50 people to watch in 2018

We’ve scanned the land for the hottest young talent making waves in the worlds of business, fashion, food, sport, activism, art, design, film, TV, tech, media and music


Nikki Lannen, War Ducks
Virtual reality may still be taking hold with consumers, but for Nikki Lannen, founder and head of War Ducks, embracing the technology is paying off. The former Facebook employee struck out on her own in 2013 after more than four years on the social network's gaming team, setting up War Ducks to design and develop games for virtual reality devices. The Dublin-based company has been busy in recent months, announcing in September it had raised €1.3 million to help expand its platform and add to its staff numbers. On the agenda for the coming months is expanding its popular Sneaky Bears series to Japan and China. There are also plans for a new series of games. Virtual reality may have yet to hit its stride, but when it does War Ducks plans to be along for the ride.

Jason McKeown and Paul McGeoch, Neurovalens
The weight-loss market is a multimillion dollar global industry, as increasingly sedentary lifestyles and changing diets mean average waistlines in the western world are expanding. But Belfast-based Neurovalens, set up by Dr Jason McKeown and neuroscientist Paul McGeoch, is hoping to reverse that trend with a simple headband. The product, Modius, uses a non-invasive method of neurostimulation that taps into a nerve that runs directly to the brain's control centre for fat storage, metabolism rates and appetite. The premise is simple: wear it for an hour a day and potentially "reset" yourself. The first bands have already been shipped to customers, early backers through an Indiegogo campaign who are providing feedback to the company through an online community. That campaign raised $1.8 million. The company has also been running a trial in the US with TV show Doctors, following users of the band. McKeown sees Modius as the first generation of "careable technology", rather than the wearables that have dominated health tech up until now.

Aonghus Shortt, FoodMarble
When Aonghus Shortt came up with the idea for FoodMarble's first product Aire, it was to help his girlfriend Grace, who suffered from food allergies. The device is a portable digestive tracker that helps identify which foods you eat are causing digestive problems such as bloating and constipation, simply by measuring markers in your breath. Aire uses the markers to see how well foods are digested in the gut; when combined with the app, will give an indication of how likely different foods are to cause you problems. Shortt teamed up with co-founders Lisa Ruttledge, Peter Harte and James Brief to establish FoodMarble and develop the product, which already has more than 5,000 preorders. The company has raised £1.3 million to bring the product to market, with backers including former Dragons' Den investor Sean O'Sullivan.

Jayne Ronayne, KonnectAgain/Talivest
Jayne Ronayne is no stranger to the world of tech entrepreneurs. In 2013, she founded KonnectAgain as part of what she calls a "personal challenge" to tap into her university's alumni network. The company provided alumni offices with software to connect graduates to each other and to the institution. But now it is changing focus, concentrating on companies rather than educational institutions. Companies accept they're going to lose a certain amount of their staff, she says, but by staying in touch with former employees they will have a recruitment tool at their fingertips. Ronayne's new venture will also be able to offer companies valuable data on why they are losing employees, giving them the chance to address any issues. Ronayne has obviously hit on something; she said there have already been two acquisition approaches, which have been turned down. This year will bring renewed focus on this area, with new software products in the works that will facilitate exit interviews, along with a name-change – KonnectAgain will become Talivest – and an increase in staff.


Bluedrop Medical
Founded by Simon Kiersey and Chris Murphy, Bluedrop Medical is bringing the Internet of Things (IoT)to diabetes care. More specifically, to the prevention of an expensive and relatively common problem – diabetic foot ulcers. Up to 25 per cent of diabetics will be hit by this condition at some point in their lives; the worst cases can lead to amputations and be potentially life-threatening. Catching it early, therefore, is the best way to prevent more serious complications. Bluedrop has developed a device that can identify a potential foot ulcer before it appears, using an IoT-enabled device that scans the foot and sends data to the cloud to be analysed for any abnormalities. Not only will it help improve outcomes for diabetic patients at risk of the condition, but it will also help save the health system money. The company is in talks with the NHS about implementing the system, and is examining two sites in the US as a possible pilot once the technology has been approved. Having raised €600,000 already, Bluedrop plans to manufacture the device in Ireland, working with a Galway-based manufacturer to produce it. 
- Profiles by Ciara O'Brien


Dan Fox

If there was ever a sector ripe for disruption, it is the legal profession. It has long been conservative, inflexible and outrageously expensive. A wave of start-ups are busy bringing about change, however, by using technology to cut out inefficiencies and cut costs. One of those firms is Dublin-based Johnson Hana International, which has developed artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce the cost of large-scale legal processes such as contract reviews. The company, whose clients include Tesco and Ervia, is the brainchild of Dan Fox, a trained lawyer and entrepreneur, and the former frontman with Dublin band Lost in Flight. It recently raised $1 million in seed funding from backers including Voxpro Group co-founder Dan Kiely.

