Disability Federation of Ireland Staff
John Dolan Chief Executive OfficerJohn's contact details
Allen Dunne Deputy Chief Executive OfficerAllen's contact details
Emer Begley Director of Advocacy & InclusionEmer's contact details
Susan O'Brien Membership Development ManagerSusan's contact details
Communications and Fundraising
Brenda Drumm Communications ManagerBrenda's contact details & bio
Brenda joined DFI in September 2023 as Communications Manager. She also presents The DFI Podcast each month!
Previously, Brenda worked as Communications Officer and Digital Media Manager with the Catholic Communications Office for 22 years. In 2018 she was appointed Media and Communications Manager for the World Meeting of Families 2018 and the associated visit of Pope Francis to Ireland. Brenda also produced and presented a weekly podcast called Faithcast and led a number of innovative digital media projects.
Brenda loves radio and from 2010 - 2017 she presented two shows on KFM Radio in Kildare - one on the arts and one on faith.
In her spare time Brenda consumes documentaries and podcasts including way too many medical fly on the wall shows. She also loves photography, reading,l landscape painting and getting away to walk in Glendalough. Brenda lives in Newbridge, Co Kildare with her husband and children.
Kevin Dempsey Head of Fundraising & DevelopmentKevin's contact details
Community Development Officers
Lisa Fenwick Community Development OfficerLisa's contact details & bio
Lisa Fenwick is DFI's Community Development Worker in the West covering Galway City and County and County Roscommon. She joined DFI in 2019 and has over 13 years of experience in Disability Service Provision supporting and advocating for children and adults with physical, sensory, intellectual and complex disabilities.
Since 1995 Lisa's career has been based solely in not-for-profit organisations in Ireland and England and she has worked in a variety of community-based services including mental health, child protection and social housing supporting homeless people, children and yougn adults, older people and the traveller community.
She is an active volunteer in her children's Educate Together school and has established intergenerational links with the local older people's Day Centre and co-edited a multi-cultural cook book, Fusion, which was awarded fuding from Galway County Council under the European Region of Gastronomy. In her spare time she likes reading gothic literary fiction.
Laura O'Callaghan Community Development OfficerLaura's contact details & bio
Laura English is our Community Development Worker in the Wicklow and South Dublin area. But in reality no geographical boundaries can contain her. She joined DFI in 2016 as our first ever Community Development Worker and she has been an innovator ever since.
Laura was the DFI facilitator of two ground breaking workshops in the Mansion House in partnership with the Lord Mayor of Dublin. From these consultations with people with disabilities came the #MakeWayDublin campaign and the national #MakeWayDay in September 2017.
At the beginning of 2017, Wicklow County Council agreed to support her work for two days per week. DFI miss her calm counsel on these days but are delighted to be pioneering new ways of working with local authorities. She has a BA and an MA (2010) and has user her expertise in the disability sector all her working life.
Laura loves all things music and preforming although she rarely finds time to make it onto the stage these days. She’s also a member of the local running club in County Wicklow, but argues that she usually runs behind them rather than with them.
Áine O'Sullivan Community Development OfficerÁine's contact details & bio
Áine was one of the first to form the Community Team in DFI. It’s fair to say that her work has defined the team and the role of Community Development Officer in DFI.
Based in her native Cork and covering Cork and Kerry, Áine has done pioneering work with Kerry County Council. She worked with Access for All and Kerry PPN, Public Participation Network, to inform the county’s development plan. In terms we can all understand, Áine just doesn’t like to see a person with a disability excluded from anything - from their local shop to the nearest beach.
So, she led the way on introducing beach wheelchairs. In recognition of her expertise and passion, An Taisce invited her onto the Blue Flag Jury for accessible beaches in 2018.
She has a BSc in Health, Fitness and Leisure and HDip in Facilitating Inclusion. Áine’s background has been sport from a young age representing her county at many age groups and has a few All Ireland's in her back pocket. Working as development officer for Community games gave her the opportunity to include inclusive sport in the organisation.
Pierce Richardson Employment and Access OfficerPierce's contact details & bio
Pierce first joined DFI in 2015 and his passion as well as his diligence has transformed many parts of our work.
For example, he is the man who built CHAT, the Community Hub for Assistive Technology when he was the only full time staff member working to bridge the digital divide in disability via Freedomtech.ie
In 2017 Pierce and others in DFI knew that technology could be pathway to greater freedom for many with disabilities. We saw a need and we sent Pierce in to meet it! In late 2017 at the first CHAT meeting 12 people attended. When Pierce handed it over in 2019 there were 140.
500 took part in the Freedom Tech Conference in Croke Park that he organised, including a who’s who of Assistive Technology, or AT, experts.
Next he headed up Make Way Day in 2019. In 2020 Make Way Day involved 31 local authorities and Pierce co-ordinated nation-wide activity working closely with county councils and groups all over Ireland.
Pierce has extensive sales and management experience in his previous life, experience that he puts to good use in his current role. He returned to education and obtained a 1ST class masters in Sociology and Social Policy from Maynooth University.
Pierce is a Dubliner with a firm belief that everybody in society should be valued equally. Along with colleagues on the community team he believes the revolution begins on our own doorsteps. It’s one footpath dipping or a disabled parking bay at a time! Watch out county Wicklow because Pierce is one of those quietly, efficient people who gets an awful lot done with minimal fuss.
His other passion is street photography where he gets the chance to capture real life in action. He looks for the decisive moment and tries to tell a story with his images.
