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Golden Bridges Speakers 2021

Contact Name: Alison Metcalfe
Position Title: EVP North America & Australia, Tourism Ireland
Company website: TourismIreland
Twitter: @metcalfealison1

Alison Metcalfe, Head of North America, Australia & New Zealand, Tourism Ireland
Based in New York, Alison was appointed Head of North America in June 2013, where she has responsibility for leading Tourism Ireland’s Marketing Strategy and Operations in the USA and Canada. In June 2017, Alison also assumed responsibility for Tourism Ireland’s operations in Australia/New Zealand.
Alison joined Tourism Ireland in 2002 and previously held the position of Vice President Marketing, USA. Prior to moving to New York, she was responsible for Tourism Ireland’s operations in Canada based in Toronto.
Alison has extensive destination marketing experience and a record of achievement in building and leading high-performance teams. Her career has spanned strategy development, brand management, integrated consumer marketing, communications and stakeholder management. Alison has worked in the UK, Europe and North America.
Alison also serves as Chair of the European Travel Commission, USA Chapter.



Contact Name: Anna Ní Ghallachair
Position Title: Chairperson, Údarás na Gaeltachta
Company website: Udaras.ie

Anna Ní Ghallachair was appointed Chairperson to the Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta in 2018 by the Minister of State for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands at the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for a five-year term from 16 January 2018 to 15 January 2023. This is her second term as Chairperson of the Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta. She previously served as Chair from 20 November 2012 to 19 November 2017.

Anna Ní Ghallachair is from Árainn Mhór in Co. Donegal. Following ten years as a lecturer of French, German, and Irish in Letterkenny Institute of Technology and over 20 years as Director of the Language Centre in Maynooth University, she was Director of the Centre for Irish Language Research, Teaching and Testing and Head of the School of Celtic Studies in the same university until retirement in January 2021.

Anna has studied modern languages in Ireland and in France, where she spent six years as a lecturer while doing postgraduate work in French. Her research focuses on multilingualism, teaching and learning Irish and the literature of Brittany.

She was a member of Coimisiún na Gaeltachta (2000-2002) and a member of the language education policy working group in the Department of Education and Skills (2008-9). She is a former chairperson of the Irish Association for Applied Linguistics (2004-2007), Raidió na Gaeltachta (2010-2013) and Údarás na Gaeltachta (2012-2017). She has also served on a number of committees in Ireland and abroad focusing on the teaching and promotion of languages.

In 2008 she was honoured by the French Government in recognition of her services to plurilingualism.

Currently, she is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE) and of the Royal Irish Academy’s Languages, Literature, Culture and Communication Committee.

As outlined in paragraph 12 of the First Schedule of the Údarás na Gaeltachta Act, 1979, Údarás board members are paid fees and allowances from Údarás funds, which are determined from time to time by the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. These fees and rates are in accordance with those laid down by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for State Bodies of Category C of that Department.
As directed by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (2011) regarding the payment of fees to public servants who sit on state boards, this member of the Údarás Board is not paid an annual fee.



Contact Name: Brian McCormick 
Position Title: Manager
Company Website: seamusheaneyhome.com
Facebook: seamusheaneyhome
Twitter: @SHHomePlace

Brian McCormick is the Manager of Seamus Heaney HomePlace.
Brian was educated at Saint Patrick’s College, Maghera. He graduated from Queens University Belfast with a Hons Degree in Modern History and from University of Ulster with an MSc in Sport, Exercise and Leisure.
Brian, who is a nephew of Seamus Heaney’s, worked in the hospitality industry before taking up his current post, and prior to which worked in the Education sector for 10 years. He is passionate about the arts and wishes to ensure HomePlace continues its trajectory as world class organisation where people can fully immerse themselves and experience the work of Seamus Heaney.


Contact Name: Charlie McConalogue
Position Title: Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Facebook: CharlieMcConalogue
Twitter: @McConalogue

Charlie was born in October 1977 and is from Gleneely in Co. Donegal. From a farming background, he was educated at Carndonagh Community School before going on to study at UCD where he studied Economics, Politics & History. It was at UCD where he first became involved in politics.
After working in Fianna Fail Headquarters for a number of years, as well as working abroad in Australia, Charlie returned home to work on the family farm before officially running for political office in 2009, where he was elected as a Donegal County Councillor. In 2011, Charlie was elected a TD for Donegal North East at the first time of asking.Charlie’s key priorities include the development of infrastructure in Co. Donegal with regard to roads, broadband & a sustainable health service for the people of the county.



Contact Name: Christine Kinealy Ph.D

Since completing her PhD at Trinity College in Ireland, Christine Kinealy has worked in educational and research institutes in Ireland, England and, more recently, in the United States.  In September 2013, Professor Kinealy was appointed the founding Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.

Professor Kinealy has published extensively on modern Ireland, with a focus on the Great Hunger and on the Irish Abolition movement.  Her publications include A History of the Irish Famine (Routledge, 2018) and This Great Calamity. The Great Hunger in Ireland (Gill and Macmillan, 1994 and 2007).  She has also written a graphic novel on the Great Hunger, entitled, ‘The Bad Times’, and an Irish language version, ‘An Droch Shaol’ (2016).

