at the Department of Chemistry is working on pathbreaking research into how the coronavirus hides and attaches to cells

The Bridge

Your research on the Covid-19 virus was featured recently by the New York Times – can you tell us more?

That was so exciting. It was about the work we have been doing with international collaborators on the carbohydrate molecules that surround the spike protein on the surface of the Covid-19 virus. The journalist, Carl Zimmer, did a super job of writing about it, and the story was first on the front page of the New York Times, and then a few days later they ran a fantastic set of images about the project in the centre of the newspaper. I am going to frame it.

Why are you interested in the carbohydrates on the outside of the virus?

A lot of people talk about the proteins on the surface of the virus, but then you have this “fur” of carbohydrates (or glycans) linked to the protein surface, and they affect the function hugely. We have been showing how the glycans on the spike protein not only help the virus to hide from our immune system, but they also enable the spike protein to move in particular ways so that the virus can attach to our cells and get inside them.

How do you look at those carbohydrates? In my group in Maynooth we use very large computers from national and EU research facilities to simulate the carbohydrate structures, properties and dynamics, and collaborators around the world complement that with experiments in their labs.

2014 BSc Education

Science Teacher, Coláiste Mhuire, Mullingar 2020 got off to a great start for Eva Marie Acton. Awarded the Analog Devices Educator of Excellence Award for Technology 2020 at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition earlier this year, Eva Marie received one of the four teacher awards which were given out nationally for educators of excellence in technology. Her students, who had six projects in the competition, won a Met Éireann special award and had three projects highly commended. Eva Marie has entered 20 projects in BTYS since graduating from Maynooth University. Eva Marie graduated with her BSc Science

What were you working on before Covid-19?

We were looking at how a sugar called fucose present in carbohydrates on antibodies makes them less effective. We can see that the presence of fucose increases the glycans’ dynamics, destabilising the antibody’s structure, and that is what you don’t want if you are, say, developing a therapeutic antibody.

Were you always a carbohydrate person? No, not at all. I had the good fortune to grow up in Sardinia, and studied chemistry there. Then I did my PhD in Montreal on hardcore quantum physics. After that I worked at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and this is where I developed a love for biophysics – I saw how the fundamental research could be applied to developing new therapies and diagnostics. Then I moved to Ireland and I worked in NUI Galway on carbohydrate research before coming to Maynooth.

What has life been like for you during Covid-19?

Dr Elisa Fadda

Work has been extremely busy. While nobody wants this pandemic, I think it is helping people to appreciate the importance of carbohydrates in biology. Until about 15-20 years ago, carbohydrates were considered a nuisance and decoration, something that needed to be removed so you could examine the protein.

How do you escape from work if you are at home all day?

When I would go to conferences, people would say, “Please, spare me the carbohydrate talk,” but now I am being invited to talk about carbohydrates all over the place. I have also been fortunate to be able to work from home and online. I don’t think I will ever wear high heels again.

This article was written by science journalist Dr Claire O’Connell and published with the permission of The Irish Times, Science section, ‘Research Lives.’

I enjoy yoga at home. And I am lucky to live very close to the Phoenix Park, and I go running there. I am a terrible runner, I am always getting injured, but I love it. It clears my head.

Alumni Profile

2014 Eva Marie Acton


Education in 2014 after joining the course as a mature student. She subsequently established Coláiste Coding, a lunch time coding club in her school Coláiste Mhuire, Mullingar. The Mullingar school went on to be selected as one of the first 40 schools to implement Leaving Certificate Computer Science, which will be examined for the first time in 2020. As she told The Bridge, “When I look back on my time in Maynooth University, I find myself wishing I could go back and do it all over again! “I was supported on my learning journey every step of the way by the fantastic staff at MU. The lecturers knew us by name and were always available to help. We all felt part of the same team. What is particularly special about Maynooth is that even after I graduated, I was still supported. When I sought advice about setting up a coding club, and establishing computer science in my school, the lecturers were still very interested and willing to assist me.

“A highlight of my time in MU was the opportunity to be part of the exchange with St. Mary’s College in Indiana. This research experience shaped me both as a teacher and a collaborator. The biggest thing I have taken away from my time in MU is the friendships I have built. These lifelong friendships are priceless and are cherished now more than ever.”


Maynooth University

Mapping the virus Ireland’s interactive Covid-19 Data Hub was co-developed by AIRO at Maynooth University as the official source of public information on the spread of the virus


t is a reflection of our times that ‘Ireland’s Covid-19 Data Hub’ is one of the most tapped websites for its trusted statistics, information and data on the spread of the virus.

Every day the latest figures are analysed across social media platforms, carried in hourly news bulletins and shared in WhatsApp groups of friends and families. It’s all there in one place on the Covid-19 Data Hub: National incidence rates, age and gender, ICU and hospital cases, testing and positivity rates, county figures, modes of transmission and clusters, healthcare worker cases. So too, is the 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population by local electoral area, and sadly, the daily death rate. It’s a sobering read but integral to the work of NPHET and the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, chaired by Prof Philip Nolan, President of MU. In a time of facts and ‘alternative facts,’ it’s the undisputed official source of information on the trajectory of the virus. The Covid-19 data-hub project was spearheaded last March by a team at the All-Island Observatory (AIRO) in Maynooth University,

