How We Operate

Our People

Directors

Neil Ward (Chair)

Neil Ward

I am a recently accredited dedicated Humanist funeral celebrant and elected to the Board of the Humanist Association of Ireland.

I am a trade union representative, the chair of the National Union of Journalists’ [NUJ] Dublin Publications and Public Relations [P&PR], and member of the Irish Executive Council. I have served on Boards of Management in two schools, and Cabra Credit Union where I live with my wife and three adult children. I have spent most of my career engaged in public relations: especially advocacy and lobbying for change. As a strategic communicator with vast experience of campaigns and all forms of political communication – particularly in the health and justice sectors for member-based organisations – I always seek equality for all.

I lecture in legal, ethical and social issues in public relations at Dublin City University [DCU] in the School of Communications, where I also lectured in crime, policing and the media. I have been a member of the editorial team and a regular contributor to Being Human since 2021. I was never baptised and have no religion, with lecturing in media ethics and working in the field of vision impairment, I have found my tribe in the Humanist Association of Ireland.

Dara Hogan (Finance Director)

Dara Hogan

I’m a retired Chartered Management Accountant with extensive, board-level experience in the logistics and FMCG sectors. The last 7 years of my career were in social enterprise at An Cosán in Tallaght West where I devised the award-winning Fledglings Early Years group of 8 crèches / pre-schools for families in areas of deprivation.

I have had a life-long commitment to the sport and not-for-profit sectors. In the 1970s I was a volunteer soup-runner for the Simon Community and Treasurer of the Irish Underwater Council. More recently I chaired the Irish Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association (IHPA) for more than a decade and I have been Director / Treasurer of the National Aero Club of Ireland (NACI) since 2006.

I’m a HAI member since 2005 and since my appointment, I registered HAI with Revenue and set up payroll and monthly management accounts in the cloud. I have also built an integrated database in QuickBooks for celebrants’ ceremonies.

I’m a husband, father and grandfather who loves having time with Mary (also retired) and my family. I’m also an active paraglider pilot and a musician.

Iseult O'Doherty (Vice-Chair)

Iseult O'Doherty

I joined the HAI in 2019. After an early career as a secondary teacher in Dublin’s inner city, I worked for almost ten years as a reporter and presenter in RTE television. During my time there, I worked on many areas of human interest for the Would You Believe programme.

I started work as a senior consultant in Carr Communications in 2020 and currently head up the Business and Management Training department. In 2021, I took on the voluntary role of editor for HAI’s new digital magazine Being Human and I worked closely with the editorial team to bring features on life as a humanist. The magazine also provides a platform for contributors to write on areas of humanist interest contributions from members are always welcome.

As a Board member, I would like to see membership increase. I would also like the HAI to continue to provide a highly professional service for people at major milestones in their lives.

Michael O’Kane

I have been a HAI member since 2018 but have been an avid humanist for many years. I have been on the board since March 2020 and during this time, I initiated and supported a full review of the strategic plan 2015-2020 and presented a working document to help move the Association forward.

Many of you may know me as the host of our wonderful Humanist Online Talks and I have been actively involved in these since 2022 and will continue to do so as they offer a positive platform to discuss fascinating topics with brilliant guest speakers. I am confident I can continue to develop our Association in a positive manner and bring a more youthful and energetic connect across our members and a sharp focus on school and university development.

Some interesting facts about me – I am a Level 2 open-water, indoor pool swimming and water polo teacher and coach and I have represented Ireland at World and European Masters swimming championships and I am also a fluent Spanish speaker.

Adrienne Harrington

I have been a member of the HAI since 2015. In my professional capacity, I am employed as Head of Enforcement, Legal and Governance at the Central Statistics Office. I previously held senior roles in the Departments of the Taoiseach and Health, as well as in the Houses of the Oireachtas. I have also been employed as CEO of two social enterprises.

I was appointed by the then Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment as Chair of the South West Regional Enterprise Board and served for 3 years. I also chaired the Board of the social enterprise Social Impact Ireland.

I am a director and deputy vice-chair of Access Credit Union where I chair the Strategy Committee, have previously chaired the Audit and Risk Committee and am currently a member of the Remuneration Committee.

I have a Doctorate in Governance from Queen’s University Belfast and bring a wide range of relevant experience in the areas of governance, audit, risk management as well as stakeholder management.

Aidan Pender

Aidan Pender

Like many of us, I was probably a Humanist before I had ever heard the word. I moved away from organised religion in my early teens – I just felt as a young person that it was threadbare, and (or so it seemed to me) full of internal contradictions. I didn’t look for an alternative and more accommodating structure - I just spent the next four decades or so avoiding religion – or simply side-stepping it as best I could across life’s special events and family occasions. My wife and I brought our children up outside of any religious framework.