Katie and Annie Madden
Entrepreneurs don't come much younger or more determined than the founders of FenuHealth, sisters Kate (17) and Annie (16) Madden. They may still be both at school, but the youngsters have caused a stir in the equine world with their powdered supplements, which are added to feed to help prevent and solve the problem of gastric ulcers in horses, a common problem. The horse-mad entrepreneurs, who recently received an Irish Times Innovation Award for their business, converted a BT Young Scientist Exhibition project into a full-blown business that employs eight people and is exporting to 12 countries worldwide. Their company, whose name came about after the sisters discovered that horses were particularly taken with fenugreek, combines the herb with others to form a product that helps reduce the acidity and quantity of gastric juices. Having first been met with bemusement when they started selling the product at trade fairs, the sisters are the ones laughing now after orders for their solution started pouring in and they received the thumbs-up from well-known trainers such as Jim Dreaper.

Brian McGovern
It takes a certain chutzpah to successfully build one business, let alone two. But having already teamed up with his brother Tom to establish the Dublin School of Grinds, Brian McGovern is looking to do it again with Urbo. This time, the entrepreneur hasn't just got a sibling on board. He also has Shane Connaughton, the co-founder of the well-known Cycleways shop in Dublin, and Iain Cameron, managing director of Bike to Work for his dockless bike scheme. Urbo is similar to Dublin Bikes, but has the benefit of not needing dedicated bike stations. Instead, the company uses smartphones and GPS to enable users to find digitally-operated bikes that can be locked and unlocked with a QR code. The company is currently trying to raise €5 million as it seeks to roll out its schemes across major European cities, including Dublin. Urbo is already up and running in parts of London and it hopes to be active in 54 locations by the end of next year. Meanwhile, the Dublin School of Grinds, one of Ireland's largest private-tuition schools, continues to go from strength to strength with a new full-time institution opening next year.

Jack Kirwan
The brothers behind Sprout & Co may not be as well known as the Happy Pear twins, and their business might not be growing as rapidly as other healthy fast food rivals like Chopped or Freshii, but if you don't know them already you will soon. Established in 2013, Jack and Theo Kirwan's thriving venture uses high-quality local seasonal ingredients to create tasty foods such as salads, soups and cold-pressed juices that are proving to be a big hit with punters. Jack, an alumnus of the Ballymaloe Cookery School, and his brother are related to the Pratt family, who sold their Avoca business to catering group Aramark for in excess of €50 million in 2017. The Kirwans launched Sprout & Co in 2013, initially as a juice bar in Avoca Rathcoole. The boys from Blackrock now have premises in six locations in Dublin, employing 85 people. They are looking to open up to four more branches in the capital before spreading their wings to other Irish cities and abroad. The big plan for 2018 is to establish their own farm to grow their own produce.

Lindsey Nguyen and Michael Dwyer
It has been a heady journey for SwiftComply, a tech start-up that only began operations last year, but has already gone on to achieve great things. Founded by Lindsey Nguyen and Michael Dwyer, the company had a pretty eventful first year in business, which included securing a place on the ultra-prestigious Techstars accelerator programme in London. It built on that early success in 2017 by securing $900,000 (€765,514) in a funding round with backers that included Owen Van Natta, the former chief operating officer of Facebook and previously chief executive of MySpace (remember that?). So what exactly does the company do? It has developed a platform to help restaurants and food outlets comply more easily with official regulations and rules imposed by suppliers, enabling the effective recovery and reuse of fat, oil and grease waste. It may not be glamorous but the company is cleaning up from food waste, particularly in the US, where it is rapidly expanding.
- Profiles by Charlie Taylor


Gavin Moynihan
Survival is the name of the game as the 24-year-old Dubliner heads out onto the European Tour, having secured his playing rights by the skin of his teeth back in November. He was the last man inside the top 25 at the Tour's qualifying school in Tarragona, Spain – one shot worse on his part, or one better from any of the eight he was tied level with, would have meant no tour card and a year spent scratching around on sponsors' invites. But he got there and played his first event as a tour pro at the start of last month. The next job is to keep his head above water and win enough money to finish in the top 125 at the end of 2018. He doesn't get in to all events on tour straight off the bat, but the earlier he can start grinding out top 10s, the quicker he can move up to playing the bigger ones, the more money he can win and the better chance he has of staying on tour. Nobody expects a win in his first season but if he can consolidate, he'll be set up for a decent career. A massive year ahead.

Cora Staunton
Staunton has always been a mould-breaker. Fresh from a sixth All-Ireland club medal – as well as a 13th Connacht title and 19th Mayo crown with her club Carnacon – she has decamped to Sydney to become the second Irish woman to play in the Women's Australian Football League – and the first to have been headhunted into it. She has joined the Greater Western Sydney Giants, the team who finished last in the 2017 league. It's a gamble on both sides but one with endless possibilities attached. At 34 years of age, Staunton hardly needs an introduction. She has played for Mayo for 22 years, leading them back to an All-Ireland final in 2017 where they lost out to Dublin. She has made no decision yet as to whether or not she will keep her inter-county career going on her return from Australia. But for the here and now, her Australian adventure is a fascinating coda to an illustrious career. She has no experience in the sport and kicked an oval ball for the first time only in October. It's asking a lot for her to be able to make an impact this late in her career, but you wouldn't bet against her.