Since 2013, Professor Kinealy has been annually named one of the top 100 educators in Irish America.  In March 2014, she was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame.

In 2017, she received an Emmy for her contribution to the documentary, ‘The Great Hunger and the Irish Diaspora’. In 2019, she was one of five Famine historians who undertook a 100-mile walk from Strokestown Park in Roscommon to Dublin, following in the footsteps of 1,490 tenants who were sent to Canada in 1847. An estimated five hundred on them died on the journey. This route is now officially recognized as The National Famine Way.

Professor Kinealy is a Director of the African American Irish Diaspora Network (AAIDN). In 2018, her book Frederick Douglass and Ireland. In his own words, was published. It accompanied an exhibition at Quinnipiac University.  Black Abolitionists in Ireland, which explores the stories of 10 black abolitionists who visited Ireland between 1791 and 1861, was published in 2020 and a second volume is currently in process.  A further outcome of this research has been the creation of Frederick Douglass Walking Trails in Belfast, Cork and Dublin, which will form part of the Frederick Douglass Way in conjunction with AAIDN.



Contact Name: Declan Ward
Position Title: Managing Director- Irish Pressings
Company Website: irishpressings.com
LinkedIn: declan-ward

Having qualified as Ireland’s “Toolmaker of the Year”, I have built upon these tool-making foundations to move into other fields within the automotive industry including design, new product development, research and development, tool manufacture and project management.  

During this time I have:
– worked as fulltime Consulting Design Engineer for Ford Focus working on design in consultation with Ford designers through each stage of the development from prototyping to tooling to assembly 
production including establishment of satellite assembly plants close to Ford production facilities; 
– worked as Consulting Engineer for General Motors in the development of production parts for the Zafira,
Vectra and Astra; 
– Developed complex bumper systems, rear seat assemblies, chassis and many other technically challenging components; 
– Developed Crash Testing and Energy Absorption Systems; 
– Worked on the production of parts on 1600 ton presses with a fully automated transfer line, with a 
press bed size of 6 metres;
– been involved in the development and production of rear seat sub frames and bumper assemblies using high strength steel (TRIP 700 and DP 1000); 
– Project managed the installation of robot cells containing 14 robots working in tandem; 
– engaged in Process Engineering – Optimising and setting targets for machines/operators, designing and 
controlling process flow, production planning and capacity for forecasts; and 
– Co-ordinated purchasing and installation of advanced technology in pressings, welding, painting, tapping and deburring.



Contact Name: Elaine Smyth
Position Title: Director of Innovation Community
Company Website: wearecatalyst.org
LinkedIn: elaine-smyth

Elaine Smyth is the Director of the Innovation Community at Catalyst, Northern Ireland.  Catalyst is a technology hub providing workspace to over 170 innovation companies, from startups to multi-nationals together with QUB ECIT research institute across three campuses.  As a not for profit organisation Catalyst invests the surplus from rental income to support the growth of entrepreneurship and startups through a range of programmes and initiatives.  Over 900 entrepreneurs and startups avail of this support each year.

Before joining Catalyst, Elaine has held roles as HR Director, Chief Operating Officer and Global Consultancy Services Director for several local technology companies and Investment Director roles with local venture capital firms.

Elaine is passionate about entrepreneurship and believes there will be many more exciting and successful local technology companies leading the world from Northern Ireland.



Contact Name: Gary Martin
Position Title: Director of Service, Economic Development, Information Systems & Emergency Services
Company Website: donegalcoco.ie
LinkedIn: garrymartin

Garry Martin is currently the Director of Economic Development, Information Systems and Emergency Services, with Donegal County Council and is, additionally, the designated Director of the Donegal Municipal District. 
He is also currently Company Secretary with Donegal 2040 Strategic Development Co. Ltd., a wholly Council owned company established to support ongoing efforts in animating greater economic activity through specific Council interventions and collaborations.
He had held the Director of Finance position in Donegal from July 2010 until 2018 and has worked both locally and more recently, nationally, (as president of the Heads of Finance Association) in leading and developing financial responses to strategic issues challenging both the Council locally and the sector nationally across a range of areas.
Garry is a qualified Chartered Public Finance Accountant, holds a Master of Science Degree (with distinction) in International Business from Ulster University and also holds an Advanced Certificate in Business Counselling from Durham University Business School.
Garry has previously worked in the Economic and Cultural Development sector, working variously as an Assistant Chief Executive with the County Enterprise Board in Donegal during the period 1995 – 2000 and as a Senior Executive Officer (SEO) with Donegal County Council in the Community and Enterprise Area from 2000 – 2009.
During that time, he worked with numerous small businesses in County Donegal and subsequently as SEO, developed a range of programmes including a number under the PEACE II Programme and INTERREG IIIA on specific initiatives revolving around economic development, capital infrastructure development in areas such as tourism and in the development of a number of specific initiatives including the establishment of a Diaspora Programme in County Donegal.



Contact Name: Graham Warke 
Position Title: Mayor of Derry City & Strabane District Council
Twitter: @grahamwarke

Graham Warke was co-opted as a DUP Councillor on to Derry City & Strabane District Council in 2015, Graham was elected to represent the Faughan area of Derry and Strabane District Council and topped the poll when he was re-elected in 2019.

