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Civil Society: How do we keep the space open?

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#FirstWeds Civil Society: How do we keep the space open.

Last night saw the launch of our new season of #FirstWeds debates and discussion.  The panel included Cathleen O’Neill, Alice Mary Higgins, Liam Herrick and James O’Brien. The evening was moderated by Eilish Dillon . Full bio details can be found below the video.


The discussion looked at a number of things including;

The power relationships between different communities and the state, the impact of professionalisation within the broad NGO and community sector, failure of NGO’s to stand up and alongside communities in struggle, the need for allies in struggle for social change and the importance of hope and imagination in combating the deeply embedded ‘common sense’ of neoliberalism in society today


Full details of panelists


Cathleen O’Neill is a life-long community activist based in Dublin, working in adult education and community development. She has been active in the KLEAR adult education centre in Kilbarrack and the SAOL project, working with women drug-users in Dublin’s north inner-city.

Alice Mary Higgins is an independent full-time Senator on the National University of Ireland panel for Seanad Éireann. As an advocate for social and economic equality, Alice-Mary brings care, creativity and long term thinking into the heart of political debate.

Liam Herrick was appointed to Executive Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) in November 2016. Prior to his appointment, he worked as Advisor to President Michael D. Higgins for almost three years. Liam was Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) between 2007 and 2014. He has also worked as the first head of legislation and policy at the former Irish Human Rights Commission and with the Law Reform Commission and the Department of Foreign Affairs. He is a member of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), a former Board member of the Children’s Rights Alliance and the Minister for Justice and Equality’s Strategic Review Group on Penal Policy (2012-2014).

James O’Brien is Country Representative for VSO Ireland, and works with VSO to build and share the case for volunteering in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. He has served as chair of the Post-2015 Volunteering Working Group and coordinator of the Volunteer Groups Alliance. In 2016, James volunteered with VSO in Rwanda and Uganda as an Advocacy Advisor for a disability rights network.

The moderator on the night will be:
Eilish Dillon is the co-ordinator of the MA in Development Studies programme which is offered at Kimmage Development Studies Centre. On the MA programme, she facilitates modules in sociology, research methods and globalisation and movements for change. She offers training on development representations and the Dóchas Code of Conduct on Images and Messages for NGO personnel as well as facilitating courses in development education. Her main areas of academic interest are: development discourses and representations; globalisation and change; development education; NGOs, civil society activism and social movements; and volunteering in development.

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