Dr Mike Ryan

Executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies Programme 
Irish epidemiologist and former trauma surgeon, specialising in infectious disease and public health 
and one of the leading figures responding to the global pandemic of COVID-19.

Dr. Ryan launches our two days of discussion with a video presentation, ‘Loss and COVID,’ setting out the context of the pandemic and the situation that we find ourselves in. 


Kevin Toolis

Writer, director, poet, TED talk speaker
Toolis is a BAFTA winning writer, an Emmy-nominated director/screenwriter with over 20 film credits, an author of three books, and a bardic poet. He is the author of the acclaimed memoir ‘My Father’s Wake: How the Irish Teach Us to Live, Love and Die’, a seminal work on Irish wakes and is an internationally recognised TEDMED speaker and death thought leader.

His second death book ‘Nine Rules to Conquer Death’ is a life manual to help us all navigate our way through our mortality in a post-pandemic world. Toolis is the recipient of literary bursaries from the Irish Arts Council and is an advocate for the cultural power and therapeutic value of the Irish wake.

Dr Maria Pierce

Research Manager, Irish Hospice Foundation
Dr Maria Pierce is an Independent Researcher and an Adjunct Faculty Member, Faculty of Science and Health, Dublin City University. Maria completed a social science degree at National University of Ireland, Dublin, and holds a PhD in social policy and ageing from Trinity College Dublin. She has more than 20 years of experience undertaking policy-relevant research.

Between January 2016 and June 2018, she held the position of Research Manager with Genio. Her main responsibilities were to design, manage and undertake an evaluation of the HSE’s Intensive Home Care Package Initiative, with a particular focus on how the initiative works for people with dementia. 

Sharon Foley

CEO, Irish Hospice Foundation
Sharon is the Chief Executive Officer of Irish Hospice Foundation, working for the charity for more than 10 years. Over her career, she has worked in a variety of sectors – State, public, private, community and charitable. In previous roles, she worked as an independent management consultant and prior to this she was the founding CEO of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency. She also served as Director of Health Promotion at two former health board areas – the East Coast Area Health Board and the Midlands Health Board and served on a number of State boards.

With extensive knowledge of and skills in health promotion, primary and public health care, she has high level advocacy skills especially in sensitive environments gleaned over 20 years of senior management experience. Her interests lie around advocacy and how to influence the national policy arena so that policy towards community and voluntary sector is informed and supportive. She also has a strong interest in supporting young executives, particularly women. 

Paul Gregan

Paul is a UCD graduate and a member of both the Irish and Royal Colleges of General Practitioners. He completed his specialist general practice training in Scotland before returning to Ireland in 1993. He has post graduate diplomas in Paediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Paul has also completed specialist training in Palliative Medicine and works half time as a G.P. and half time as a Consultant in Palliative Care in Our Lady’s Hospice, Blackrock and in St. Michael’s Hospital, Dun Laoghaire.

Prof Cillian Twomey

Retired Consultant Geriatrician in Cork University and St. Finbarr’s Hospitals, Cork 
In May 2020 Prof Twomey was appointed by the Minister for Health to a four-person expert group charged with examining the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on residents in long-term residential care. The ensuing report was launched by the Minister in August 2020.  

Prof Twomey is chair of the Joint HSE-IHF Hospice Friendly Hospitals (HfH) Oversight Group, a multidisciplinary body charged with promoting optimum end of life care in Ireland’s acute hospitals.  

From 2010 to 2015, Prof Twomey has also served on the Board of HIQA and was Board member and later Chair of Marymount University Hospital & Hospice. He is a past president of the Irish Medical Organisation, and the Union Européenne des Médecins Spécialistes (UEMS). 

Dr Shaun O'Keeffe

Graduating from University College Dublin in 1985, he trained in Internal and Geriatric Medicine in Galway, Dublin, Boston and Liverpool. He has been a Consultant Geriatrician and an Honorary Personal Professor of Medicine in Galway University Hospitals since 2000. He is currently co-chair of the HSE National Consent Policy revision group and a member of  working groups for Covid-19 vaccine consent and for implementing new laws dealing with capacity and advance healthcare directives. He has published over 200 book chapters and peer-reviewed articles. Research interests include cognitive impairment, sleep disturbance, dysphagia and ethical issues in the care of older people.