Graham was Chair of the Derry & Strabane Local Action Group (LAG) and currently sits on the Health and Communities and Business and Culture Committees. Graham also sits on the Bonfire Committee, VISIT Derry, City Centre Initiative and PCSP. 

Graham served in the Royal Irish Regiment for a number of years before working as a youth worker in the Cathedral Youth Club in the Fountain estate

Graham has two children Katelyn and Ollie. Graham enjoys spending time with his family and travelling extensively.



Contact Name: Jack Murray 
Position Title: Councillor

Cllr Jack Murray has been involved in politics all his adult life. After studying Irish History & Politics in the University of Ulster, he was employed as Director of Publicity for Sinn Féin in the Newry & Armagh constituency and then as a political advisor in the Stormont Assembly. In 2011, at the age of 26, he was co-opted onto Donegal County Council to replace Pádraig Mac Lochlainn following his election to the Dáil. Jack was subsequently returned to the council at the 2014 and 2019 local elections. In June 2021, he was unanimously elected Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council by his fellow councillors, having previously being elected as Mayor of Inishowen in 2017.



Contact Name: James Reginald Colimon
Position Title: International Partnerships Manager
Company Website: boston.gov

James Reginald Colimon is the International Partnerships Manager for the City of Boston’s Global Affairs team within the Office of Economic Development. James’ primary focus is to help scale up the city’s international relations, manage and strengthen the City of Boston’s international relations in the areas of: friendship, trade, understanding and cooperation. coordinating and hosting visiting international delegations on behalf of the Mayor, supporting Sister City agreements and cooperative relationships between Boston and international cities, crafting memorandums of agreement with emerging partnering international cities, and engaging with the Consular Corp and other international partners in Boston and the region. Prior to joining the Global Affairs team, James worked in the Mayor’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations as the Liaison to the Boston City Council. In this position, he was responsible for promoting and advancing Mayor Walsh’s agenda at the City level, including advocating with the Council and other parties. He served as principal liaison in all interactions between the Mayor, members of his Cabinet, Department Heads, and the Boston City Council. He began his career in government in 2001, as a Senior Community Outreach Coordinator in the Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians (now known as the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Advancement). During his 9 year tenure, he represented the Mayor and the City of Boston at events, and led fundraising efforts to support projects such as “English for New Bostonians”. His relentless organizing efforts established the first-ever City of Boston Free Immigration Clinic after September 11, 2001. The Clinic currently serves over 300 new Bostonians each year, providing free legal advice to those who cannot afford a private attorney. Born and raised in Port-au-Prince Haiti, James has made Boston his home since moving to the U.S. over thirty years ago. He has dedicated his life to serving others. James holds a BA in Political Science and Foreign Languages from Salem State University, and an MBA in International Management from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. James is an Alumni of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Citizens Academy Program. He is an effective bridge-builder and a talented communicator, fluent in English, French, Haitian Creole and Spanish, with a working knowledge of Portuguese.



Contact Name: Jeananne Craig
Position Title: Journalist and copywriter
Company Website: jeanannecraig.contently.com
Twitter: @jeanannecraig
LinkedIn: jeanannecraig

Jeananne Craig is a journalist and copywriter. She returned to Derry in 2018 after covering breaking news, politics and entertainment in London and Dublin for the Press Association, Guardian and BBC.



Contact Name: Jennifer Neff
Position Title: Managing Director
Company Website: elementalsoftware.co
Facebook: @ElementalSoftware
Twitter: @JEN_Elemental
LinkedIn: JenniferNeff

Jennifer is passionate to end avoidable health inequalities. She set up Elemental Software in 2013 with Leeann Monk to connect people, build communities and improve lives. The pair created the Elemental platform designed to establish, scale, and measure the uptake and impact of the social prescribing model of care, a more than medicine approach to health and social care.
Elemental is an award-winning tech for good company based in Derry that employs over 30 people and was acquired in 2021 by The Access Group. 
Jennifer strives to spread the word about social prescribing, the difference it makes to people’s lives, communities, and the health and social care sector.
As the leading digital social prescribing software provider in the UK, Elemental is bridging the gap between health, housing, the VCSE (voluntary, community and social enterprise) sector, education, local government, and prison services. With a range of digital solutions designed to enable the strategy and practice of self-care and independence, and ultimately help people find their passions.  Over 750 social prescribing hubs use Elemental across England, Scotland, Wales and the Island of Ireland.
Jennifer believes social prescribing is a powerful route out of health inequality and to ultimately improve lives.



Contact Name: Joan Crawford
Position Title: Manager Wild Atlantic Way, Fáilte Ireland
Company Website: wildatlanticway.com
Facebook: irelandswaw
LinkedIn: joan crawford | LinkedIn

A native of Donegal Joan studied at University of Ulster where she graduated with a B.A. Hons in Hotel & Tourism Management with a Diploma in Industrial Studies.  She then went on to attain a Masters in Business Administration from University of Ulster.

Joan has worked in the Tourism sector for over 25 years both having worked with Aer Lingus, North West Tourism, Donegal Tourism and now Fáilte Ireland. In late 1999, she took up a position with North West Regional Tourism and worked in various roles going onto to take up a Marketing Executive position with Donegal Tourism Ltd.