Justin Gleeson, Director of AIRO at MU

led by its Director, Justin Gleeson, and its strategic partners at both the Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI) and the Central Statistics Office (CSO). This group worked closely with key data providers such as the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), and the Health Intelligence Unit (HIU) at the Health Service Executive (HSE). The primary objective was to make the data hub freely available online and since then the team has worked rapidly to further develop and refine its capabilities, push all of its data out in an open-data format and regularly add new components to a more detailed internal Covid data hub that supports the work of a range of public health officials, the CMO, the Department of Health and NPHET. The Covid-19 Data Hub with its expanded interactive tools, including a 14-day analysis of local electoral area trends, officially went live in June, sourcing its data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) and Health Service Executive (HSE). The public data hub acts as the official source of Covid data in Ireland and importantly enables a wide range of reporting, analysis and data visualisation by journalists, social scientists, economists across the country by making all data points accessible through Justin Gleeson, Director of AIRO, said the Covid-19 Data Hub showed the power of collaboration. “It has been great for the team at AIRO to be involved in creating this public health, expert-driven

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1976 Steve Shaughnessy 1976 BSc In 1973, Steve Shaughnessy, a teenager from a Boston, Massachusetts suburb, had a chance encounter with an Irish University Professor visiting his school, Boston College High School, on a recruiting trip. That professor happened to be from the NUI. He found and encouraged an adventurous trio of American students who chose the road seldom taken by their peers, and embarked upon a transatlantic journey to university. For Steve (BA, 1976), who was one of these three, the decision set forth a spiral of events that has led him to a life today that still spans the Atlantic. He’s worked in both the US and the UK, where he lives today in Adlington, Cheshire; and he often returns to Ireland, including for the Maynooth Alumni Reunion in 2019. So what made the young teenager take the plunge to cross the pond? Steve was a talented young sailor, a member of the US Sailing Team in fact, and had befriended some Irish sailors during a European competition. That encounter made the decision a bit less daunting, he said. Steve lived on a farm outside Maynooth during the first year of his studies and has great memories of the Song Contest, Planxty & Horslips concerts in the Aula Max; Geography field trips; Rag Week; dedicated, inspiring academic staff and making lifelong friendships that he maintains to this day. Steve graduated with a joint-honours degree in Geography & Modern History and went on to do his Master’s in Environmental Planning at the University of Nottingham. He launched a successful career in the trade of construction equipment, a field he’s officially retired from today. Still, he keeps busy volunteering on the board of the East Cheshire Housing Consortium, a charity which provides supported housing and training opportunities for individuals with mental health problems. He is a keen competitive runner who coaches senior athletes and has completed a number of marathons including the Dublin, London and 2013 Boston Marathon, which was the target of a terrorist bomb attack. He’s survived cancer and has been a generous supporter of MU students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including those who have experienced financial challenges as a result of the pandemic.

information tool. To see the outputs of the Hub shaping the endless debate on the direction of Covid related policy has certainly been interesting,” he said. “During this difficult time, we have seen the power of statistics and how working collaboratively can aid those tasked with difficult decisions. Our domain expertise in data management and visualisation combined with the dissemination power of the OSI GeoHive data infrastructure has worked really well. Having the CSO on board to take the lead on data governance was an important element in building early trust with data owners across the HSE.” AIRO has worked on other important national projects, including the National Planning Framework (NPF) and the recent Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies. Their national census mapping tools, in collaboration with the CSO, are aimed at improving evidence informed planning and used by government (central and local), educational institutions, private consultancies and the general public. Environmental projects include a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) analysis tool for the EPA and a new Local Authority Renewable Energy Strategy (LARES) tool for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. AIRO is also working on a range of data and mapping infrastructure projects within Maynooth University with the Admissions Office, the Access Office and the Office for Equality and Diversity.


Maynooth University

The Family Factor S

leep disturbances are common in children with neurodevelopmental disorders, and a disrupted night’s sleep can impact all the family. Dr Lorna Lopez, an associate professor in the Department of Biology and researcher in the Kathleen Lonsdale Institute for Human Health Research, is examining the role of sleep disturbances and their relationship with autism spectrum disorders in families. 2020 was an important year for Dr Lopez – she received a €1.5 million European Research Council (ERC) grant for her genetic research examining circadian rhythms in families, and accepted a Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Early Career Researcher of the Year Award. “I look forward to leading this project from Maynooth and working with esteemed academic and community collaborators within Maynooth University, across Ireland and internationally.” Dr Lopez said. Read more: news-events/dr-lorna-lopez-awarded-15meuropean-research-council-erc-grant

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From Longford to LA

TikTok’s Thomas Dalton is hiring for the “It” social media company of the moment 2009 BSc Head of Recruitment North America - Content, Ops & Corporate Functions

It takes a special talent to find employees who will fit into a corporate culture with a mission “to inspire creativity and bring joy.” And yet, social media “It” company TikTok has found just the man in MU Computer Science and Finance grad Thomas Dalton (BSc 2008). As Head of Recruitment for North America, Los-Angelesbased Dalton holds responsibility for the daily management and recruiting operations across Content, Ops and Corporate Functions in the region. No small challenge for the County Longford native, but he’s clearly got a knack for it. TikTok (in case you somehow haven’t heard) is currently the most downloaded app in the world and one of the world’s fastest growing social media platforms. TikTok allows users to create short videos with music, filters, and other features. It’s available in 155 markets, in 75 languages and has 600 million monthly active users. Its parent company ByteDance is the world’s most highly-valued privately-held startup, comprised of several social platforms allowing users to share videos and post content with millions of users around the world.