Declan Rice
West Ham's atrocious start to the 2017/18 season brought a silver lining for 18-year-old Rice, who was catapulted into the first team at the London Stadium almost out of desperation. Last year, he took the under-17 Player of the Year awards both at West Ham and with the Republic of Ireland, and made it into the Premier League outfit's first team when new manager David Moyes took over in November. Rice is a centre-half by trade, although there has been talk of central midfield being the position in which he may end up. A Londoner with grandparents from Cork, he has played at every age group for Ireland, from under-15 to under-21, and was part of the senior squad called up by Martin O'Neill last August. He has yet to make his full Ireland debut but, with O'Neill facing major player turnover due to retirements over the next while, he must be a good bet to come into the fold in 2018.

Denise O'Sullivan
There's a long way to go – an unspeakably long way to go – but Ireland's excellent draw away to The Netherlands in November has made a first-ever qualification for the World Cup a real prospect going into 2018. After three matches, all of them away from home and including the most difficult fixture in the group against the reigning European champions, Ireland are sitting pretty on seven points. They are joint top of the group and haven't yet conceded a goal. The winners qualify as of right, the second-placed team goes into a play-off. And Ireland are right in the mix. At the heart of the team is Denise O'Sullivan, the Cork midfielder whose habit of popping up with crucial goals has become her trademark. She scored the first against Slovakia in October, leading from the front and setting the tempo for everyone else. That came a fortnight after she scored an 89th-minute winner for her club North Carolina Courage in the semi-final of the National Women's Soccer League in the US. She is coming into her own at just the right time. The next step for Ireland is a huge double-header of home games at the start of April. Slovakia are first up, followed by the return game against the Netherlands. If they get through that with four points, then the home and away games against Norway in June will decide their fate. Barring injury, O'Sullivan could be the driving force for a momentous year.

David Clifford
It is hard to remember a young player maturing to the senior ranks in football or hurling with quite this much buzz attached to him. Joe Canning would be the closest parallel, and it took him a full 12 years before he finally won his All-Ireland with Galway in 2017. It's pretty much inconceivable that Kerry will be waiting that long to put a senior All-Ireland in Clifford's pocket but, nonetheless, it's only fair to allow him the possibility of not being the Second Coming straight away. Certainly, he has little chance of coming in unnoticed at this stage. Kerry have won the last four All-Ireland minor titles in a row and Clifford has been the star performer for the last two. In the three games of the All-Ireland series in 2017, he put up a ridiculous personal tally of 5-24. For the moment, the dread prospect of him decamping to Australia to play Aussie rules looks to have passed so the only question now is whether he plays at under-20 level for Kerry in 2018 or goes straight into the senior ranks. Everyone will be watching, whatever happens.
- Profiles by Malachy Clerkin


Colin Horgan (26)
From Ardfert, Co Kerry, Horgan hit the headlines when Lady Gaga was photographed in June attending the Toronto International Film Festival wearing his filmy black trousers from his RCA graduate collection. Other stars now want some of his vibrant and meticulously handcrafted showpieces, made in synthetic materials like PVC and foil that glow in the dark. His style suits the stage and he is gravitating towards performance as a way of showcasing his work rather than the conventional catwalk. "It means your work is seen by a lot of people so it is a good way to get your stuff out," says the young designer, who has turned down coveted offers of work from Burberry and J W Anderson to concentrate on being his own boss. Originally drawn to fine art, Horgan studied fashion in LSAD, graduating in 2014, and later took up work with Danish designer Anne Sophie Madsen in Copenhagen, who encouraged him to apply for an MA at the RCA. In November he was one of eight international finalists for the €50,000 H&M Award. Ideally, he would like to have his own brand, making "crazy showpieces" for pop stars alongside a commercial range.

Danielle McGregor (21)
From Clondalkin, McGregor was the first NCAD winner of a paid internship with Simone Rocha in London, after her imaginative menswear collection based on changing ideas of masculinity caught the attention of the London-based fashion star on a visit home to Dublin. McGregor now works in Rocha's studio in the textile area, handmaking embellishments, and is thriving on the experience. "I have been sewing since the age of six and ever since I was a little kid when friends had Barbies, I wanted to make the clothes myself," she says. Her collection was based around the different ways three generations in her family wear clothes – from her grandfather William in his three-piece suit and her father George in his mechanic's overalls to her teenage brother in his tracksuit. "Growing up in such a masculine environment made an impact and I knew what customers would want." Her ambition would be ultimately to set up her own label and bring a more feminine, softer approach to menswear, "but in the meantime I want to stay here, cut my teeth, learn as much as I can and maybe do an MA."