Rebecca Lloyd

Public Engagement Officer, Irish Hospice Foundation

Rebecca Lloyd believes we all hold both wisdom and worries, and we can ask for, and give help equally.  
She feels when we share a safe space and share our experiences, we can support each other and create productive communities and societies. Knowing someone has had a similar experience can help us with our own. 

Rebecca has a Masters of Science which concentrated on helping the dying and bereaved. She believes we have not yet scratched the surface of what people can do to help and support each other.  She hosts conversations, workshops, and talks around the country to encourage people to talk a little more openly about dying, death, loss and bereavement in a safe space. 

Mary Shine Thompson

Mary Shine Thompson is a literary critic who is currently serving as a director of both the Fire Station Artists’ Studios and of Restorative Justice Services. She is a member of the Council of Trustees of Dublin City University and of its Visual Arts Committee. She qualified as a barrister in 2016. Among her recent publications is Skelligs Haul by Michael Kirby (Lilliput Press, 2019), which she edited. For Irish Hospice Foundation she is currently editing By Your Sidean anthology of Irish poetry across the ages that explores death, dying, grief and loss to be published by Gill Books in 2022. 

Bettina Korn

End-of-Life Care Coordinator, Hospice Friendly Hospital Programme, St. James’s Hospital 

For the past ten years Bettina has coordinated the HfH Programme at St James’s Hospital, the largest adult acute hospital in Ireland. Having previously worked as a nurse with patients with respiratory conditions, Bettina collaborates with palliative and respiratory care professional and advocacy organisations.  In addition, she is a proud LGBT Older Person’s Champion and combines these interests in her work. 

The pandemic has without doubt changed the landscape of end of life care in hospitals. In her talk Bettina will reflect on the experiences of patients, their families, hospital staff and the wider community during that time.

Gordon Caldwell

Clinical Lead and Consultant Physician, Lorn & Islands Hospital, Oban

Gordon studied Medicine at Oxford and Kings College, London University. He trained in General Medicine, Diabetes and Endocrinology in London, Brighton, Edinburgh and Newcastle upon Tyne, before becoming a Consultant in Worthing in 1993. He moved to work in Oban in 2018. Since 2004 his main interest has been in the organisation of ward rounds. 

His talk is titled ‘DNACPR? Me? I Want a Peaceful Death’. Gordon believes the way that we currently frame discussions about end of life care in relation to Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation results in confusion for everyone involved. Until we reframe the discussion this confusion is set to continue, depriving patients of a calm end of life and disempowering nurses from giving compassionate creative end of life care. 

Joseph Behan

Hibernian Funerals: Information, the Environment & Funeral Poverty
Joseph trained as a chemist and spent 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry working for some of the largest Global Pharma companies. 

He has always been passionate about helping others as well as the environment. Over the years as he’s considered the end of his life, he has been drawn to live his life in the present. And when his father passed away almost 2 years ago he accelerated his work in the end of life space, to the point where he is launching Hibernian Funerals in Q4 2021. 

In this talk he will focus on: funeral poverty and supporting individuals and families during their end-of-life journey; investing in environmentally friendly solutions and providing information to the public and those working in the funeral industry. 

Orla Keegan

Head of Education and Bereavement Services, Irish Hospice Foundation
Orla has a background in psychology with a Masters in Social and Organisational Psychology from UCD. She worked in University of Dundee, in health services research in Fife Health Board, Scotland and in Dublin at the RCSI before joining IHF. Her research included patient satisfaction assessment, patient complaints and bereaved relatives’ views on care for the dying.

Orla is course director for the MSc Loss & Bereavement/ MSc Loss & Bereavement (Clinical Practice) run in Dublin with the RCSI. At IHF she works with a team aiming to promote development of bereavement care and bereavement education in Ireland. She is co-chair of the European Association for Palliative Care Bereavement Taskforce and a member of the steering committee for Bereavement Network Europe. 