After graduating from Maynooth in 2008 with a degree in Computer Science and Finance, Dalton, like many, jumped around a bit between jobs in Ireland: a year at Microsoft, three years managing the Red Cow Moran Hotel, a year working events at Punchestown Racecourse. Then, it was off to new shores, where he found his niche. Dalton landed a position recruiting for tech roles at Robert Half in Philadelphia. “I fell into recruiting really by accident,” Dalton said. “Having had a portion of my degree focused on Computer Science gave me a competitive edge. I was able to understand requirements quickly and form strong bonds with clients and candidates. The work was very challenging at first but got easier over time.” Three years later he was off to another recruitment position at Amazon Web Services in Seattle. And in July 2020, Dalton was named to the Forbes Human Resources Council, an invitationonly community for senior-level human resource leaders across all industries.

A trailblazer in the Seanad

Alumni Profile


“You work alongside so many talented and creative professionals, it keeps the job very interesting. We are solving problems for the first time in the company’s history - and on a world stage,” Dalton said. “We push ourselves to raise the standards each year and the company gets increasingly better with every new hire.”

Independent Senator Eileen Flynn

2017 BA Community and Youth Work

Thirty-year-old Eileen Flynn is making history as the first Traveller ever appointed to the Seanad, and the first Traveller woman in the Oireachtas. And capping an eventful year, the BBC has listed Flynn among the top 100 inspiring and influential women from around the world for 2020. A trailblazer in her community, Flynn graduated from Maynooth University with a BA in Community & Youth Work in 2017, and is among 167 Travellers of a population of 40,000 to have obtained a third-level qualification. Flynn grew up in Labre Park in Ballyfermot, which was one of the first Traveller halting sites built by a local authority in Ireland. Now she is one of Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s 11 nominees to the Seanad. One of Flynn’s lecturers in the Department of Applied Social Studies, Dr Oonagh McArdle, has described Maynooth University as a “learning lab” for the recently appointed Senator. Flynn agrees, saying that while in the Seanad, she is intent on applying the skills and knowledge she learned while studying at MU. “I do it with the heart and the eyes of a community development worker,” she said.

Alumni Profile



In her first speech in the Oireachtas, Flynn expressed hope that she “would be that person that would break down barriers for Travellers.” And she is already making headway, as the newly-appointed chair of the Joint Committee on Key Issues affecting the Traveller Community. The key issues under considerations are Traveller health, including suicide levels, which are six times higher than the general population; school completion rates and educational attainment; labour market participation -- Traveller unemployment rate is 80% -- and access to housing and accommodation. Additionally, Flynn has firmly in her sight new hate crime legislation, as well as the Traveller Culture and History in Education Bill to include Traveller history and culture as part of the education curriculum. With thanks to Naoise D’Arcy and The University Times


Maynooth University

Ireland’s leading institution for climate change research

MU experts are fighting climate change from all angles Tackling carbon output in land use

‘Of Land and Ocean’: Culture and climate on Inishbofin and Valentia

Microsoft Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) are co-funding a €5m project led by Maynooth University to help tackle climate change. The project will focus on the impact of human activity on land use, with a view to reducing carbon levels.

Does our response to climate change depend on where we’re living? And what is the relationship between our culture and how we consider the environment?

This ambitious project, named Terrain-AI, is being led by Dr Rowan Fealy of the ICARUS Climate Research Centre, and Prof Tim McCarthy of the National Centre for Geocomputation at Maynooth University. Given the challenging carbon reduction targets for Ireland set out by the Paris Agreement, the first phase of the project will focus on terrestrial carbon and more accurately measuring how it is absorbed into our environment, with the ambition of helping farmers, and others who manage land, to become carbon neutral or negative.

An award-winning MU project, ‘Of land and ocean: culture and climate on Ireland’s Islands’, aims to address these and other questions. Basing her studies on Inisbofin off County Galway and Valentia Island off the Kerry coast, Shirley Howe, a PhD student of Geography and Anthropology, is examining how cultural processes influence climate change perspectives and responses. Shirley Howe was awarded an Eda Sagarra Medal of Excellence by the Irish Research Council (IRC) in 2019 for her project, and also named the top-ranking Postgraduate Scholar in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, under the IRC’s 2019 Government of Ireland funding programmes. Discussing her research, she said: “I believe that a cross-disciplinary approach can show how cultural processes influence climate change perspectives and responses today. By complementing existing research, my project aims to contribute to developing communication strategies required to advance culture engagement and development of policies.”

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Hurricane Hercules hits Lahinch Photo credit: George Karbus

Storms: a window into the future Dr Lisa Orme is studying past storms to shed light on recent and future extreme events

“We don’t know very much about past weather variability because instrumental records are fairly short. That means that by looking at long records of past storminess we can understand more about the changing frequency and occurrence of storms in the past. And that will also help us understand future climate change as well,” she says. “Another important aspect of examining past climate is that we can look at previous warm periods and see whether storminess increased or decreased during those times.” Weather measurements taken since the late 19th century tell us that there have been some decades, such as the 1910s -1920s and 1980s -1990s, which have had many more severe storms than others.

A succession of devastating storms have hit Ireland in recent years, eroding coastal defences, and flooding homes and businesses. Storm Ophelia alone left behind damages of €70 million in 2017.

