Conference Speakers

2019 Speaker Details

Forum Moderator

Olivia O’Leary

TV and Radio Broadcast Journalist

Olivia has presented current affairs programmes for the last three decades for both RTE and the British Channels, BBC and ITV.  As a print journalist, she has written about politics for both ‘The Sunday Tribune’ and ‘The Irish Times’.  She does a weekly radio column for RTE Radio 1’s Drivetime and is the presenter of RTE Radio 1’s ‘The Poetry Programme’.  She has recently presented a two hour television documentary-‘Daniel O’Connell:  Forgotten King of Ireland’- for RTE 1.

Forum Speakers

  • Ruth Andrews
    Chairperson, Irish Tourism Industry Confederation
    Ruth Andrews career in Irish tourism spans over 30 years. She commenced her career in the Hotel sector in the mid-eighties working as a marketing/sales professional in some of Irelands then largest hotel chains – Doyle Hotel and Great Southern Hotel Groups. She established her own marketing/sales consultancy service in the late ‘90’s, providing marketing communications, coaching & mentoring and business development expertise to a wide range of Irish Tourism industry businesses in a variety of sectors. As Chief Executive for the ITOA – Incoming Tour Operators Association, a position she has held since 2006, she also works with AVEA – The Association of Visitor Experience and Attractions as special advisor to the board. In 2019 she accepted the two-year term as Chairperson of ITIC – The Irish Tourism Industry Confederation. She has served on many industry advisory boards including: Business Tourism Forum; Gathering Ireland Advisory Board; Tourism Industry Central Marketing Partnership Group; Marketing Partnership Group – USA; Tourism Northern Ireland ROI Taskforce; The Export Trade Council; Chairman of Tourism Ireland North America Strategy Development Group and DTT&S – Tourism Leadership Group.
  • Maurice Buckley
    Executive Chairman of the Office of Public Works (OPW)
    As the name suggests, the OPW builds and maintains a wide range of new and historic public buildings and infrastructure including Government Offices, Cultural Institutions, Security Facilities, Community Flood Defences, Parks, and Gardens. It carries out conservation/ restoration work and actively maintains some 800 of the thousands of designated National Monuments throughout the country. 70 iconic sites across its Heritage Portfolio have now been developed as fully serviced visitor destinations, including Castletown House, Cahir Castle, the National Botanic Gardens, the Phoenix Park, and two World Heritage Sites in Skellig Michael and Brú na Bóinne/ Newgrange. The OPW works closely with Fáilte Ireland, Local Authorities, and Government to constantly improve its facilities and strives to offer excellent visitor experiences benefitting tourism and the local communities. After an international career in technology, manufacturing, and consulting, Maurice was Chief Executive of the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) prior to joining the OPW in 2017. He is a Chartered Engineer and Chartered Director, currently serving on the boards of Engineers Ireland and National Gallery of Ireland.
  • Simon Calder
    Senior Travel Editor, The Independent, TV & Radio Broadcaster
    Simon began his career at Gatwick airport, where he cleaned out planes for Sir Freddie Laker and, later, frisked passengers (for a job, that is; not a hobby). He then started to write travel guidebooks and travel articles. Today Simon is Senior Travel Editor of The Independent and is known as “the man who pays his way”, which means that he pays for all his own travel. Simon also writes for the Evening Standard, the i newspaper, Waitrose Weekend and BA’s inflight magazine, High Life plus a host of other publications. Once a month, he presents the Global Guru section of The Travel Show (BBC Worldwide and BBC2) where he answers viewers travel questions and queries. Simon is also a regular guest on national TV, often seen on BBC Breakfast News, Good Morning Britain, ITV News, CNN and Sky News. He is often interviewed on BBC radio, particularly for BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Five. You can follow Simon on Twitter (@SimonCalder)
  • Helen Collins
    Chairperson, A Taste of West Cork Food Festival