Naoise Farrell (25)
A multi-talented, multi-tasking designer, dancer (formerly with CoisCéim), illustrator and shortly to be a publisher, Farrell is based in Zurich where she was headhunted from London by cult brand Vetements. Communicating concepts through fashion has been a passion since the age of 16 after a visit to the Skin & Bones architecture-meets-fashion exhibition in London; the innovative Turkish designer Hussein Chalayan remains an inspiration. Her NCAD graduate collection, with its novel approach to menswear, was part of the In the Fold Irish design initiative at London Fashion Week in 2015. Farrell went straight to London after graduation to work with menswear designers Alan Taylor and later Rory Parnell Mooney while also holding down an evening job in a restaurant. Her newspaper, The Hot Potato, a monthly publication aimed at young creatives, will be launched later this month in Zurich, followed by smaller launches in Paris and London.

Ciana March (28)
March graduated in architecture in UCD in 2014; her degree consisted of a design project for an Eileen Gray archive building in Collins Barracks and a dissertation on Maison Martin Margiela and 6a Architects and the anti-brand worlds they created. During a gap year in Sydney, she and fellow graduate Becky Wallace started the Concrete Collar blog, covering fashion and architecture. Since then March has been working as a freelance creative director, styling, writing and project-managing independent Irish brands across design, craft and fashion including Ros Duke, Smyth & Gibson, Tissue and J Hill's Standard crystal. Described recently in Vogue as one of Ireland's "cool, Celtic girls", she will relaunch the Concrete Collar website this year.

Niamh McCormack (16)
McCormack started modelling as a child (her mother is the makeup artist Annie Gribbin), but now as a teenager has a very promising career ahead as both a model and an actor, with 25,000 followers on Instagram. "What distinguishes her," says her agent Rebecca Morgan, "is her extraordinary look, her self-confidence and her ability to get on with people." Already McCormack has attracted attention from photographers in Milan where she did a campaign for The Bridge leather goods in September. Back home she walked for student shows at NCAD and LSAD and for Arnotts while also completing a six-month acting course. Fiercely energetic and determined, she has already appeared in the Helix in Phantom of the Opera (she also sings and dances) as well as playing Rachel in Graham Cantwell's new LGBT drama Lily. "Acting is still my number one priority," she says. "But I love what I do and I try to make time for everything. Ideally I would love to get a scholarship to go to acting college in New York or LA when I have finished school – with modelling on the side. That's my big dream."
- Profiles by Deirdre McQuillan


Kevin O'Kelly
Hailing from a family of artists and makers, Kevin O'Kelly grew up attending his father's pottery classes in Galway. A ceramics course followed, then his work dramatically changed direction. His installation Something About the Way You Look (2017) was a worthy winner of the prestigious RDS Taylor Art Awards – a strong indicator of future success. "It was a huge boost for me, my profile and for confidence in what I've been doing," says O'Kelly, who is currently enrolled in a two-year Master's in Fine Art in Digital Art in NCAD. The RDS piece involved building rooms and a corridor, encouraging viewers to explore the experience of social isolation. It's a long way from a previous work that entailed O'Kelly making a papier mache bust of Enda Kenny from a toilet roll, but I suspect this artist will continue to surprise long into the future. kevinokelly.net

Moses Rowen
"I was always fascinated by taking things apart, but I was never any good at putting them back together again," says one of Ireland's most interesting new-generation designers. A love of Lego was followed by experiments on old computers, and later a degree in Mechanical Engineering at DIT. But he was still looking for a more creative outlet for his ideas, and found it in Industrial Design. Graduating from NCAD in 2013, he went on to work in architecture in Rotterdam. Now based in Dublin, he's turning his considerable talents to solving problems – from how to turn old gas cylinders into sterilisers, to a new kind of tyre that can adapt to different terrains. A NASA challenge resulted in the BIMGEC, which can offset the effects of osteoporosis in space, adding yet another award to Rowen's burgeoning list of accolades. mosesrowen.com

Katie Watchorn
The best art can connect us with ways of thinking differently, making the familiar strange, or helping us see things previously hidden. Carlow-based Katie Watchorn grew up on her father's dairy farm, and her work enables us to enter this world. "I'm trying to evoke an atmosphere, an uneasiness. It's the kind of feeling I'm used to feeling when I'm on the farm. There's a regularity to it, a predictability, but there are times when everything's thrown off-kilter. And there's so many correlations between farming and the arts," she continues. "You can be double-jobbing, looking for funding, always fighting your corner . . ." Watchorn won an Arts Council Next Generation award to make new work in 2017/18, and her Emerging Artist Award exhibition is at the Wexford Arts Centre, opening on January 27th, with an exhibition at Carlow's VISUAL in July. katiewatchorn.com

Rae Moore
"2017 was about planting one foot firmly on the ground, taking that first big step as an independent creative," says Rae Moore, who in 2013 became the youngest-ever member of the RIAI's professional register for architects. Describing architecture as her art, she says her ambition is "to make work that can help generate a richer dialogue around architecture and our built environment". One of the testing grounds for her ideas was at 2017's Body & Soul festival, where her Funicular Folly, a gorgeous brick dome, offered a place for tired festival-goers to kick back and chill. A recipient of the 2017 Institute of Designers of Ireland Emerging Talent Award, Moore will be creating another summer festival piece in 2018, this time for Drop Everything on Inis Oírr. raemoore.com.wordpress.com