She has been working for Fáilte Ireland in many different roles for the past 20 years as Tourism Officer for Cavan and Monaghan and the role of Business Development Manager for Donegal. Most recently Joan has been working as a Manager on the delivery of the Wild Atlantic Way Programme.



Contact Name: JoAnne Kilmartin
Position Title: Donegal Diaspora Executive
Company Website: donegaldiaspora.ie
Facebook: DonegalDiaspora
LinkedIn: donegaldiaspora

JoAnne Kilmartin has over 25 years experience in both the public and private sector.  She is currently employed as the Donegal Diaspora Executive in Donegal County Council having responsibility for connecting with the global Diaspora. 
The Donegal Diaspora project, an initiative of Donegal County Council, supports our citizens overseas and diaspora networks internationally, as well as seeking to identify mutual benefits for both our diaspora and our county.
Our definition of the Donegal diaspora, reflects the rich diversity of our global community and is made up of diverse and dynamic individuals and global communities connected to Donegal through ties of citizenship, heritage and affinity. 
Through her work with the Donegal diaspora relationships are being developed, deepened and enhanced resulting in tremendous benefits to the local community, economically, educationally and culturally.
Prior to this appointment, JoAnne was the Programme Development Officer on a number of European projects delivering in excess of €20M of funding to a range of community projects in County Donegal.
She holds a First Class Honours BA degree in Humanities (Community Development) from the Letterkenny Institute of Technology. 



Contact Name: John Kelpie
Position Title: Chief Executive of the Derry City and Strabane District Council

John Kelpie is the Chief Executive of the Derry City and Strabane District Council. Established in April 2015 as a result of a programme of local government reform in Northern Ireland, this new Council serves a larger geographical area and has a range of additional powers, functions and responsibilities than its predecessor councils.

John led on the creation of the new organisation designing an innovative, flexible and responsive staffing structure with a clear vision and purpose to develop a thriving, prosperous and sustainable City and Region with equality of opportunity for all.




Contact Name: Lisa Marshall
Position Title: Director of Sales & Marketing
Company Website: lougheskecastlehotel.com
Facebook: LoughEskeCastle
Twitter: @lougheskecastle
LinkedIn: LoughEskeCastleDonegal | LisaMarshall

Lisa Marshall is the Director of Sales & Marketing at Lough Eske Castle, joining the team 5 years ago. With 20 years of experience in the luxury side of hospitality, Lisa’s fervor for the industry started with food & beverage operations working for Gordon Ramsay, moving on to other five star properties such as One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow, Baglioni Hotels in Italy, France and London. Lisa’s last role was Director of Sales & Marketing at Mason Rose; a leading international communications and sales representation agency based in London before making the move to Donegal with her young family. Lisa’s day to day responsibilities include driving the revenue and marketing the five star Lough Eske Castle across the world. Lisa is passionate about hospitality, Lough Eske Castle and county Donegal, spending her time off exploring the Wild Atlantic way with her family.



Contact Name: Louise Dubras MBBS, BSc, DRCOG, FRCGP, MA(Ed), FAcadMEd, PFHEA

Foundation Dean of the School of Medicine at Ulster University since June 2018, establishing a new medical school. I provide clinical and educational leadership for this complex project, including progression towards GMC accreditation and developing relationships with key stakeholders. Early work required formation of a small but capable team, working to develop our project plan towards a projected opening date. With our first student intake scheduled for late August 2021, priorities now include growth of the team, development of resources, student recruitment and work to develop our building.
Formerly Deputy Dean of Medical Education at King’s College London for 3 years, I led the MBBS programme training approximately 2200 students to become doctors. My expertise is curriculum innovation and design and the implementation of educational. I am a GP working in a deprived Derry-Londonderry practice for one day a week, having spent many years as a GP to homeless patients in Southampton with a special interest in addiction and mental illness. 
I am a board member of the Association for the Study of Medical Education, and I am a member of Council of the Academy of Medical Educators.



Contact Name: Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh
Position Title: Musician/Teacher
Company Website: www.altan.ie /  www.mairead.ie 
Facebook: Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh  /  Altan Official  / Na Mooney’s  /  String Sisters  /  SíFiddles
Twitter: @CarraigFinn
LinkedIn: MairéadNíMhaonaigh

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh is a fiddle player and sean-nós singer from the Gaeltacht of Gaoth Dobhair in County Donegal.
She is passionate about preserving the traditional music from her area. She is also a composer and has been commissioned to compose music for various projects over the years.
She is a founding member of the renowned traditional music group, Altan.
For over thirty years she has toured the World with Altan, travelling all over Ireland, the United Kingdom, Europe,Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the USA. She has played in venues as diverse as The Albert Hall,London,The Sydney Opera House and The Hollywood Bowl.
Mairéad has made one solo album in 2009 called ‘Imeall’,  and is also a member of other ensembles like ; String Sisters , comprising of female fiddle players from all over the world, SíFiddlers a Donegal based group of female fiddlers focusing on the rich Donegal tradition, her family band ,Na Mooneys and T with the Maggies along with Moya Brennan, Maighread and Triona Ní Dhomhnaill.
Mairéad was awarded Donegal Person of the Year in 2009 by the Donegal Association in Dublin for her work in promoting the County and it’s rich culture worldwide and in 2017 was awarded TG4 Musician of the Year.