From looking at past climate, it’s apparent that storminess in Ireland has varied over decades, centuries and millennia, posing challenges to human populations and altering ecosystems.

Studying past storms can inform our understanding of recent and future events, explains Dr Lisa Orme, of MU’s ICARUS Climate Research Centre and the Department of Geography. Her research examines similar, or even greater, storm intensity and frequency in past decades, to open a window into the future.

“It’s safe to say that similar impacts would be experienced in future if there was an increase in storminess with global warming. “I hope that my research will help to inform coastal communities and decision makers about the potential for changes in storminess in the future.”

MU Campus wins Green Flag Pollinator 2020


irds, bees, butterflies, flowers – they’re all crucial pollinators for our ecosystem, but their habitats are at risk without wildflower meadows, reduced mowing and more pollinator-friendly planting.

This year, An Taisce and the National Biodiversity Data Centre announced the 2020 Green Flag Pollinator Project Award, a new category in the annual Green Flag Awards for best parks and gardens. The Maynooth Campus was awarded top prize as “a site that features not only pollinator friendly planting and gardening, but also makes a great effort to educate the public and to promote these efforts through its website and social media.”


Maynooth University

Wake-up call? Amid the doom and gloom of a Covid-inspired recession and widening inequality, one Maynooth alum is sounding an optimistic note about long-term, structural change in Western economies 1998

Brian O’Reilly BA, 1998 Head of Investment Strategy, Banca Mediolanum


nusual may be the understated adjective of the year to describe 2020.

But when Brian O’Reilly describes the nature of the economic fallout following the onset of Covid-19, it’s both apropos and perhaps even a bit encouraging. “It’s been an extremely unusual recession,” says O’Reilly, the Head of Investment Strategy at Italian investment bank Banca Mediolanum. “First it was a health crisis, which quickly became a very sudden economic crisis. The global economy just stopped – we’ve never seen that before. What’s also unusual are the extremes to which authorities have been willing to plug the gap. Central banks have kept things rolling by slashing interest rates, allowing governments to borrow, and governments have paid private employees directly through various pandemic support schemes, so the fallout could have been much worse.” Still, says the 1998 Maynooth finance grad now back living in Dublin after time in New York and London, there will come a time to pay the bill. O’Reilly believes that will likely mean higher taxes on corporations and individuals in high income brackets. He sees a shift, a reckoning even, coming in terms of widening wealth gaps and economic inequality across Ireland, the US and other western countries.

“The big issue worrying governments around the world is the growing wealth gap. I’m not sure how much longer it will be tolerated anymore.” O’Reilly points to data showing that the Covid-caused recession has disproportionately affected those making the least. That’s hardly unusual in an economic downtown, but O’Reilly has cause to think this time the after-effects may be different. “I think this crisis will be a wake-up call. The so-called K-shaped recovery – where the less well-off are faring worse, while the more well-off have been the main beneficiaries from stimulus which has propelled the stock market higher, particularly in the tech sector. I think we will get more policies post-Covid to help bridge the gap.” “One such focus is higher tax. Ireland’s low corporate tax rates were the right thing to do 30 years ago to attract jobs to Ireland, but over time the gap has probably gone too far. Multinationals will have to pay more. People and societies won’t tolerate companies paying little or nothing for much more. We need to fix housing and health, but structurally, Ireland is a very strong economy, with a very young population that is highly educated. The US multinationals like doing business with us, and Irish people tend to do well in multicultural environments. We should be confident in what we have to offer and that we will still attract international firms here without the need for extremely low tax rates.”

The Bridge


working in macroeconomics and asset allocation – a position O’Reilly said put his Maynooth education to good use. “The finance course at Maynooth gave us access to all of the necessary and available tools at the time that then allowed us to hold our own with graduates from the London School of Economics, Cambridge and Oxford, which were the traditional hiring grounds for finance in London,” O’Reilly said. “We had the tools and then you had to go apply yourself and work ethic comes in. I didn’t take too many holidays in my 20s,” he recalled. “But the building blocks we had from Maynooth in finance and economics had been given to us, even if we didn’t know it at the time.”

O’Reilly’s optimism extends to the jobs today’s young graduates will encounter. In finance, the opportunities are boundless compared to when he enterred the Irish job market in the late 1990s. “The higher level – or front office – finance jobs in Ireland were few and far between in the late ‘90s. The IFSC had only just gotten up and running,” he said, and thus headed to London, where he was fortunate to land a job at powerhouse Goldman Sachs. He started down an accounting route, but quickly pivoted “to what I loved about my Maynooth course, finance and economics.” After successfully making it through a grueling 21-stage recruitment process, he secured a dream role at UBS Warburg

O’Reilly moved to New York in 2008 for UBS at the start of the global financial collapse—a “seismic shift” for him professionally. He was leading a team as Head of Research for one of the biggest banks in the world at a time of crisis. After 13 years with UBS in New York and London, and on the verge of a move to Hong Kong, an opportunity came up in Dublin with Davy Stockbrokers that brought O’Reilly and his wife (fellow Maynooth Finance graduate Joan Tyrell) and their three children, home. O’Reilly became Head of Investments and Chief Investment Strategist for Davy, leading a 20+ member investment team and transitioning the company from a heavily Irish stocks-based model to an international wealth management one. Two years ago, he was headhunted to his current position with Banca Mediolanum, a massive €40billion Italian asset manager in Dublin with ambitious plans.