Molly O'Cathain
The Rough Magic Seeds programme is an Irish theatre institution, with alumni going on to bright and big things around the world. Molly O'Cathain, one of this year's graduating programme, is a theatre and set designer who is already in demand. She's also a co-founder of the Malaprop theatre collective, whose works to date include Everything Not Saved, LOVE+ , BlackCatfishMusketeer and Jericho. "I always liked making things," says O'Cathain, who credits her mother, artist Liz Nilsson, with giving her a creative boost. "I wanted to be an architect, then I decided I wanted to be an architect of fake things instead." she says. She relished the challenges of making magic happen on tiny budgets, studying Drama at Trinity. Her Rough Magic placement took her to London's Royal Court, and already 2018 includes work for the Dublin and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals, as well as a project in development with the Ark. malaproptheatre.com / molly-ocathain.squarespace.com
- Profiles by Gemma Tipton


Judith Roddy
"I have gone from not doing much film and TV to being on set all day," Roddy says. "I am going through vents. We're setting things on fire. Tomorrow will involve a lot of blood." It would be wrong to say that Judith Roddy is due any sort of discovery. Now in her 30s, she has already had a madly busy career in the theatre. She was raised in Derry. She went on to study at Trinity College Dublin and received a scholarship to Oxford. Since then, her strong, flexible voice has been heard at The Royal National Theatre, Field Day, The Peacock and a dozen other places actors dream of playing. But ITV's imminent series Rig 45 looks set to elevate her to the prime-time mainstream. "We play a core unit specialist relief team on an oil rig and there is an accident on the oil rig. There are more accidents and we realise there is something up: a whodunit," she says. Spies tell me Roddy is electrifying the set.

Aoife McCardle
McCardle has been working towards the release of her first feature for a decade. Raised in Omagh, a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, McCardle is an experienced video and commercials director. The video for U2's Every Breaking Wave was one of hers. But Kissing Candice, due for release in the first half of 2018, still feels like a step up. "That's why I always picked narrative-based commercials or videos. That helped me equip myself for making a feature." Starring Ann Skelly as a troubled teenager in a seaside town, Kissing Candice premiered to acclaim at the recent Toronto Film Festival. The studios are circling.

Dafhyd Flynn
Flynn was an undisputed breakout star from the 2017 Galway Film Fleadh. The charismatic Dubliner stole the event with his turn as a young prisoner in Frank Berry's devastating Michael Inside. Berry discovered Flynn when he was casting his first feature, I Used to Live Here. That film was set round and about Flynn's home manor of Killinarden in Tallaght. "Frank came to the Killinarden Community Centre and held auditions and I was only an extra at first. But he saw something in me. I was just 12 at the time," he explains. Now 18, Flynn has committed himself to the profession, but 2018 will bring another challenge. "I decided this year I am going to stick to school and get my Leaving Cert." He's right to have something to fall back on, but we're betting he won't need it.

Nora Twomey
Punters can pencil in two likely Irish nominees for the upcoming Oscars. One is Saoirse Ronan. The other is Nora Twomey for the rapturously received animated feature The Breadwinner. Twomey, part of the world-shattering team at Kilkenny's Cartoon Saloon, shared a nomination as co-director on that company's Song of the Sea, but The Breadwinner sees her grabbing the helm single-handedly. Co-produced by one Angelina Jolie, the picture concerns a young girl who, in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, must impersonate a boy to help support her family. Raised in Co Cork, Twomey left school before completing her Leaving Certificate and eventually found her way into the increasingly influential animation course at Ballyfermot College. Now she faces Oscar season. "It feels like a beauty contest," she says. "But it does help get bums on seats. On the other hand you feel like a loser if you don't get a nomination."

Jacob McCarthy
When the time came for McCarthy, a handsome blonde chap from Sandymount, to consider options for college, he was wary of telling his parents that he fancied acting. "I muttered it with embarrassment They eventually coaxed it out of me and they didn't blink," he laughs. With their full support, he was accepted to the hugely prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. This year, he delivered a superb performance as the autistic protagonist of Nick Kelly's feature The Drummer and the Keeper. But McCarthy had other schemes in mind. While at college, he successfully applied for the US green card lottery. An unsuccessful audition for the Coen brothers followed. Then he secured a lead role opposite Patton Oswald in a major new comedy series from NBC called AP Bio. That comes our way in 2018. For now, like so many actors, Jacob is living the itinerant life: Dublin, London, LA. "What comes to fruition this year will dictate which side of the Atlantic I am on," he says.
- Profiles by Donald Clarke


Grace Dyas
In 2017, Dyas threw a grenade, with allegations of inappropriate behaviour by former Gate Theatre boss Michael Colgan. In 2018, her role as an activist will continue. THEATREclub productions in 2017 included Doireann Coady's remarkable I'm Not Here, and a piece which won Best Production at the Dublin Fringe Festival, Dyas and Emma Fraser's Not At Home. For the guts of a decade, Dyas's work has been issue-laden, tackling heroin, the family in Irish society, addiction, inequality, the sex industry, and the messiness of Irish history. Echoing the words of Christine Buckley, Dyas declares: "I believe you before you open your mouth." She is on a mission to hold abuses of power in Irish public life to account. Ferociously intelligent and articulate, Dyas brings a process-driven approach to what it means to campaign and develop the surrounding support structures in order to empower oneself and succeed. An unstoppable force.

