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On being an Intersex

In February I was invited to speak at my alma mater in a competition debate.  This was a bolt from the blue. Thirty years ago I was an undergraduate in Trinity College Dublin. I read History and English, joint honours, and majored in the former. I joined various societies and clubs, but the one that possessed me the most was the College Historical Society, or the oldest college debating society in the world. I joined the HIST as it is called and sat through many nights of debates, where the cut and thrust of speakers was thrilling. Parliamentary procedure was followed, with rules and bells and points of information from the floor. Imagine my subsequent disappointment when I first watched televised debates in the real parliamentary chamber in Dail Eireann – the speeches were nothing like the wonderful robust displays I remembered from my college days.  Politicians can disappoint is so many ways. I became a committee member and from there an officer. I debated a little but preferred to witness rather than contribute directly, so I was very surprised to be invited back to speak in a competition last week. It was the occasion of the honorary members’ debate. […]

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B(u)y the book!

Last week I made it into a book, a legal book, a proper non-fiction book about Electoral Law in Ireland. The author Jennifer Kavanagh is a lecturer in Law in Waterford IT and has just completed a PhD in law in Trinity College Dublin. Her book, Electoral Law in Ireland, is available from Bloomsbury Professional It is quite an expensive book as paperbacks go, costing €150, but it is possible to write the cost against tax. I was advised that by the young barrister Ruadhán Mac Aodháin who was also purchasing the book just as I arrived at the book launch. Ruadhán was part of the legal team that made it possible for me to be mentioned in the book. In 2014 when I became the first female bankrupt under the new Insolvency laws in Ireland, I was unable to run for public office. Those of you who know my story will remember that my own personal descent into financial ruin (divorce + home repossession + business failure + bailiffs) had created an accidental activist. I became well known for ranting and raving on the airways domestically and abroad about the injustices facing ordinary people. I was – and remain […]

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When you’ve hung up your boots, can you still make it in the boardroom?

First Printed in the Sunday Independent 20/12/2015 A career as a professional sports star is something that children dream of. But what happens to sportspeople when age catches up with them? Last month, UFC fighter Conor Pendred announced his retirement, aged just 28, stating a lack of passion. “The time is right to close one door and open another,” he said. And making that decision may have been a tougher struggle than any of his cage fights. Closing one door can be painful but making the transition to another career can be helped if the skill sets used in sport can be used in the next competitive arena. If sport is competitive, so too is business, and the will to succeed in one area will often lead to success in the other. But are they directly transferable? Aidan McCullen, director of digital innovation at Communicorp, suggests that not all sporting skill sets may not directly map onto business. “I played 10 years of professional rugby and by the end I could do a mean spin pass off my left hand. I’m not sure that had deep resonance with the advertising industry.” McCullen’s joke masks a modest approach to his sporting […]

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Managing a creative career: how to make the figures add up for artists

First printed in the Sunday Independent 6/12/2015 A recent survey by the National Campaign for the Arts summed up the key issue facing the sector. It noted that “Ireland has long enjoyed an outstanding reputation for artistic excellence, at home and abroad, despite the fact that Government spending on arts and culture is just 0.11pc of GDP. This has placed Ireland at the bottom of the list of EU countries compared with an average of 0.6pc, surely something no country can condone. “This unenviable position looks set to continue for the foreseeable future, given government commitment to the Department is set for cuts and standstill allocations into 2017.” There are an estimated 4,915 professional artists in Ireland, with the latest income data suggesting that artists were earning 56pc less than those in the manufacturing sector. Other statistics to come out of a recent Arts Council study show that 58pc of artist households find it difficult to make ends meet, 23pc were in arrears on a utility bill (compared to 8pc of the wider population) and 31pc of artists have made provision for a pension (compared to 54pc of all workers). More than half of all artists are self-employed, with only […]

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Former corporates pioneer the new breed of start-ups

First printed in the Sunday Independent on 15/11/2015 One might be forgiven for thinking that all start-ups begin in garages and offices set up in spare bedrooms, but many former employees of multinational corporations are also having a pop at world domination. One might imagine that the new breed of entrepreneur would never have been corrupted by the air breathed in corporate offices or by the golden handcuffs of the corporate perks. Yet increasingly start-ups are emerging from corporate – taking the best practice and applying it to a very much scaled-down business model. Perhaps it is also a sign of a recovering economy to witness increasing numbers of entrepreneurs leaving the safety of the PAYE net and venturing out on their own. One observer to see first-hand this new breed of entrepreneur is Richard Donelan, founder and chief presenter of IrishStartUpTV. An endurance athlete by passion and an observer by nature, Donelan found himself working in Dogpatch Labs as a mentor to new start-ups. Dogpatch Labs is a co-working space and incubation facility. Originally launched by Polaris Partners in San Francisco in 2009 and with subsequent facilities in New York, Boston and now Dublin, Dogpatch Labs spaces have incubated […]

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