Joan (née Tyrell) and Brian

“Companies that value gender diversity on their boards are a good indication of good governance... In this business we can reward good behaviour and punish bad behaviour at the highest level.” “The best part of the job is that it’s always interesting. We spend our lives trying to answer big, sometimes impossible questions: Brexit, the US presidential election, Covid. What will these events mean for the financial markets that can change so quickly?” Echoing his positivity about the future, O’Reilly said he loves seeing the influence for good that the investment industry can play in societal progress. One marker smart investment managers look to is good governance. “Big finance doesn’t have the best reputation for good reasons, but that is slowly changing. The biggest growth area in finance today is ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance). For example, companies that value gender diversity on their boards are a good indication of good governance,” he said. Other indicators might be a company’s environmental ethos. “Companies doing well on ESG issues will get the capital, those that aren’t won’t. It’s that simple. In this business we can reward good behaviour and punish bad behaviour at the highest level,” O’Reilly said. Maybe that’s why he’s so optimistic. And if someone from his vantage point can see – and be pushing for – a greater leveling, maybe we all have reason to be so too.


Maynooth University

Pleananna fógartha do Lárionad Mac Léinn Ollscoil Mhá Nuad Nua C

uirfear tús sna míonna amach romhainn leis an obair ar ionad nua do shaol na mac léinn ar champas i Má Nuad. Is an chéad chéim eile i bplean forbartha campais Ollscoil Mhá Nuad é Lárionad na Mac Léinn.

Seoladh mionsamhail thríphlánach ailtireachta don Lárionad Mac Léinn nua i mí an Mheithimh ag Aontas Mac Léinn Mhá Nuad (MSU) agus ag an Ollscoil. Feidhmeoidh an Lárionad Mac Léinn nua mar bhaile ón mbaile do mhic léinn agus mar phointe fócais do shaol na mac léinn. Feidhmeoidh sé mar mhol d’Aontas na Mac Léinn, mar spás oibre dóibh siúd a bhíonn ag plé le clubanna agus cumainn, imeachtaí agus réimse leathan de ghníomhaíochtaí a chabhraíonn leis an mbraistint chómhuintearais speisialta atá i gcroílár eispéireas na mac léinn i Má Nuad. Beidh an foirgneamh de 3,700 méadar cearnach suite ar thalamh faighte ag an Ollscoil sa bhliain 2016 agus tá sé á mhaoiniú ag tobhach mic léinn. Deartha ag Scott Tallon Walker Architects – a

dhearaigh foirgnimh eile de chuid na hOllscoile lena n-áirítear an Leabharlann, Iontas agus Scoil an Oideachais – cruthóidh ailtireacht aonaránch an Lárionaid nua ceann scribe ícónach ar champas atá fáiltiúil, beoga, cairdiúil agus ionchuimsitheach. Beidh an Lárionad tógtha agus oibrithe ar an gcaighdeán inbhuanaitheachta is airde, agus mar chuid den fhoirgneamh beidh “seomra suí faoin aer” nuálaíoch faoi cheannbhrat inbhuanaithe, ag teacht salach ar an idirdhealú idir spás taobh istigh agus spás taobh amuigh leis an spás agus acmhainn ar leith seo do shaol na mac léinn á chruthú. Dúirt Uachtarán Ollscoil Mhá Nuad, an tOll Pilib Ó Nualláin: “Tá cáil atá tuillte go maith aici bainte amach ag Ollscoil Mhá Nuad as eispéireas mic léinn den chéad scoth, braistint phobail an-láidir agus saol sóisialta agus cultúrtha an-shaibhir a chur ar fáil. Tá ríméad orm go bhfuil an plean uaillmhianach seo ag teacht le chéile inniu agus aithnímse Aontas Mac Léinn Mhá Nuad as an obair dhian atá curtha isteach acu chun saol na mac léinn ar champas a shaibhriú, i bpáirtnéireacht leis an Ollscoil. Tá sé i gceist go n-osclófar an foirgneamh nua sa bhliain 2022 agus cuirfear tús leis an obair thógála sna míonna amach romhainn.

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OMN Rangaithe ag 43 ar domhan i Rangú na n-Ollscoileanna Óga agus ag #1 in Éirinn Tá Ollscoil Mhá Nuad tar éis bogadh suas i Rangú na n-Ollscoileanna Óga atá ag Times Higher Eduction (THE) do na hollscoileanna is rathúla ar domhan. Don dara bliain as a chéile, tá Ollscoil Mhá Nuad ardaithe sa rangú agus is ag 43 i measc na n-ollscoileanna óga is rathúla ar domhan atá sí anois. Ní hamháin sin ach tá a stádás ag #1 do na hollscoileanna óga in Éirinn fós aici.