Ailbhe Smyth
Twenty-eighteen will be the most crucial year in the history of the movement for reproductive rights in Ireland, with a referendum on the cards to repeal the eighth amendment which makes Ireland the only western democracy with a constitutional ban on abortion. As convener of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, Smyth brings a wealth of experience and deep passion to the cause of women's rights. She is endlessly optimistic, tirelessly driven and good-humoured, Smyth's huge intellect is matched only by her grace under pressure, and an aura of calmness that acts as a uniting force. In a "debate" that we're constantly told is "fraught", Smyth has a way of defusing polarised points of view, making her something of a 'Repeal swan': calm on the surface, but working relentlessly below it.

Robbie Lawlor
In many societies where LGBT rights continue to be achieved, the organisation ACT UP (Aids Coalition To Unleash Power) is largely a historical artifact of the Aids plague. Yet Ireland, in the midst of a HIV epidemic, with someone being diagnosed every 18 hours, ACT UP is reborn. At the forefront of awareness-raising around the epidemic is its contemporary co-founder Robbie Lawlor, a young HIV+ man who has changed mindsets around living with HIV. "Where my activism will take me this year is to involve more young people with sexual health campaigns and HIV campaigns," Lawlor says, "If we're going to change culture, it starts with education and being loud and making noise about the issues." Following on from work he has undertaken in the UK and Europe, Lawlor will be visiting universities in Ireland and bringing young people on board as advocates. Another key step will be the funding of the revolutionary preventative HIV drug PrEP, which was recently made available for €100 a month in Ireland, but which Lawlor and other campaigners want fully subsidised by the HSE.

Selina Hogan
With a multifaceted housing crisis impacting on everything from property prices to rent increases, a lack of social housing and homelessness, it's those on the frontlines who are fighting the hardest battles. When Selina Hogan became homeless after her landlord sold her home, she began researching the issue and started a vigil outside the local authority office in Ballyfermot in Dublin. "I started going to public meetings and stating my story and why I think things should change," she says. She has spent more than five months in emergency accommodation in Dublin, getting up at 6.30am Monday to Friday to prepare her children for school. "It's not easy. But coming into 2018, I want to stand up for the young mothers involved in this homelessness crisis. We need to stand up as mothers and as women. Our children are growing up and need to be asking questions of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil as to why they are being deprived of their childhoods . . . It's easy to hide behind social media and say 'God love these poor people', but we have to come together as a society. This is about us uniting and fighting this crisis and standing up to the Government."

National LGBTI+ Strategy Youth Advisory Group
In 2018, Ireland's National LGBTI+ Youth Strategy will be published, the first of its kind in the world. To develop the strategy, a Youth Advisory Group - chaired by Una Mullally - was established to sit at committee level, lead the visual design process, shape consultations, and feed into the production of events. Assisted by BeLonG To youth services, the Youth Advisory Group has become an example of how policy impacting young people can place young people at its core in the development stages, so that their voices are heard throughout the process, and brought to the fore to communicate the content of strategy and policy to other young peers.
- Profiles by Una Mullally


Grainne O'Keefe
When she's not in the kitchen as head chef at Clanbrassil House in Dublin 8, Grainne O'Keefe has been using her time off to hone the menu at BuJo, a burger joint in Sandymount, where she is culinary director. A city centre premises is on the cards for BuJo in 2018. Meanwhile, in London, Saucy, the "fast casual pasta bar" on London's Tottenham Court Road she opened with her friend George Wells, is looking to expand, which will mean more work for O'Keefe as its culinary director and key shareholder. This year, the team at Clanbrassil House are working towards opening Clanbrassil To Go, a daytime cafe serving sandwiches, salads and pastries right next door to Clanbrassil House and around the corner from sister restaurant Bastible. Pastry chef Zia Burke will be leading the charge, and the cafe will open Monday through Saturday from 7am to 4pm from February onwards.