Contact Name: Malachy Ó Néill
Position Title: Director of Regional Engagement
Company Website: ulster.ac.uk
Facebook: UlsterUniversity
Twitter: @niallach
LinkedIn: UlsterUniversity

Professor Malachy Ó Néill is Director of Regional Engagement at Ulster University. He hosted the American Conference of Irish Studies 2021 and played a leading role in the inception of a School of Medicine and the Derry/Strabane City Deal.



Contact Name: Mark O’Connell
Position Title: CEO and Founder
Company Website: ocoglobal.com
Facebook: OCO-Global
Twitter: @ocoglobal
LinkedIn: mark-o-connellocoglobal

Mark O’Connell is CEO and founder of OCO Global, one of the leading advisory firms in trade and investment with 140 staff and offices in the US, Lat-Am, Europe, Middle East, and Asia.
Prior to establishing OCO Global in 2001, Mark previously worked for the Irish Government Export Agency, Enterprise Ireland and for PwC consulting division. Mark has over 30 years of experience working extensively in trade promotion and foreign investment attraction in Europe, Asia and North America and has cultivated in-depth networks, and knowledge of doing business in these areas.
Mark has advised hundreds of exporters on market entry, expansion and diversification as well as supported corporate location, incentives, and business relocations. Mark also advises Government agencies such as UK Department of International Trade, Business France, Select USA and JETRO Japan and numerous US States on trade and investment strategies. Mark and OCO Global regularly publish thought leadership and insight papers on issues affecting global trade and investment. 
Mark is also regularly cited as an international trade and FDI expert in leading publications such as the Economist, Wall St Journal and Financial Times and is a former board member of the International Economic Development Council. 



Contact Name: Mary Sugrue
Position Title: CEO
Company Website: irishap.org
Facebook: IrishAmericanPartnership
Twitter: @IrishAPorg
LinkedIn: IrishAmericanPartnership

Mary Sugrue is the CEO of the Irish American Partnership. Since joining the organization, she has worked tirelessly to grow it to an established and respected national organization for social good. Mary became CEO in 2016, having worked at just about every job at the organization, gaining valuable insight into how to approach community building with a fresh perspective. Her prior training and experience as a primary school teacher led her to the Partnership, whose mission is to empower the next generation by equipping teachers and community leaders with the resources they need to educate and inspire. Mary connects Irish education and community organizations with a network of loyal supporters who seek to honor their Irish heritage by investing in the people, culture, and ideas that build a peaceful and prosperous Ireland. In her 30-year tenure, the Partnership has raised over $35 million, benefiting more than 500 schools, universities, and community development initiatives. Under her guidance and leadership, this Boston institution has continued to strengthen the global Irish community by linking the diaspora back to the island of Ireland. Mary values transparency and efficiency, providing leadership for her lean team of three, and clearly showing how each dollar is spent and the impact supporters have. She takes pride in its broad-based, grassroots approach to facilitating philanthropic giving, insisting that every gift matters.



Contact Name: Mícheál O hÉanaigh
Position Title: Chief Executive Officer
Company Website: udaras.ie
Facebook: UdarasnaG / Michael.Heaney.56
Twitter: @UdarasnaG
LinkedIn: ÚdarásnaGaeltachta  / michaelheaney

Mícheál is the Chief Executive of Údarás na Gaeltachta. He served as Director of Enterprise, Employment, Property and Engineering with Údarás from 2015 up to his appointment as Chief Executive in September of 2017. Mícheál spent sixteen years as Director of Services with Donegal County Council with specific responsibility for Community, Culture, Planning & Economic Development. In this role he was also Chief Executive of the Donegal County Development BoardHe also spent periods working with local and community development organisations in Inishowen, Co. Donegal.Mícheál has also spent periods working in the local development sector, the community and voluntary sector, rural development, education and also a period with the Department of Agriculture and Food (pilot integrated rural development programme).



Contact Name: Michelle Conaghan
Position Title: Regional Manager, IDA Ireland, North West Region

A native of Co. Donegal, Michelle Conaghan joined IDA in 2015 as Head of Emerging Technologies/High Growth Companies for the UK. Following this position, she became a Vice President of New Forms of Investment and more recently, Vice President of Green Economy. Despite being primarily based in London, Michelle has also spent time working in France and the Benelux region. The North West Region comprising of counties, Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim. There are 50 IDA Ireland client companies are located in the North West, employing 7, 129 people. Prior to IDA Ireland, Michelle has held management positions in a number of indigenous Irish companies in the technology, ecommerce and hospitality sectors.  Michelle holds an MSc in Strategic Management from Technical University Dublin and a Diploma in Business Management from the National College of Ireland.

Prior to IDA Ireland, Michelle has held management positions in a number of indigenous Irish companies in the technology, ecommerce and hospitality sectors. Michelle holds an MSc in Strategic Management from Technical University Dublin and a Diploma in Business Management from the National College of Ireland.