Scott Tallon Walker Architects ©

2010 Baitsiléir Ealaíon Aisteoir Ní thuigtear cathain a bheidh orainn úsáid a bhaint as scileanna a d’fhoghlaim muid i bhfad siar ach sin díreach atá ar bun ag an aisteoir Dónall Ó Héalaí ó tháinig géarchéim an víris chorónaigh ar an bhfód i mbliana. Is cleachtas sách nua in earnáil na haisteoireachta é “self-taping” ach tá sé go mór chun tosaigh anois mar gheall ar an ngéarchéim toisc nach féidir le haisteoirí taisteal le haghaidh cruinnithe agus éisteachtaí. Agus an obair thaifeadta agus eagarthóireachta seo idir lámha aige ar ais ina cheantar dúchais de Chonamara faoi láthair, tá Dónall fíor-bhuíoch de na scileanna praiticiúla a d’fhoghlaim sé agus é i mbun staidéir ar na Meáin in Ollscoil Mhá Nuad. B’aoibhinn leis a dhara hábhar, NuaGhaeilge, freisin mar, cé go bhfuil Gaeilge aige ón gcliabhán, braitheann sé go raibh an t-uafás ann nach raibh ar eolas aige agus bhain sé tairbhe agus taitneamh as oideachas a chur air féin maidir le sochtheangeolaíocht, béaloideas, filíocht, amhránaíocht agus drámaíocht ach go háirithe. Deich mbliana ar aghaidh óna thréimhse i Má Nuad, tá buaicphointe a

shaoil ghairmiúil go dtí seo mar aisteoir scáileáin bainte amach ag Dónall lena phríomhpháirt mar Cholmán Sharkey sa scannán Gaeilge ceiliúrtha Arracht. Lonnaithe i gConamara le linn an ghórta mhóir, insíonn Arracht an scéal de Cholmán, iascaire macánta a sheasann i gcoinne na héagóra agus a ngearrtar píonós trom air dá bharr. Cuireann Dónall síos ar a thréimhse á scannánú mar “eispéireas an-speisialta” dó agus, toisc go raibh sé lonnaithe ina cheantar dúchais féin agus gur fhulaing na daoine máguaird go mór le linn an ghórta, “bhí sé an-ghar don chnámh agus bhí sé anthábhachtach go mbeadh sé chomh hionraic agus a d’fhéadfadh sé a bheith”. Fuair Arracht ardmholadh agus a lán gradam ag na féilte scannánaíochta idirnáisiúnta ag a léiríodh é le míonna anuas agus bhí Dónall aitheanta mar “Star of Tomorrow” ag an irisleabhar mór le rá Screen International dá chur i láthair mar Cholmán sa scannán. Eiseofar Arracht sna pictiúrlanna sa bhliain 2021 agus tá fuíollach eile ar siúl ag Dónall, lena n-áirítear a chéad phríomhpháirt Mheiriceánach in éineacht leis an réalta ceoldrámaíochta Santino Fontana in Impossible Monsters agus príomhpháirt Ghaeilge eile sa scannán Foscadh atá athchóirithe ón úrscéal The Thing about December le Donal Ryan. Is léir nach bhfuil sa mhéid atá bainte amach ag Dónall Ó Héalaí go dtí seo ach an tús.

Próifíl Alumni

2010 Dónall Ó Héalaí

Is í Ollscoil Mhá Nuad an t-aon ollscoil Éireannach amháin taobh istigh den chéad 100 i Rangú na n-Ollscoileanna Óga. Anuraidh, bhí Ollscoil Mhá Nuad rangaithe ag 50 i measc na n-ollscoileanna óga ar domhan, ag bogadh óna háit ag 80 sa bhliain 2018. Tá rangú idirnáisiúnta na n-ollscoileanna óga bunaithe ar réimse de chritéir lena n-áirítear maoiniú taighde atá tar éis teacht isteach, an cháil atá bainte amach don teagasc agus don taighde, líon na ndochtúireachtaí a bronnadh, líon na bpáipear scolártha agus na luanna ar ard-chaighdeán ó fhoireann na hollscoile agus líon na mac léinn agus na foirne idirnáisiúnta.

Ag trácht ar an rangú don bhliain 2020, dúirt Uachtarán Ollscoil Mhá Nuad, an tOllamh Pilib Ó Nualláin: “Ta ríméad orainn bheith i measc na n-ollscoileanna óga is rathúla ar domhan. Is táscaire luachmhar é seo dár dtiomantas in Ollscoil Mhá Nuad do nuálaíocht gan stad gan staonadh, do chaighdeán ár dtaighde agus don cháil dhomhanda atá bainte amach ag ár dteagasc agus ag ár scoláireacht.


Maynooth University

An opportunity to give back MU’s Covid-19 Student Support Fund


very year, the Maynooth Student Emergency Fund serves as a lifeline for students who find themselves facing extraordinary financial challenges that, for them, may mean all the difference to staying in college or even avoiding homelessness or going hungry.

Covid-19 has hit students from disadvantaged backgrounds particularly hard. Families and individual students are coping with unemployment or lack of sick pay when they miss work. This, in turn, means less money for food, rent and transportation.


David Keenan BSc 1988, PhD 1992

Senior Vice President, Global Quality and Operations & General Manager Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals Ireland Ltd.

