Maureen Kennelly appointed director of Arts Council

Highly regarded and widely experienced director of Poetry Ireland to take over at State agency for arts

Maureen Kennelly has been announced as director of the Arts Council. Currently director of Poetry Ireland, Kennelly’s appointment to lead the State agency for developing the arts in Ireland was announced this morning.

Highly regarded and widely experienced, Kennelly has worked with a wide range of arts organisations in Ireland over a number of decades.

Following a recruitment process over the past few months, Kennelly will replace outgoing director Orlaith McBride, whose term has ended. Director since 2011, McBride was previously an Arts Council member. She was named as the new director of the National Archives last October, succeeding John McDonough. She has continued at the Arts Council during the recruitment of a new director, and is expected to move to the National Archives shortly.

Prof Kevin Rafter, head of the school of communications at Dublin City University, was appointed chairman of the Arts Council in June 2019, and led the recruitment of its new director.

In 2013 Kennelly was appointed director of Poetry Ireland, the all-island resource organisation supporting reading, writing and performance of poetry. She realised the organisation’s longtime ambition in establishing the Poetry Ireland Centre at Parnell Square in Dublin in September 2016, and has led ambitious plans for the redevelopment of the expansive Georgian townhouse as an all-island institution.

Originally from Ballylongford in Co Kerry, prior to Poetry Ireland, Kennelly’s wide experience included curator with the Mountains to Sea DLR Book Festival; programme director of the Cuirt International Festival of Literature, Galway; curator of the All Ireland Performing Arts Conferences in Belfast and in Derry; director of Kilkenny Arts Festival; and artistic director of the Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray. She has also worked with Fishamble New Writing Theatre Company, Druid Theatre Company, and with the Arts Council. In March 2011, she was creative producer of DublinSwell, staged at the Convention Centre, Dublin as the first major celebration of the Unesco City of Literature designation. She has also worked extensively as an arts consultant and producer.

Commenting on the appointment Rafter said Kennelly, “brings huge experience to the role of director as well as a passion for the arts and the work of artists. She is an experienced leader in the arts sector”.

“Her commitment and energy will benefit the Arts Council and the wider arts sector. I look forward to working with Maureen to ensure more people engage with the arts and that the role of the artist in society is strengthened.”

He thanked outgoing director McBride for “her dedication to the Arts Council over the last eight years. Her time as director has been marked by many key achievements of which she can be very proud.”

Kennelly said it was “an immense honour to be given the opportunity to take up the role”. She was “very excited about playing a vital part in the next exciting phase for the national development agency for the arts. I especially welcome the opportunity to lead progression around the Arts Council’s recent policies on equality, human rights and diversity and on payment for artists”.

“I know the arts sector is populated by talented, imaginative, hard-working, dedicated and generous individuals and by well managed and well governed organisations. I look forward to bringing energy, imagination, motivation and clear direction in leading the Arts Council, as well as working with the dedicated staff and the board led by Prof Kevin Rafter.”

Kennelly is a member of the expert advisory committee of Culture Ireland and formerly a member of the governing body of University College Cork. She has been a member of many boards including Kilkenny Arts Festival, the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Barabbas Theatre Company, The Dock Arts Centre, Carrick-on-Shannon and on the Expert Advisory Committee of Culture Ireland.

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey is a features and arts writer at The Irish Times