Suzanna Mellin – Banana Melon Kitchen
Take a peek at Suzanna Mellin's website and you'll see colour, creativity and choice. It might even take you a while to realise that Banana Melon Kitchen is a vegan enterprise. Mellin, originally from Clare but now based in Cork City, supplies vegan tahini brownies for Soma Cafe in Cork, and hosted a series of sold-out vegan brunch pop-ups in Soma and O'Herlihy's in Kinsale throughout the autumn of 2017. "It's exciting because everything in veganism is so new," says Mellin. "I'm constantly experimenting with consistency and texture, and thinking of using ingredients in a different way. When you're given boundaries, there is so much more room to be creative." Mellin's next vegan brunch is in Soma in Cork City on January 21st to celebrate "Veganuary". Beyond that, she is working towards finding a permanent home for Banana Melon Kitchen. bananamelonkitchen.com

Harry Colley and Aoife Allen - With Relish Podcast
Take two talented chefs, record them talking about their love of food to each other and to special guests and hey presto! You've got a dishy podcast. With Relish is presented by Aoife Allen and Harry Colley, produced by Ian Doyle and hosted by Headstuff. Allen and Colley bring insights gleaned from their day jobs as chefs in the Fumbally Cafe in Dublin 8. The team want 2018 to be a big year for their podcast. "We want to take it on the road to see firsthand what's going on in the food scene outside of Dublin," says Allen. "We're hoping to get some funding in order to allow us to make better shows," continues Colley. "We'd love to take the shows out of the studio more often and go straight to the source." headstuff.org/with-relish.

Moy Hill Community Farm
When friends Fergal Smith, Mitch Corbett and Matt Smith were lent two-thirds of an acre next door to their house-share in Co Clare in 2013, they turned it into a community garden with a vegetable box scheme for members. Following a CSA model, they set up Moy Hill Community Farm with Sally Smith and Manchán Magan. "A CSA is a style of community supported agriculture," explains Matt Smith. "The members commit to a year or a season's worth of food, and they get a share of the harvest in exchange for their money. The idea is all about community. Together, we share the risks and the rewards." Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2017, Moy Hill Community Farm bought a neighbouring farm of 60 acres. They now aim to feed more people for longer. They'll be hosting a gathering, a festival of sorts, for September 2018 and are hoping to pay off their loans for this new land. "By coming along," says Smith, "people will have supported the land being cared for forever." moyhillfarm.com

Colin Judge
On January 1st, 2018, Colin Judge posted the last photograph in his 365 Project on his Instagram account (@c.judge.shoot). This self-taught photographer had posted a daily image as a way to stretch his creative potential. "I really liked the idea of putting in the practice every single day and doing what it is you want to be hired to do," says Judge. Alongside his food projects, he's currently working on a Young Adult novel with his sister, the 2016 Hennessy New Irish Writer Ríona Judge McCormack. Colin collaborates on the plot and structure, and helps to edit the words that Ríona writes. One of the things he discovered throughout the project was his love of the motion of food, so in 2018 he's launching a new series of food videos. He's currently developing a video and photography series that will capture the inner workings of a busy kitchen. "It's a great challenge to be in the thick of things and work on the fly," he says. colin-judge.com
- Profiles by Aoife McElwain


Eric Davidson and Craig Connolly
Davidson and Connolly are behind media company District. Built with equal parts ambition and graft, the brand is now synonymous with interesting, quality creativity with a great ear for new music that matters. District has been a vital voice in amplifying a fizzing Irish hip-hop scene, as well as producing podcasts, and excellent parties. At the end of 2017, they launched a monthly guide to Dublin City in print. Their quarterly magazine also returns in February, and in 2018 they plan to expand their hiphop party Neighbourhood Watch. "The live element is something really important [to us]," Davidson says. "We wanted to build a following online and foster a community . . . But even with our online stuff, like the podcasts, we want to move off the screen. We're big fans of print."

Sally Rooney
Mayo writer Rooney had a massive 2017, with her fresh and brilliant hit novel Conversations with Friends converting readers to instant fandom. She finished the year with more writing appearing in the New Yorker and by winning the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. In 2018, Rooney takes up the position of editor at the literary magazine The Stinging Fly. Her debut novel will run and run as word of mouth continues and the awards keep coming, and her second book is already banked. Rooney looks set to carve out her place on an ever-growing Mount Rushmore of brilliant contemporary Irish writers who are soaring internationally with super-smart indigenous work.

Joe Molloy
For a while, Molloy has simmered along as a sports broadcaster and radio presenter with Off The Ball on Newstalk as well as on KFM, but 2018 will bring him to much wider recognition as he takes up the role as anchor of TV3's Six Nations coverage. Molloy previously co-hosted Extra Time on TV3 during the Euro 2016 football tournament, but anchoring a show is a step up for the young broadcaster, who will be at the helm of TV3's biggest investment in sport, for which the station has secured the television rights for the next four years.

Sinéad O'Shea
O'Shea has reported for al-Jazeera, the BBC, the Guardian, RTÉ and The Irish Times, but it's her feature-length film work that is now garnering more attention. Her documentary A Mother Brings Her Son to Be Shot, about complicit punishment shootings in post-Troubles Derry, premiered at the BFI London Film Festival in 2017. The documentary has heavyweight Joshua Oppenheimer as executive producer – he was behind the Oscar-nominated documentaries The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence. O'Shea tends to gravitate towards complex, nuanced stories, also working on a Channel 4 Unreported World documentary examining abortion in Ireland. She also writes for the New York Times. One of the brightest and most insightful reporters working in Ireland today, with talent that stretches far beyond newspapers.