Contact Name: Niamh Hamill Ph.D
Position Title: Academic Director, Institute of Study Abroad Ireland 
Company Website: isaireland.com
Facebook: StudyAbroadIreland
Twitter: @isaireland
LinkedIn: DrNiamh

Dr. Niamh Hamill  is founder and director of the Institute of Study Abroad Ireland, which is based in Bundoran, County Donegal. The Institute of Study Abroad Ireland was established to facilitate short study & cultural trips from USA schools, colleges, and organizations to Ireland.  In 2020, she began designing online programs to develop cultural competency and internationalization for overseas students. Over forty U.S. colleges are now using these virtual programs as part of their curriculum. Niamh is a lecturer in comparative history and culture and has been working with US schools and colleges for over twenty years. She has designed and delivered hundreds of programs for students, professional development programs for faculty and college administrators, and cultural programs for special interest groups such as photographers, Irish American associations, academic conferences, and youth organizations. In 2020 she published Finding Ireland; Notes from the Northwest. She is a regular presenter at U.S. conferences and college events and dedicated to the promotion of Donegal as a center for cultural/ Irish studies.



Contact Name: Niamh Walsh 
Position Title: Founder and Director
LinkedIn: NiamhWalsh

Niamh Walsh is the founder and director of TDL Horizons who specialize in Tourism Consultancy, focusing on sales and valuations of hotel and tourism resort properties nationwide. The company was established in March 2021 and has hit the ground running with the recent successful sale of the Donegal Boardwalk Resort in Carrigart.

Prior to setting up TDL Horizons, Niamh was an Associate Director within Cushman & Wakefield, one of the larger real estate service firms in the world. Based in the hotels department, Niamh was the first remote worker from the Dublin office having returned to live in Donegal in 2016.
Donegal gave her the opportunity to branch out and make her dream career a reality “After living in both Donegal and Dublin, there is a better balance in Donegal for us. I still miss Dublin and the opportunities and events that come with living there but they don’t outweigh the pro’s of living in Donegal”.
As well as being a remote worker herself, Niamh is also an avid advocate for remote working across the county.

Niamh has been working with a group in her hometown of Carrigart to set up a remote working hub for the remote working community with the support of Donegal County Council and Údarás na Gaeltachta.  The aim for this hub is to give people a cool, quirky and modern atmosphere for working and interacting with each other, fostering urban life in a rural setting.

Niamh has proven that taking the chance and relocating to Donegal can pay off enormously and change not only your life and your family’s, but also the community you are integrating into.


Contact Name: Odhran Dunne
Position Title: CEO
Company Website: visitderry.com
Facebook: Visitderrycity
LinkedIn: VisitDerry

Odhran Dunne is the Chief Executive of Visit Derry, the official tourism organisation for the city of Derry~Londonderry in Northern Ireland.  

He’s been providing strategic leadership for the past 20 years in the tourism industry and his partnership approach has helped to establish the city as one of Ireland’s must-see destinations.  He led the destination marketing strategy in the lead up to the inaugural UK City of Culture title for the city in 2013 attracting record visitor numbers and growth.

More recently he has been pivotal in working with strategic partners to launch a £1m state-of-the-art Visitor Information Centre, in the heart of the city. The centre is now the gateway for experiencing Ireland’s only completely intact historic Walled City – where the Wild Atlantic Way meets the Causeway Coastal Route. 

His collaboration with government departments, Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland has helped unlock the tourism potential of the North West of Ireland, while cementing the need for greater coherence and partnership to benefit the wider visitor economy.   


Contact Name: Pádraig Mac Lochlainn
Position Title: Sinn Féin TD for Donegal
Facebook: Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD | Facebook
Twitter: @PadraigMacL

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn is a Sinn Féin TD for Donegal. He previously served as a TD for Donegal North East from 2011 to 2016 and as a Senator from 2016 to 2020.
He is the Sinn Féin Chief Whip and Spokesperson on Fisheries and the Marine. He previously served as Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Defence.
He served as the Chairperson of the Oireachtas Public Services Oversight and Petitions Committee from 2013 to 2016.
Prior to being elected to the Dáil in Febuary 2011, he had served for many years on Donegal County Council and Buncrana Town Council.
In the 2004 and 2009 local elections, he was elected to represent the people of Inishowen on Donegal County Council and in those elections; he was also elected to Buncrana Town Council. Pádraig had been co-opted on to Buncrana Town Council in January 2002.
He has twice served as Mayor of Buncrana in 2005/2006 and 2010/2011 and has served once as Deputy Mayor of Donegal 2010/2011.
Prior to serving as a public representative, he was a community activist and campaigner, locally and nationally.
He acted as the Donegal spokesperson for the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU) from 1997 to 2001. He also served on the INOU National Executive from 1997 until 2000 as well as representing the organisation on the National Rural Development Forum.
At local level, he was a community director on the Inishowen Partnership Board for 5 years from 1996 to 2001.
He was appointed to the board of InterTradeIreland, the Trade and Business Development Body in December 2007 and served on the board up until March 2011.