David Keenan was the first in his family to attend college. Today he has overall responsibility for the quality, manufacturing and global supply chain for a $2 billion pharma company, Mallinckrodt

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“Returning to education was more costly than expected. During the year, I found myself in need of assistance. I felt so guilty to ask for help but I must say I was treated with serious empathy and reassurance. The Student Emergency Fund was the difference between me eating or getting a weekly Leap Card, I would appeal to people to help with this fund when possible but also utilise it when needed. Thanks so much for your support, forever grateful.” Nigel, 3rd Year Social Science The shift to largely remote learning has meant a new set of challenges and expenses. While government schemes have broadened access to laptop computers and internet dongles, it’s not enough. They need more costly broadband packages (their mobile phone hot spots and packages hardly sufficient for the rigorous work college demands)--or headsets to drown out roommates or family members. Ruth Killeen, Student Budget Advisor, says she has not only seen the volume of students coming to her increase, but the overall size of an individual’s emergency need has increased too. She says there are students who can’t go home for various reasons – maybe they live in temporary accommodation and there’s no place to study. Maybe they live with family members in high-risk groups. IT connectivity and

David Keenan grew up in Clondalkin and landed at Maynooth to pursue a BSc in Biology and Chemistry. He stayed to do his PhD in Chemistry, spending eight years in Maynooth. “I say that I could have been a priest!” he says. His PhD pursuit led to an introduction to his now wife, Nicola Gardiner. David was her Chemistry demonstrator – a story he’s no doubt passed along to their daughter, Emily, now in her fourth year at Maynooth studying the same course. With his vantage point as a Maynooth alumnus-turned-parent, Keenan says MU’s growth hasn’t compromised the close-knit student experience. “There’s still a family feeling around the place. I see it with my daughter. They get to know their lecturers and if they have a question and email them, they get back right away. It’s the same as when we were there.” Upon graduation, Keenan landed a job in Ireland as a process chemist. “I had never been in a chemical plant or pharmaceutical company until my first day on the job. It’s so different now with work placements,” he says, and has taken current MU students into Mallinckrodt on placement.

higher-cost broadband packages are also a major problem, she says. Can you help? By supporting MU’s Student Emergency Fund, you will be directly helping students whose already stark needs have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. For example: • A gift of €25 will help fund a student’s food for a week. • A gift of €50 will help fund a student’s utilities for a month. • A gift of €100 will help fund a student’s textbooks and learning materials. • A gift of €250 will help fund wi-fi connectivity for one year. • A gift of €500 will help fund a student’s accommodation for one month. • A gift of €1,000 will help fund a student’s work placement costs for a year. • A gift of €2,500 will help fund a student’s accommodation for a full semester. “What may not sound like much to you means the world for those who need it,” says Marianne Dunne, Director of Student Services. “Students tell us that without the Student Emergency Fund they wouldn’t have stayed in college.” Please consider supporting these resilient Maynooth students by donating at: covid19appeal or contact Maynooth.

He then moved into pharmaceutical manufacturing at U.S. and Swiss companies. Today, as Senior Vice President for Global Quality and Operations & General Manager, Keenan has global responsibility for all manufacturing, quality and supply chains and manages 400 employees across teams in Ireland, US, and Japan. He says his joint degree in Maynooth was critical to his career path. “When you end up in management roles, it’s never one discipline you’re dealing with. It’s not just chemistry or biology or business.”

It was also important to his ability to progress, as the focus of the pharma industry in Ireland has changed, and continues to shift rapidly. “Thirty years ago, the industry in Ireland was predominantly small molecule chemical processing. Over the years, the industry has shifted to large molecule biologic processing and is now moving into specialised highend manufacturing. The joint Bio-Chem degree helped me understand that better.”


Remember Maynooth Legacy gifts make a lasting impact at Maynooth University. Some alumni and friends may choose to leave their entire estate or a home, others leave a specific gift, but every legacy, large or small, ties together the past and future at Maynooth University. For more information on how to leave a legacy to Maynooth University, or to let the University know that you have already quietly made plans, please email Maynooth University’s Director of Development and External Relations, Rebecca Doolin, at Rebecca.doolin@

Some companies also, he says, are shrinking their manufacturing footprint. Instead, they collaborate with contract manufacturing organisations (CMOs) to produce product. “Ireland is also home now to virtual companies managing supply chains around the world – companies that have no manufacturing presence in Ireland but manage the manufacture and supply of products through contract manufacturers. The industry in Ireland has changed significantly since I joined it in 1992 and is still changing. In the past, my job would have been based in the US. Now I can do it from here.” “Ireland has stayed ahead of the curve, but graduates need to understand that the industry is constantly changing and they will need to get their heads around that.” For example, he says, Covid-19 has meant less international travel and managing teams remotely. “I look back on my time at Maynooth with very fond memories. I know the skills that I learned from my time there have been instrumental in my success. Ireland and the pharmaceutical industry has changed so much since I graduated, but Maynooth University has continually evolved to meet these challenges and, importantly, has not lost what makes it such a special University to attend.”


Maynooth University

Lauren Kelly

Sports Roundup

Notwithstanding Covid-19 our MU athletes braved the sporting calendar this year with true commitment and competitiveness – domestically and internationally Soccer

The 2019/20 season for Maynooth University Soccer Club was action packed from the get-go. Six intervarsity soccer squads – four men’s and two women’s – represented MU in third-level competition this year. Despite reaching the quarterfinals in the Colleges and Universities Football League, our men’s senior squad suffered a 4-2 defeat against Carlow IT in early February, while our women’s seniors overcame UCC 3-1 in Cork in their semi-final to progress to the final. While both the MU women’s senior and men’s fresher teams togged out for their league finals, both teams were subsequently defeated by Ulster University and South West College respectively. In the Irish Universities cups competitions, both women’s squads attempted to qualify for Intervarsity finals for the first time. Quarterfinal success for the women’s senior and B squads was overshadowed somewhat by Covid-19, which forced the cancellation of the finals at WIT in late March. Success in the Harding and Collingwood Cups on the other hand were in sight for a time for the men’s squads, who, despite convincing campaign matches, ultimately succumbed to defeat. UCD overcame a valiant MU effort in the Harding Cup final, while in the Collingwood Cup MU was defeated by UL in the quarterfinal. For the first time since 2014, Maynooth hosted the Crowley Cup. Home advantage in the