In order to make a living, I fell into a business career of which the younger me most likely did not approve. I worked in the Institute of Public Administration where I designed and delivered training programmes for public sector agencies. Later, I moved into programme design and delivery on government reform and economic development issues – this work was initially focused on Ireland, but later involved me in consultancy assignments across Africa, Central Europe, the Middle East, Mexico and Azerbaijan. I also worked for a number of years on commercial consultancy assignments in Ireland and the UK. In 2003 I joined Fáilte Ireland as Director of Strategic Development. This involved investment in skills and human resources, and investment in tourism capital infrastructure aimed at supporting the wider development of the Irish tourism industry. One of the most notable initiatives in this regard was the development and delivery of the successful “Wild Atlantic Way” tourism proposition. In 2014 I left Fáilte Ireland and set up my own consultancy business from which I retired earlier this year.

I am a graduate of UCC and have a BA , MPA and an M.Econ.Sc Degree. I served as Chair of the HAI over the period 2020/2021, and have previously served on the Boards of Dublin Tourism, The Temple Bar Culture Trust, and Airfield Estate.

My particular focus over the next few years is to further strengthen the growing advocacy role of the HAI, and to raise the profile of the HAI as a leading commentator on important issues within civil society in Ireland.

Valerie McDonogh Gliffe

I think it was in 1986, while sitting in church, listening to a priest speak out against the upcoming divorce referendum, that I definitively decided that religion and God were concepts that I didn't believe in. I believed in having a good moral compass but didn't know anything about humanism back then. The philosophy of humanism was something that I found out about decades later. It ticked so many boxes for me regarding the way I wanted to conduct my life.

Up to June 2023, I worked for the HAI for approximately 4 years in a role that had much to do with members, celebrants and our current website. Despite liking my job and having a great working relationship with the CEO and my colleagues, I needed a lifestyle change. I wanted to be out and about more and take on a new challenge. Last summer, I did a HGV course, passed my test and became a trucker. Now I'm driving a 4-axle tipper truck and it's the first step in a career that has many opportunities. I'm really enjoying it!

However, the HAI is an organisation that I firmly believe in, which is why I decided to become a Board member. Sometimes, you need to put in time and effort to causes that are really important to you. I firmly believe the new Board, with its wide-ranging set of skills among directors, can progress the causes of the HAI. In conjunction with the CEO, administrator and other staff, the Board can work to make an organisation that we are all be proud to belong to.

Staff

Jillian Brennan
Chief Executive Officer

Jillian joined the Humanist Association of Ireland as Operations Manager in July 2020 and was appointed as Chief Executive Officer in July 2021. Prior to joining the HAI, she worked as Operations Manager and Project Manager across financial services and the public sector. Jillian has a BA in Communication Studies, an MSc in Management of Library and Information Services and a Postgraduate Diploma in Information Design and Development. Jillian is committed to the goal of promoting and developing the HAI and to delivering meaningful services to Humanists in Ireland.

Kilda Taylor
Administrator and Company Secretary

Kilda joined the HAI in 2012 and shortly after secured the position of Administrator, which has kept her busy ever since! Apart from overall administration and support for the Chair and the Board, she has more recently been helping to develop and implement a new training programme for celebrants. Her background is a wide variety of jobs in the Civil Service – as a training specialist, and in policy roles in a number of government departments where my work was very varied and interesting – including advising Ministers, writing speeches, drafting regulations, representing Ireland’s interests on EU working groups, and overseeing state bodies. Kilda is a TCD graduate - B.A. Mod., H. Dip. Ed and M.Phil - and also holds an M. Ed in Training and Development from Sheffield University.
A keen nature enthusiast, Kilda enjoys nature, and participates in a monthly bumblebee survey for the National Biodiversity Centre. She also enjoys classical music, literature, and lively discussions about things like equality and the evils of the patriarchy.

Aaron Jewell
Membership and Website Coordinator

Aaron joined us in May (2023) as our Membership and Website Coordinator. He comes with experience in I.T, Project Management, Facilitation, Permaculture Design and Regenerative Practices. Aaron previously also worked with Amnesty International Ireland for over 7 years, working on many human rights campaigns and issues. He is also teaching permaculture design, how to grow your own food, forest school, and development education. Aaron strongly believes in following holistic solutions, and open/ethical system thinking to design the foundations in solving many of our global social, cultural and economic issues.

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