Amanda Roberts

Ph.D., Bereavement Development, Irish Hospice Foundation
After completing a psychology degree in Maynooth University, Amanda was awarded the Therese Brady Scholarship to evaluate an Irish hospice-based bereavement support service as part of a PhD programme. Her research work to date has focused on bereavement service evaluation, therapeutic intervention efficacy and education programme evaluation.

She has supported others to conduct research in children’s residential care and palliative care. Amanda has taught healthcare professionals at introductory and postgraduate level on topics such as; research methods, research with vulnerable populations, bereavement and palliative care. At IHF she works with bereavement service providers in both the statutory and NGO sector and recently led a national collaboration of bereavement service providers to develop a national framework the ‘Adult Bereavement Care Pyramid’. 


Lauren Breen

Ph.D., Associate Professor in Psychology at Curtin University, Perth, Australia
Lauren’s award-winning research centres on issues of grief and loss across the lifespan, for families and communities, and for health and social care professionals. Lauren has authored over 130 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. She is a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society and a Fellow in Thanatology: Death, Dying and Bereavement. She is a member of the International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement; a Board Member of the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement and of Lionheart Camps for Kids; and Managing Editor of Death Studies. 

Dominic Campbell

Arts & Cultural Engagement Officer, Irish Hospice Foundation
Dominic Campbell is the Arts and Creative Engagement officer for Irish Hospice Foundation. This is a new role and he is clarifying its aims and animate its activities. He comes to IHF with huge experience as a former director of St Patricks Festival and The Bealtaine Festival, a founder of Creative Aging International and a Fellows of the Atlantic Institute and Global Brain Health Institute at Trinity College Dublin and University College San Francisco.

Breffni McGuinness

National Bereavement Development Specialist for Workplaces with Irish Hospice Foundation
Breffni has published a number of articles on bereavement and has developed numerous resources for workplaces on bereavement policies and supporting staff who are bereaved.  He is a Dramatherapist and member of the Irish Association of Creative Arts Therapists (IACAT).  Breffni’s special interests are coping with hidden losses and the use of creativity in working with people who are grieving.

Dr Clíona Ní Cheallaigh

Consultant St James’s Hospital, Associate Professor, Department of Clinical Medicine, Trinity College Dublin
Cliona is also the Clinical Lead of the Inclusion Health Service in St James’s Hospital dedicated to improving access to specialist hospital care for socially excluded individuals. 

Her research seeks to look at the effect of social exclusion on health from a number of perspectives, and includes work on health systems design and evaluation, work funded by the HRB on premature ageing in homeless adults and work on the effect of social exclusion on the immune system funded by the Royal City of Dublin Hospitals Trust.  She has a strong interest in ensuring equity of outcomes for socially excluded people living with HIV. 

She is also part of the SFI-funded COVID-19 Research Hub in TCD, with a particular interest in looking at why people who are marginalized are more likely to get severe COVID-19

Linda Murray

Staff Development Team at TUD –  Technological University Dublin
Linda is a member of the Staff Development Team in the Technological University Dublin with responsibility for managing the TU Dublin Wellbeing & Health Promotion Programme for Staff.  Linda’s background is in Psychology and holds a Post Grad in Health Promotion & Workplace Wellness.  

She is passionate about working collaboratively with relevant departments within the university with an aim to create positive, compassionate working environments that promote health for all. 

Laura Doyle

Head of HR
Laura is a Senior Human Resources Business partner and Head of HR at Distilled SCH, whose portfolio of organisations include Adverts.ie, Daft.ie and DoneDeal.ie. with responsibility for the people that make up these successful Irish companies, their recruitment and retention. 

Avril Easton

Advocacy Manager, Irish Hospice Foundation
As Advocacy Manager, Avril is responsible for developing IHF’s policy and advocacy agenda on a range of issues relating to dying, death and bereavement.

Prior to this, Avril worked with The Alzheimer Society of Ireland (ASI) where she  consistently promoted and developed the active involvement of the person with dementia and their carer, enabling them to have their voice heard both within the organisation and in the realm of policy. Avril was instrumental in establishing the first Irish Dementia Working Group in 2013.