    Helen has been chairperson of A Taste of West Cork Food Festival for the last 6 years. She is a Managing Partner in Wolfe & Co, Solicitors, Skibbereen, Co. Cork. She is a Mediator and Collaborative Practitioner, has been a business person for 43 years and has two business partners and 17 staff. Helen is Chair of the West Cork Arts Centre for ten years; founding member of the Collaborative Practice movement in Ireland; West Cork nominated member for the Council of the Law Society of Ireland for four years; Member of the Garda Síochána Complaints Board for four years; speaks annually at Béal na Bláth Michael Collins Memorial Gathering. She is the author of A Short Guide to Divorce Law in Ireland- a survival handbook for the family.
  • Eoghan Corry
    Travel Industry Commentator, Author and Broadcaster
    Eoghan Corry is a lead commentator on the travel industry on Irish television and radio and editor of Ireland’s largest circulation specialist travel publication, Travel Extra. He has won awards for travel writing on four continents including life time contribution to the industry at the Irish Travel Industry Awards and the Business Travel Journalism Award in London. He is author of more than 40 books on travel, history and biography.
  • Sarah Dempsey
    Head of the Office of Sustainability in AIB Group plc.
    In her role, Sarah leads a small team in embedding a sustainable business approach across the business, demonstrating the value AIB creates in its business, the economy and the communities where the bank operates. Sarah joined AIB two years ago from RBS where she was Head of Corporate Affairs & Economics for Ulster Bank in Ireland, holding a number of senior roles across the business over a ten-year period. Prior to her career in banking, Sarah worked as a Client Director for a number of Ireland’s leading PR agencies in both corporate and consumer roles. She is a Certified Bank Director from the Institute of Bankers in Ireland, a graduate of the Cambridge University Institute for Sustainable Leadership and also holds a degree in French and Sociology from Trinity College Dublin.
  • Jenny De Saulles
    Director of Industry Development at Fáilte Ireland
    Jenny is the newly appointed Director of Industry Development at Fáilte Ireland. She established and led Ireland's East since its inception in 2015 delivering 2.8 million overseas visitors with a spend of €1.6 billion supporting 44,000 jobs in 2018. Jenny has worked with Fáilte Ireland for over 10 years in both national and regional roles working on Destination, Product, Industry and Commercial Development. Jenny also has extensive FMCG experience, working with Nestlé across the globe for over 15 years and has worked in private consultancy.
  • Niall Gibbons
    Chief Executive of Tourism Ireland
    Niall oversees the marketing of the island of Ireland as a tourism destination across the world, leading a team of 168 staff in more than 20 markets. 2018 was the best year ever for tourism to the island of Ireland, when 11.2 million overseas visitors came here, contributing €5.86BN to the economy and supporting over 325,000 jobs across the island. The World Economic Forum has ranked Ireland 3rd in the world out of 136 countries for ‘effectiveness of marketing and branding to attract tourists’. Niall is a business graduate of Trinity College, Dublin and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland. He is President of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. He also sits on the Export Trade Council for the Irish Government, is a member of Culture Ireland’s Expert Advisory Committee and an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality in Ireland.
  • Brendan Griffin T.D.
    Minister of State for Tourism and Sport
    Brendan is a former Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport. He was appointed Minister of State for Tourism and Sport in June 2017 by Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. He is a TD since 2011 and previously served on Kerry County Council, representing the Dingle Electoral Area, and is a former Parliamentary Assistant to Jimmy Deenihan TD. Brendan comes from Keel, Castlemaine, where he is married to Róisín with their two sons. He is a graduate of History, Sociology and Politics from NUI Galway and spent many summers working in the hospitality sector in Kerry before running his own bar for three years, where he also wrote a number of novels, two of which are for younger readers and were published in 2013 and 2014. Brendan is a keen sports fan, having played Gaelic football and soccer throughout his life
  • John McGrillen
    Chief Executive of Tourism Northern Ireland