Contact Name: Paul Hannigan
Position Title: President Letterkenny Institute of Technology
Company Website: lyit.ie
Facebook: lyit
Twitter: @LYIT

Paul Hannigan has been President of Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT) since January 1998. Having graduated from UCD with a Bachelor of Commerce and Masters of Business Studies, Paul worked in Dundalk IT from 1987. In 1992 Paul became Head of Department of Business Studies at Dundalk, until his appointment to Letterkenny. He subsequently completed an MSc in Management Practice at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and in January 2008 was appointed as President of LYIT for a further ten years. Paul commenced a new five-year contract as LYIT President in January 2018. Paul is a former member of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and a former Director of Central Applications Office (CAO). He currently serves on the Donegal Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) and the North West Regional Executive of IBEC. He is a Board member of Eurashe, the European Association for Technological Higher Education Institutions and served as one of two first time independent Directors of Swim Ireland from 2016-2020, and was Chair of their Audit and Risk Committee



Contact Name: Peta Conn
Position Title: Executive Vice President, Head of Americas
Company Website: investni.com
LinkedIn: petaconn

Based in Boston, Peta Conn heads up the Invest NI Americas team spanning 5 US offices, one office in Canada and one office in Chile. Invest NI is responsible for attracting FDI into Northern Ireland and also assisting indigenous exporters grow their businesses internationally. Peta has worked for Invest NI for 5 years, firstly as Head of its European division and then for the last 3 years as Head of the Americas.
Prior to her appointment to Invest NI, Peta worked for the New Zealand government as the Consul General/Trade Commissioner in New York and the Regional Investment Manager at the New Zealand High Commission in London. With the exception of four years in New York and her current time in Boston, Peta has lived in London since 1994. Previous to her public sector career she worked as a senior leader for business intelligence company Euromonitor.



Contact Name: Peter Devine
Position Title: Head of Strategic Partnerships
Company Website: ulster.ac.uk
Twitter: petermdevine
LinkedIn: PeterDevine

Peter Devine is Head of Strategic Partnerships at the Faculty of Computing Engineering and the Built Environment at Ulster University.  He is project lead for the Cognitive Analytics Research Lab (CARL) innovation project in the Derry and Strabane City Deal.  




Contact Name: Rachael Rollins
Position Title: Suffolk County District Attorney
Twitter: @DARollins

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins is the chief law enforcement officer for Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop, Massachusetts. She is the first woman ever elected as District Attorney in Suffolk County and the first woman of color ever elected District Attorney in Massachusetts.

Since taking office in 2019, Rollins has implemented humane and data-supported policies that no longer criminalize mental health issues, substance use disorders, food and housing insecurities, and immigration status, instead focusing her limited resources on the most violent and serious crimes and keeping Suffolk County safe. Among some of her larger initiatives and policy implementations are her first in nation Discharge Integrity Team to help investigate officer involved shootings and allegations of excessive force. The DIT consists of a community member, a criminal defense attorney, a retired judge, and a member of law enforcement.  Rollins also created an Integrity Review Bureau that looks not only at post-conviction claims of actual innocence, but also reviews unconstitutional, unethical, and unjust convictions, as well as sentencing disparities. Over 240 years of wrongful convictions, and counting, have been overturned by her IRB. An attorney for over 20 years, Rollins previously worked as a federal prosecutor at the United States Attorney’s Office in Boston. She also served as General Counsel for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and as Chief Legal Counsel for the Massachusetts Port Authority.

Rollins was a Governor Deval Patrick appointee to the Judicial Nominating Commission and a past president of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association. She has been honored as the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly’s Lawyer of the Year in 2018; The Boston Globe’s Bostonian of the Year and Emerge Massachusetts’ Woman of the Year in 2019; and one of the Boston Business Journal’s Power 50 Exceptional Leaders in 2020.



Contact Name: Sara Stanton
Position Title: Managing Director
Company Website: caragrouptravel.com
Facebook: CaraGroupTravel
LinkedIn: sara-stanton

Sara Stanton grew up in County Mayo in the West of Ireland. After accomplishing her Hotel Management Business Degree from GMIT in Galway, she emigrated to the U.S. on a Morrison Visa in 2003. After 10 years of working at Hyatt Hotels in Washington D.C., and Chicago, Sara moved to Boston, Massachusetts to work for Brian Moore International Tours as a Group Travel Manager. During her time at BMIT, the company experienced many changes which challenged her to hone her skills and gain expertise in her role.  Sara’s success quickly accelerated as she became the President of BMIT.  She was instrumental in growing the business and generating substantial travel numbers to Ireland. While Sara has always had a passion for all things Irish, she also has a burning desire to give back to the members of her community. In 2012, her company, Cara Group Travel, came alive with the strong encouragement of her existing clients.

To date, Cara Group Travel sends over 3,500 travelers to Ireland and Northern Ireland every year. Her company has created countless memories, vivid experiences and cherished stories for a wide range of clientele including academic, heritage, musical, professional, religious, sporting and touring groups.

This includes sporting events such as the Belfast Friendship Four Ice Hockey Tournament, large incentive groups such as Domino’s Pizza Franchise owners, Trade missions with EO Boston, Belfast -Boston sister city group and the Cork County Economic Development Partnership with the City of Quincy. 

Sara has built a very dynamic and creative team that is unique in the travel business. Her team’s passion is found in offering more than the client is expecting. Sara will tell you that her team takes pride in getting to know their groups, what makes them tick, and finding that unique thing that creates a special connection for their client. This has resulted in relationships that have out-lived the trip or event’s end. Bringing people together across the miles is what Sara feels that makes her company, Cara Group Travel, the most unique & special.