Policy and Research
Marie Lynch Project OfficerMarie's contact details
Ríona Morris Policy & Research OfficerRíona's contact details
Fleachta Phelan Senior Policy AdvocateFleachta's contact details
Meredith Raley Policy & Research OfficerMeredith's contact details & bio
Meredith is our CRPD expert that is, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She joined DFI in 2016 having completed her Ph.D in NUI Galway and worked at the University’s Centre for Disability Law and Policy. There she worked on a joint project with the University of Leeds to create an in-depth analysis of the CRPD for the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament as well as a report on the CRPD for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
She believes the Convention can and will be a force for positive change for people with disabilities in Ireland and her native USA. Meredith has a flair for bringing clarity to the CRPD when she speaks to groups for DFI or answers queries from colleagues over a cup of tea.
And there is much more to Meredith than the CRPD. This being DFI she has many responsibilities including the areas of transport, older persons and P.A. provision and occasionally answers the phone. So if you ever call and speak to a very helpful person with an American accent, that’ll be Meredith.
Alison Hillgaar Project ManagerAlison's contact details
Cathy McGrath Project ManagerCathy's contact details
Martina Schwab Project Manager Policy and EngagementMartina's contact details & bio
Martina is our Swiss allrounder. Her DFI journey started with a maternity cover in corporate administration. She has a Masters in Equality Studies, for which she specialised in housing and disability for her thesis.
Before DFI, she worked in the UK and Switzerland in a wide range of sectors. Most recently she worked as an Administration Manager in a busy Dublin school, where she utilised her German and French language skills. Today she feels she has found her niche in the not-for-profit sector, preferring the comradery and rewarding busyness to the nail-biting competition of other sectors.
She's always ready for a laugh or smile with her colleagues, even when the day is getting away from her. Her love of books keeps her on her toes and she's always ready with a book or podcast recommendation - invited or not.
Development Managers and Assistants
PJ Cleere Development ManagerPJ's contact details & bio
PJ leads our Community Development Work team from his Carlow base. You might expect someone in his role to be a people-person - and you’d be one hundred per cent correct. PJ believes in meeting people, empowerment and cups of tea!
His methodology was honed in a long career in youth and community development work. His approach is practical and he is a highly skilled trainer who was a member of a pool of trainers with the Council of Europe and the European Commission. There he delivered long-term training projects in inter-culturalism and anti –xenophobia in EU Centres across Europe.
PJ has worked with DFI since 2004. His good humour finds expression in his part-time work as a cartoonist and he has hundreds of cartoons published in newspapers and magazines. Another passion is history, especially military history and he loves to discuss historical topics at all times.
Corporate and Programme Administration
Martina Nicholson Corporate AdministratorMartina's contact details & bio
Martina’s desk at DFI headquarters is one of the busiest and most organised. There is very little that happens in the Federation that doesn’t leave a trail across her desk or email inbox yet she marshals it all with quiet efficiency.
She is a proud Monaghan woman who joined DFI in 2015, but no one can remember how we managed without her. Before joining DFI she did a Business Management degree at IT Sligo and also worked at an accountancy firm. But she prefers the hectic if at times chaotic world of not-for-profits to the nothing but profit business world.
Her business and people skills are fully utitlised in DFI and outside the office she is much in demand as a singer at Church weddings. Still we can’t coax a song out of her on a night out!
India Sacre AdministratorIndia's contact details & bio
India is one of our A-Team, that's Administration. She has wide ranging responsibilities such as acting as assistant to our CEO and ensuring we are compliant with lobbying regulations.
Her fluent French is a great asset in our EU work but she is most prized for her unfailing good humour and calm. A strong contender for the hotly contested "Busiest Woman in DFI" title, she still makes time for colleagues and callers.
She came to DFI in early 2017 having worked at the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland and the Nursing & Midwifery Board of Ireland. Her interest in admin and wellbeing took a new twist recently when she undertook a Medical Secretarial Diploma.
Originally from England, India moved to France with her family at a very young age. Outside of work she wages a familiar struggle pulled between a love for travel and the need to return home to family and friends. Usually her family wins out!
Irena Chuchuligin Administrator – Membership and EventsIrena's contact details & bio
Irena joined DFI in April 2023 as Administrator – Membership and Events.
Originally from Bulgaria, she moved to Ireland eight years ago with her family and instantly fell in love with the country.
During her time in Ireland, some of her achievements are QQI Level 6 in Effective People Management, Mentor in L.E.A.P. program supported by City of Dublin Education and Training Board.
Before joining DFI she worked with Facebook in Dublin, where she used her event coordinator and administrative skills.
Irena loves to spend quality time with family and friends. She also enjoys yoga and adventures and she is always ready to encourage everyone to be positive.
Information and Technology
Aaron Browne IT AdministratorAaron's contact details & bio
Aaron Brown came to DFI one day in 2003 in the good company of the late, great Martin Naughton. The email wasn’t working and Martin thought Aaron could fix it. In the intervening 14 years many things have broken down and DFI discovered there is very little Aaron can’t fix. He is also, by far, the fastest person in DFI running regularly with his local WSAF Running Club.
Even the never ending changes in technology can’t out-run him. He is certified in GPDR data protection policy, Microsoft Word, and Project Management. He is very enthusiastic about the changes and improvement that Office 365 can bring to our working environment in DFI. Because so many of our staff work remotely keeping everyone connected is an ongoing challenge.
Aaron took the project lead in the recent redevelopment of this web site. He was instrumental in the Disable Inequality web site and campaign. As someone who lives in a family with disability he is happy to use his skills to support DFI’s work.
Last but not least Aaron is a true blue; that is an inner city Dub.