    John took up his post as CEO of Tourism Northern Ireland on 1 July 2015. Tourism NI is responsible for the development of tourism and the marketing of Northern Ireland as a tourist destination to domestic tourists, from within Northern Ireland, and to visitors from the Republic of Ireland. John also sits on the Tourism Ireland Board. John was previously Director of Development at Belfast City Council where his responsibilities included urban development, tourism, economic and international development. Previously he was Chief Executive of Down District Council. During his early career John worked for Short Brothers and the Industrial Development Board, the forerunner to Invest NI, before being appointed Chief Executive of NI-CO, a Belfast based international development consultancy. John is a graduate of Mechanical Engineering from Queen’s University Belfast. He also holds an MSc in Engineering Computation and an MBA in International Business.
  • Moira Murrell
    Chief Executive of Kerry County Council
    A native of Kerry, Moira Murrell was appointed Chief Executive of Kerry County Council in 2014. As head of an organisation employing almost 1,400 people, she oversees the many services and facilities which are provided for by the council including the economic development of the county and the betterment of the quality of life for the people of Kerry. In her role as chief executive, Ms. Murrell works closely with the council’s thirty-three elected members and works in collaboration with a wide range of statutory organisations and community groups to achieve common objectives. Moira Murrell served from 2010 to 2014 as Divisional Manager in Cork County Council and from 2007 to 2010 as a Director of Service for the West Cork Division. Moira Murrell completed her primary degree in the University of Limerick and completed her MA in Public Management in 1996
  • Éimhín Ní Chonchúir
    Co-ordinator, Food the Waterford Way
    Éimhín is currently co-ordinator for Waterford's food tourism initiative, Food the Waterford Way. Her previous roles in Waterford involved delivering the county's food strategy, and the West Waterford Festival of Food showcase festival. Waterford's efforts in this area have culminated in winning the RAI 2019 Foodie Destination of the year, and place the county in a good position to develop food as part of its tourism offering going forward. Éimhín previously worked within Dawn Farm Foods, and the Queally Group, Ireland's privately-owned agribusiness, gaining great exposure to the Irish food industry its target international markets.
  • Pól Ó Conghaile
    Travel Writer & Editor
    Pól Ó Conghaile is Travel Editor at The Irish Independent and A multi-award-wining writer, he is a regular contributor to National Geographic Traveller, where recent features have ranged from the Waterford Greenway to wilderness adventures in The Philippines. Pól is a well-recognised travel expert on national TV and radio, and the author of Secret Dublin: An Unusual Guide (Jonglez). He is a regular speaker at travel, media and food events. Travelling the world from his base in Ireland, he is a father of two, husband of one, and the current British Guild of Travel Writers' (BGTW) Travel Writer of the Year. Follow him on Twitter at @poloconghaile.
  • Tina O'Dwyer
    Director of The Tourism Space
    Tina is a certified professional coach, facilitator and online trainer working exclusively with tourism enterprises. Tina has worked with national tourism bodies, state agencies and local authorities, and has also facilitated workshops with hundreds of tourism operators and a large number of tourism networks. Between 2011 and 2017, Tina was the Sustainable Tourism Facilitator in the Burren GeoparkLIFE Tourism for Conservation programme, when she pioneered the innovative Geopark Code of Practice for Sustainable Tourism. The Code was adopted by over 60 businesses and continues to be the preferred standard of the Burren Ecotourism Network today. Tina now works directly with tourism business owners supporting them to build prosperous and profitable business that last. “Build a business that lasts in the place that you love” is her motto. This reflects her belief that commercially-solid businesses that endure are the basis of sustainable destinations, communities and landscapes.
  • Conor Pope
    Consumer Affairs Correspondent, The Irish Times