Karen Miano
Miano typifies the multifaceted approach to being a true self-starter, working on several musical and creative products including the label DIAxDEM, the creative platform Blackfish Collective, and the collective GXRLCODE. "We saw a lack of yourself in Irish media, so we just thought, 'we'll make our own thing,'" Miano says of her collaborators. "If you take the leap, someone will be there to catch you. As well as that, it's about surrounding yourself with strong and like-minded people." Early in 2018, Miano will be part of an RTÉ Pulse show for GXRLCODE which is "a group of gals making an inclusive space in a podcast, talking about things relevant to us". Miano has intentions to improve representation of women and people of colour on Irish airwaves, "I feel like there needs to be more done, we're only scratching the surface." With her record label DIAxDEM she's hoping for more releases in 2018, including the artists Bad Bones and Proud.
- Profiles by Una Mullally


Shookrah comfortably slide into their jazzy funk style like it's a vintage suede jacket. You can hear the influence of the groovy cats who blazed 1970s American funk and 1990s neo-soul, as well as new-age Los Angeles beat scene bohemians like Flying Lotus and Thundercat. Unlike a lot of their stylistic ancestors, though, the Cork band don't rely on huge basslines to power their orchestration. Instead, it's Diarmait Mac Carthaigh's pyrotechnic percussion that provides the octane. Up top, the voices of Senita Appiakorang and Imelda Cormican confirm the pair to be the spiritual children of Erykah Badu. 2017 saw the release of the fully formed five-song EP Cliches, priming Shookrah to hold the position over the next 12 months as Ireland's vanguard for old-school grooves.

Sometimes Jafaris raps, sometimes Jafaris sings, and sometimes he tunes his smooth larynx to something in between. The enigmatic, fashionable young crooner defies easy categorisation. His music drills into conditions of the heart, covering great love and doomed sadness, over-the-moon elation and bitter anger. But all over Technicolour hip-hop beats you can easily nod your head to. Last year's Velvet Cake EP, plus the soulful single Love Dies (be sure to check out Nathan Barlow's hazy Dublin-set video), was a fine crystallisation of Jafaris's burgeoning style, best compared to Chicago rap stars like Lupe Fiasco and Mick Jenkins, or even more buttery singers like Raphael Saadiq and Jon B. It seems beyond the outer limits of reality to hear, then, that Jafaris has only actually been seriously pursuing music for just over a year. His small set of recordings so far offer a promising glimpse into future studio voyages.

Katie Laffan
Having traversed the Dublin gig and festival circuit, dousing every venue with her velvety rhythms and candy-coloured grooves (even picking up our Electric Picnic 2017 Best New Artist award after a scintillating set on the Other Voices stage), Katie Laffan is ostensibly primed to become the city's unimpeachable queen of funk. Tracks like Tastemaker see Laffan and her band unleash wah-wah licks, white-hot disco grooves, a thick bassline and "I gotta have more cowbell" ethos of throwback dancefloor-ready funk that bristles with pure confidence. But this is not retro revivalism for the sake of retro revivalism. There's plenty more ripples to Laffan's artistry. Take Trophy, a gentle ballad that examines a fracturing relationship with cutting emotional depth. With just a handful of recordings to her name, Laffan, still in her early 20s, will seek to funnel her vivacious live show into a recording catalogue loaded with hard-knockin' hits. New single Aversion is due out in January, with her second EP to follow in March. Look out for her first headline show on February 22nd at Whelan's too.

Bitch Falcon
Bitch Falcon's visceral, grungy rock could shake the foundations of an entire tenement building. On songs like the Dublin trio's most recent single Of Heart, Lizzie Fitzpatrick's guitar rings with epic sweep, while the percussion is so forcibly thwacked, it feels like the drumstick could shatter in Nigel Kenny's hand. Far from just being all dissonance and noise, Fitzpatrick's vocals hang over the raw power with operatic lustre and strong melodic instinct. Bitch Falcon work in elements of brash punk and razorwire metal too (see the crunchy riffs of older single Breed). As well as the small canon of singles to their name – three of which dropped in 2017 – the band have completed two headline Irish tours.

With a groovy concoction of electropop, drum 'n' bass, two-step, soul and new wave, Balbriggan-reared singer Soulé cuts the figure of a real 21st-century superstar – potentially one of the most exciting talents to emerge from the city in recent years. She's aligned with production outlet Diffusion Lab (who are also behind Jafaris), and songs like What Do You Know and Good Life connect the dots between turn-of-the-millennium UK pirate radio station garage and the Caribbean-infused new-age R&B of Rihanna. No wonder then that Soulé's singles are getting major traction online – What Do You Know and Troublemaker have over a million plays each on Spotify alone. She's spent time in London recently, perhaps hinting at a lean towards the UK capital side of her style. Next up is hopefully a lengthier project to fully highlight Soulé's talents.
- Profiles by Dean Van Nguyen

This article was amended on Jan 7th, 2017, to state Una Mullally is chair of the National LGBTI+ Strategy Youth Advisory Group