Contact Name: Sinéad McLaughlin
Position Title: SDLP MLA
Company Website: sdlp.ie
Facebook: sinead.mclaughlin.sdlp
LinkedIn: sinead_mclaughlin

Sinéad McLaughlin is SDLP MLA for the Foyle constituency. She is chair of the Assembly’s Committee for the Executive Office. Sinead has been an MLA since the beginning of 2020. Prior to this she was an SDLP councillor on Derry City and Strabane District Council. She is a former chief executive of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.



Contact Name: Sonia Nic Giolla Easbuig
Position Title: TV Producer / Director
Company Website: ligid.ie
Facebook: LIGIDTVProductions /LIGID Léiriúcháin
Twitter: @ligidm
LinkedIn: LIGID TV Productions / LIGID Léiriúcháin

Sonia Nic Giolla Easbuig is the Managing Director of LIGID Léiriúcháin, an award winning Independent Television Production company based in Ireland.
She has worked across the globe for many broadcasters making award winning documentaries in the Irish language on subjects as diverse as the ‘Donegal Hiring Fairs’, ‘The Hunger Strikes 1980 – 1981’, ‘The story of Bád Eddie’, the Middle East conflicts effect on the ‘Children of Palestine’ and a six-part series called ‘Bhí mé Ann’. LIGID has recently Produced a feature documentary about the late ‘Martin McGuinness’ for TG4, ILBF & BAI that was screened at the Belfast, Cork & Foyle Film Festivals and was nominated for Programme of the year at the Ghradaim Chumarsáide an Oireachtais 2021. It was also selected for the ‘Capital Irish Film Festival’ in Washington.
A winner of the Prix Circom international documentary section twice, she has been awarded an Amnesty International Human Rights Worldwide TV Award for ‘I gCillín an Bhais’, and also a Celtic Film Festival nomination for ‘Bhí mé Ann’. LIGID has received a Top 50 Business as Gaeilge award’ and in 2018 was awarded one of the first ‘Q-Mharc Gnó le Gaeilge’ award from Foras na Gaeilge.
Sonia has a MA in media Management and Policy from the University of Ulster. She is from Bunbeg in the Donegal Gaeltacht and has an office in both Gteic and Derry.



Contact Name: Stephen Gillespie
Position Title: Director of Business and Culture

Stephen Gillespie is the Director of Business and Culture at Derry City and Strabane District Council. The Business and Culture directorate encompasses a range of services such as economic development and job creation, business support and engagement, ICT, tourism, arts and culture, visitor services, heritage and museums and marketing and communications.
Stephen believes that councils have a growing responsibility to ensure that positive growth and development can continue at a local level, and in his capacity as Director of Business and Culture – two key economic areas for the North West – has been working to promote the City and District both on a local and international level.

“This is an exciting time for Derry and Strabane as we work through the next stage of our City Deal bid, making cases for a portfolio of strategic growth projects that will drive innovation, including the delivery of centres of innovation and excellence in data analytics (CARL) and robotics and automation (CIDRA) together with the key smart/digital City and Region initiatives.

“On the business front Council already offers a strong programme of support for entrepreneurship and new business start-ups which provides the expertise needed to nurture fledgling companies and incentivise and inspire new talent. We have also been strengthening our international business links with the City of London, the US and China ensuring that word gets out about our unique proposition as an area ripe for investment and growth.”

With the publication of a raft of new strategies in the areas of Arts and Culture and Tourism, Stephen is confident that Derry and Strabane now has the blueprint to develop a thriving creative economy, and become an outstanding visitor destination brimming with heritage and culture.

“Council has been working closely with a wide range of partners to establish the best way forward in supporting and empowering our creative community. We have the potential to become a significant cultural hub, which will also enhance our appeal as a visitor destination with a strong heritage offering celebrating the many historical and cultural assets we have to offer.

“On a broader spectrum, we are also making good progress in the delivery of the Strategic Growth Plan for the City and District with major strides already evident in our first Statement of Progress, showing that we are on track in our overarching plans to transform the North West for the better.”

Stephen qualified as an accountant in 1996 having trained in an industrial setting with Desmond and Sons, the clothing manufacturer. He then moved on to become the Financial Controller at Londonderry Port and Harbour Commissioners. This private sector experience has been invaluable in the current role.



Contact Name: Susan K. Whoriskey, Ph.D
Position Title: President, Whoriskey Associates
Company Website: whoriskeyassociates.com
LinkedIn: susanwhoriskey

Dr. Whoriskey has helped build some of the most successful Biotechnology companies from inception as a member of the Founding Executive Teams of Vera, Moderna, Momenta Pharmaceuticals and Cubist Pharmaceuticals. She played key roles in managing these companies to grow from the “big science idea” through venture funding, scientific proof of concept, IPOs, clinical development and multiple FDA drug approvals.
Susan has been a Research Fellow in Molecular Genetics at Harvard Medical School with a Nobel Laureate, a consultant to venture capital firm Polaris Venture Partners, and an Entrepreneur in Residence at MIT.
Dr. Whoriskey earned a PH.D. in Molecular Biology & Molecular Genetics from UCLA and a Bachelor of Science in microbiology from University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is a proud recipient of an Honorary Doctorate in Biotechnology and Entrepreneurism from the University of Ulster.
She is an inventor on ~50 issued and pending patents and has written grants that have received over $30M in federal funding for scientific research.

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