    Conor Pope is a journalist, author and broadcaster. He is The Irish Times Consumer Affairs Correspondent and writes about everything from Budgets and banking scandals to overpriced sausages and the sneaky tricks retailers play. He helps readers who’ve been wronged and appears weekly on RTE’s Ray D’Arcy Show and Virgin Media’s Six O’Clock Show. He is an award-winning travel writer and has extensively covered tourism in Ireland. He presented two of series of Conor Pope’s Consumer 999 on TV3 but had nothing to do with the show’s title. Among his other TV credits are RTE’s Living Lightly and a Primetime Investigates special focusing on the state of customer service in Ireland. He once appeared on Celebrity Masterchef, lasting five weeks, before being sent packing after adding a field of lavender to an otherwise lovely dessert. His Stop Wasting Your Money books have made it onto the Irish bestseller lists.
  • Michele Shirlow MBE
    Chief Executive, FoodNI
    Michele is the Chief Executive of FoodNI, an organisation dedicated to enhancing the reputation of food and drink that has resulted in Northern Ireland wining the International Travel and Tourism Awards – Best food destination 2018. Following delivery of the first ever Year of Food and Drink in 2016, which increased visitor attitudes towards NI food and drink by 23%, Michele is spearheading the Taste the Greatness strategy to establish Northern Ireland as a leading food region in the UK by 2021 and is an advocate for the Taste the Island initiative. FoodNI is a membership organisation which represents over 450 member companies (including 200 Taste of Ulster Restaurants) and supporting the industry to achieve greatness.
  • Jane Stacey
    Head of Tourism Unit, OECD
    Jane Stacey is Head of the Tourism Unit in the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities. She is responsible for the work of the OECD Tourism Committee, and its Working Party on Tourism Statistics, which help OECD member and partner countries develop integrated policies to address major challenges faced by the sector, engage reforms in tourism building on in-depth policy analysis, improve the measurement of the tourism economy, and enhance international co-operation in tourism. Among other things, Jane is currently leading the preparation of the 2020 edition of the OECD's flagship publication Tourism Trends and Policies. Jane has over 20 years’ experience working in tourism, in the public, private and academic sectors. She holds a primary degree in Economics and Political Science, and post graduate qualifications in Tourism Management and Education.
  • Emeritus Professor John Sweeney
    Irish Climate Analysis and Research UnitS (ICARUS), Maynooth University
    Emeritus Professor John Sweeney has been a member of the Geography Department at Maynooth University since 1978. He received his B.Sc. from the University of Glasgow in 1974 and also his PhD in the Meteorology and Climatology of Air Pollution from there in 1980. Over the intervening 40 years John has taught courses in climatology, biogeography, geomorphology and environmental resource management at Maynooth and a number of universities in North America and Africa. He has published over 100 scientific papers and authored/ edited/co-authored 4 texts on various aspects of climatology and climate change in Ireland. He has served as President of the Irish Meteorological Society, the Geographical Society of Ireland and An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland. He has been Editor, Treasurer, Secretary of several national associations as well as being the Irish representative on a number of European academic bodies. He has been involved in a number of international research projects and has led a number of national funded research projects examining various aspects of climate change in Ireland. Professor Sweeney contributed to the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He is also a regular contributor to print and broadcast media on matters related to climate change science and policy.
  • Marcus Treacy
    Operations Manager, The Killarney Park Hotel & The Ross
    Marcus has grown up in the hospitality industry hailing from a family who own and run The Ross & Killarney Park Hotel, both located in Killarney. Marcus is a graduate of Shannon College of Hotel Management has worked in Geneva, Switzerland for Starwood Hotels, in New York City at the Waldorf Astoria under the Hilton Umbrella and more recently at The Shelbourne, Dublin for Marriott Hotels. Marcus in 2015 moved home to run his family business in Killarney alongside his sister Ciara. Outside of work Marcus’ passion lies with cycling and the outdoors. Being surrounded by Killarney National Park, sustainability is a hugely important topic for Marcus and the teams at The Ross and The Killarney Park Hotel.

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