final against UCC saw the Maynooth boys winning the cup – for the second time in 50 years – in a 5-4 penalty shootout. Turning our lens to MU scholar soccer watch 2020, former MU soccer scholar Amber Barrett continues to impress for her professional club FC Cologne and Ireland WNT. Sean Hoare has reached the Europa League group stages with Dundalk FC this year, while Scottish team Inverness Caledonian Thistle signed Business Management graduate and former scholarship winner Jamie McGrath. Luke McNally (St Patrick’s Athletic FC) and Daniel Grant (Bohemians FC) were both included in the Irish U21 squad this year. Current scholar Isibeal Atkinson was included in a preliminary women’s senior squad this year, while Lauren Kelly had an exceptional 2019-20 season, representing Ireland in Italy at the world university games. Lauren also scored twice for her club Wexford Youths in the Women’s FAI Cup final at the Aviva Stadium and was named Maynooth University Athlete of the year. Maynooth University Town FC continued their march upwards through the Leinster Senior League divisions this year. For the first time in the club’s history, the senior squad gained promotion to the LSL Senior Division and finished fifth in a highly disrupted season. The Saturday squad, who also gained promotion to the Saturday major division for the first time, had an excellent third place finish while the development squad were Sunday Division 3 winners with an exciting final day of the season victory.

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Ireland’s leading student golfers continued to achieve success on the international stage thanks in part to the University’s Paddy Harrington Golf Scholarship Programme. Class of 2020, Caolan Rafferty was selected to represent the international team against the USA in the Arnold Palmer Cup, an annual Ryder Cup style team match between the best international collegiate golfers and their US counterparts. Rafferty is the fourth golf scholar in program history to be selected to play in the prestigious Arnold Palmer Cup. Another coup for Maynooth this year saw Barry Fennelly, golf manager at MU, named as assistant men’s coach for the international team so it will be a unique double for the University having both a player and a coach represented in this prestigious cup. (It was due to be played in July at Lahinch golf club but will now take place at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Florida Dec. 21-23, 2020.)

Remarkably, MU golf scholars have been represented at six of the last eight stagings of the Arnold Palmer Cups, a feat not matched by any institution outside of the United States. In 2019, the R&A (the world governing body for golf) established a new elite student golf tour called the R&A Student Tour Series, which aims to raise the profile of student golf across Europe. In 2019-20, MU was the most represented institution throughout the four R&A Student Tour Series events. Maynooth hosted the R&A Student Tour Series Ireland at Carton House in September 2019 as the second event in the series and it was won in a playoff by Maynooth’s Josh Mackin. At the R&A Student Tour Series Spain in October 2019, Harry Gillivan finished runner-up with recent graduate Caolan Rafferty taking home bronze. In February, Allan Hill shot a remarkable first round of 66(-6) for a new amateur course record at the R&A Student Tour Series at Troia but eventually settled for a silver medal having been pipped at the post by teammate Paul Conroy, who clinched the title by one stroke. MU’s Alan Fahy shot a final round 67(-5) to take home bronze at Troia, his third top 3 finish in the series, a placing that would eventually seal him the crown of R&A Student Tour Series order of merit champion. Fahy, who graduated in 2020 from Maynooth, went on to a superb season, winning the Bridgestone order of merit as the leading Irish men’s player in 2020 and earning a place on Golf Ireland’s 2021 high performance squad.

Rugby Despite being cut short by the pandemic, the 2019-2020 season still proved very fruitful for MU rugby. The women’s 1st XV followed up their emphatic Division 3 league victory of 2018-19 in similar fashion, securing back-toback league titles by winning Division 2 and gaining promotion to the top tier of Leinster Women’s Rugby. The introduction of a women’s scholarship programme three years ago has proved to be an incredible success, supplementing the growth of the club with a focused training regime, and offering talented school leavers a chance to develop in the next level. The growth of MU women’s squad has been exponential, with close to 50 at every training session and fielding two squads weekly this year for the first time. Stand-out performers were aplenty, with special praise going to Gorey duo Yvonne Hoey and Alice Canavan, along with Holly Leach, Katelynn Doran and Orfhlaith Murray. In a similar trajectory, our men’s first XV picked up where they left

Alan Fahy

off in 2018-19. They stormed to the All-Ireland League 2B title by securing an amazing 18 wins from 18. The 2019-20 season began with much the same squad, together with a rigorous and tough preseason schedule, before embarking on the Division 2A campaign for the All-Ireland League. MU was quick off the mark with 10 wins in a row, bringing the MU winning streak to an incredible 28 wins on the bounce – the second highest in All-Ireland rugby history. Included in this was an historic victory in the University’s first attempt to lift the prestigious Dudley Cup, by defeating Queen’s University Belfast away from home in the dying moments of the match. Unfortunately the pandemic cut efforts to follow the women’s squad in securing back-to-back promotions as the league ceased with MU comfortably nestled on top of the league table after 14 rounds of games (4 to play) with 12 victories and only 2 defeats. Phenomenal performances from many with second row pairing Brendan McSorely and Dan Murphy dominating all in front of them, Darragh Bellanova proving a destructive scrummager, while first years Paddy Duggan and Matias Gianneti lit up the backline week in, week out.

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