She holds a degree in Sociology and Social Policy from Trinity College Dublin and completed a Masters in Applied Social Research at Trinity College Dublin, which focused on the benefits of activities for people with dementia in residential care.

John Fitzsimons

The Bereaved Dad’s Breakfast Club John lost his wife Gráinne to cancer in 2016 and was left to pick up his life as well as to raise his two small children. He had to switch careers to better support his bereaved kids which presented its own challenges. While grief never leaves us, John has acquired insight into how to survive such difficult circumstances and has been very keen to share this with others in similar circumstances. He has spoken on The Pat Kenny Show, Sunday with Miriam and the Late Late Show.  In this brief talk John shares what has worked for him including the importance of hearing from others in similar circumstances and reaching out for help. John is part of an unlikely formation of similar fathers who stepped up to support each other. The Bereaved Dad’s Breakfast Club was formed in 2017 and four years on the evolving group still meet to share experiences and support one another. 

Frank Monahan

Architecture at the Edge
Frank is a cultural producer and arts educator based in Galway. His professional practice includes the design of buildings and set design. With a long term interest in the critical potential of design he established Architecture at the Edge in 2017, for which he has since been curator of its artistic programme.

Frank holds a BA (Hons) in Architecture, and a Professional Diploma in Architecture, both from London Metropolitan University. Prior to this he received a B. Des (Hons) in Production Design from IADT.
His independent curatorial portfolio includes projects for the Galway International Arts Festival, the London Festival of Architecture, and is in partnership with award-winning grassroots architecture education organisation, MATT+FIONA. He is a regular speaker and moderator on contemporary architecture and design, and their connection to society and wider culture.

Paul Fahy

Artistic Director, Galway International Arts Festival
The Galway International Arts Festival (GIAF), founded in 1978, is a cultural organisation which produces an annual arts festival in Galway Ireland. 

The festival presents and produces work in Galway which sits side by side with the work of artists and companies from around the world. GAIF collaborated with Architecture at The Edge to produce  House of Memory as a memorialisation while covid eased; Paul will reflect on the experience.  

Dr Lucy Selman

Associate Professor of Palliative and End of Life Care at the University of Bristol
Her research over the last 16 years has focussed on people’s experiences of serious illness, the end of life and bereavement, and how to improve care in these domains. She is currently co-Principal Investigator (with Dr Emily Harrop, Cardiff University) on a national study of bereavement during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, as well as conducting an NIHR fellowship on communication and treatment decision-making in advanced kidney disease. In 2020 she founded Good Grief Festival via a
Wellcome Trust public engagement grant. The third festival is 30-31 October 2021. See goodgrieffest.com

Jean Callanan

Chair of Irish Hospice Foundation
Jean Callanan is a strategic consultant and thinking partner to companies in Ireland and Internationally. Jean spent 20 years marketing major brands and roles have included global brand manager of Unilever flagship brand Magnum ice cream. She is a Director of An Bord Iascaigh Mhara.



Artistic Contributors

Embrace Music

Sadhbh O’Sullivan and Sharon Murphy of Embrace Music have written Murmurations, a cycle of three pieces of music, reflecting and drawing upon the breadth and depth of loss experienced by older people and those living in residential care, known to them through their work as music and health practitioners. Supported by KCC Arts Service and IHF, the project title refers to heightened feelings of empathy and the synchronisation of the collective experience since March 2020.
Read more about Murmurations

Ship of Souls

This short film was written and directed by Jean Pasley and produced by Greg Burrowes
Ship of Souls is a fascinating film that looks at the interplay of different cultures when a Japanese woman arrives in Kerry to grieve her deceased Irish husband with his family. Pasley lived for many years in Japan where the inspiration came from ‘Obon’ the annual Buddhist festival of the dead that she witnessed there. It is believed that each year during Obon, deceased spirits revisit this world in order to visit their relatives. Traditionally, lanterns are hung outside houses, food offerings are made at altars and graves are visited before the spirits are ceremonially guided back to their own world. 

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