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50 people to watch in 2020: the best young talent in Ireland

WE NAME THE HOTTEST TALENT SET TO MAKE WAVES IN POLITICS, FASHION, FOOD, SPORT, ACTIVISM, ART, FILM AND TV, TECH, ENTREPRENEURISM AND MUSIC

★ This year we tip our hats to the people who are putting sustainability and the environment at the core of what they do by awarding them a sustainability star 

FILM AND TV, BY DONALD CLARKE

Amybeth McNulty

Amybeth McNulty
Can there be such a thing as a quiet sensation? If so then the rise of Amybeth McNulty meets the description. For the last few years, the Donegal actor has been gathering a devoted fanbase for her performance as the eponymous protagonist of the latest take on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. In January, the third and final series of Anne with an E, a production of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, lands here on Netflix. “It’s wild. I’m insanely young to be doing all this stuff. I’m very humbled that I’m going through all this. I didn’t expect it at such a young age,” she told The Irish Times. Raised in Letterkenny, an only child, McNulty won the part after auditioning against 1,800 other actors from around the world. Millions will weep as Anne, the Canadian orphan with attitude, strops one last time for the cameras. The world is about to open up for McNulty.

Eanna Hardwicke
The highlight of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival for Irish attendees was the sensational premiere of Lorcan Finnegan’s smashing horror film Vivarium. Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots are great as a couple stranded in a suburban nightmare, but young Eanna Hardwicke steals every scene as the terrifyingly blank individual who takes the role of their adult child (it’s hard to explain). “I had one purpose, which was to be the ‘idea of a son’ to these people,” Hardwicke tells me. “To do that, he picks up what he sees from his fake mum and fake dad. That’s what it is to be human for him.” The tall, handsome Cork man, who also has a significant supporting role in the TV adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People, got an early juvenile role in Conor McPherson’s The Eclipse before going on The Lir Academy at Trinity College. He will be gleefully unavoidable in 2020.

Paul Mescal, Venetia Bowe, Eanna Hardwicke and Clare Dunne. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Venetia Bowe
Venetia Bowe has been creeping up on us over the last few years. At last year’s Dublin Fringe Festival, Chaos Factory, the experimental company she founded with three like-minded actors, presented its first production to much success. She toured in Much Ado About Nothing with Rough Magic. She appeared in Nora, Belinda McKeon’s version of A Doll’s House, for Corn Exchange. The Dubliner is set for another class of visibility in the next year. Bowe has a lead role in the much buzzed-about TV series Cold Courage. “We have an amazing Swedish director,” she says. “Half of the series was directed by a Belgian. It’s amazing on set. You have all these languages. In one corner Finnish. Then me in English. Ha! Ha!” An Irish/Finnish Scandi-noir, Cold Courage will land towards the end of the year. Before that she will be travelling to Birmingham with the acclaimed production of Louise O’Neill’s Asking for It. “My first gig across the pond.”

Paul Mescal in Normal People. Photograph: Enda Bowe/Element/BBC

Paul Mescal
Few television series are so hotly anticipated in 2019 as the upcoming adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People. Hettie Macdonald and Lenny Abrahamson, Oscar nominee for Room, direct Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal as two young Irish people engaging with contemporary traumas at college and in the real world. “The book is set in Ireland,” Mescal says. “But the themes are universal. Regardless of where audiences are seeing it, I think people will recognise these characters.” It was a big deal for Mescal, raised in Maynooth, to work with Abrahamson. “It’s a pinch-yourself moment to be sitting in that room with him,” he says. Rumour has it that Mescal might have ended up in a different corner of this article. He played under-21 football for Kildare. Did he see himself playing at the highest level? “That was the aim at 15, but drama school got in the way,” he says.

Clare Dunne
You couldn’t reasonably call Clare Dunne a newcomer. The Ballinteer woman has acted in O’Casey at the Abbey, Shakespeare at the Donmar, and Chekhov at the Lyric Hammersmith. She played Prince Hal in an all-female Henry IV for Phyllida Lloyd. She will scale new heights when Herself, from Dunne’s first feature screenplay, has its premiere at the imminent Sundance Film Festival, in Utah. Lloyd, known for the hits Mamma Mia! and The Iron Lady, directs Dunne in the story of a young woman who, frustrated by the housing crisis, decides to build her own home. “It’s an incredible honour to be there,” Dunne says, a day after the Sundance news broke. “It’s in one of the big screens. My mother and father are hoping to fly over and have a holiday. And oddly my cousin is a ski instructor there. He’s gung ho about it.” Sundance is the place that launched Irish hits such as Once and Brooklyn. The world is at Dunne’s feet.

FOOD, BY CATHERINE CLEARY

Niamh Condon
Niamh Condon doesn’t expect anyone to eat something she wouldn’t eat herself. So when the chef took over the kitchen in a west Cork nursing home, she went on a three-day dysphagia diet to experience life with swallowing difficulties. Blended foods and thickened liquids blurred into muddy colours and flavours. Her teeth, gums and tongue felt coated, and she was determined to do dysphagia cooking better. Nursing-home chefs don’t get awards, but Condon puts as much creativity into her food as any Michelin-starred gastronaut. She sourced moulds to plate blended foods in separate forms, so bacon and cabbage could look and taste like bacon and cabbage. In the Fairfield Nursing Home in Drimoleague, birthdays are celebrated with a customised cake rather than a bowl of custard with a candle. Food is key to quality of life, Condon believes. She has set up an organisation called Dining with Dignity to pass on what she has learned.

Kate Egan 
Kate Egan was teaching people how to live sustainably in 2016. But the week she bought a nine-acre farm in Co Westmeath with her partner, Tom Carlin, she found out she was being made redundant. The original plan to grow enough food for themselves had to change. The theory suddenly got very real. Nearly four years later, their two acre market garden in An Ghrian Glas Organic Farm supplies a small box scheme and two local restaurants, Nine Arches in Ballymahon and Thyme in Athlone. They have fruit and nut orchards and a food forest, a naturally regenerating woodland. They rear chickens, a pig, horses and ducks, along with a baby daughter who Egan carries in a sling as she tours the farm to feed the animals. An Ghrian Glas is as much a living, breathing education project as it is a small farm, and Egan hopes to marry her old life as an educator with her new one as a farmer. We’ve unconsciously engineered nature out of our lives, she believes. We need to consciously design it back in. With that comes the potential to make Ireland the organic green capital of Europe. anghrianglasfarm.com

Cúán Greene, Niamh Condon, Grainne Mullins, Kate Egan and Clive Bright. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Gráinne Mullins
Lignum, Loughrea
Two years of a general science degree is not the typical training for a chef, but Gráinne Mullins believes her time in the lab serves her well in the kitchen. Her science background brings precision to her cooking, and an understanding about why food behaves the way it does. Mullins started cooking as a teenager in a local cafe in Loughrea, Co Galway, near where she grew up. After leaving her science degree she joined the kitchen in Ashford Castle, working in the pastry section. Next she honed her classical French pastry cheffing with Scandinavian tones, working at the Michelin-starred Dan B, La Table de Ventabren in Provence. The Cliffhouse in Ardmore and Ox in Belfast followed, and now she’s come full circle home to Lignum, a new restaurant outside Loughrea. Late last year she bagged the title of 2019’s Eurotoques Young Chef of the Year. She’s heading up the pastry section in Lignum, but in a small ambitious restaurant there is plenty of potential to crossover, and for this highly talented chef to grow and shine.

Clive Bright
An art college graduate with a degree in textiles design, Clive Bright gets his creative satisfaction from farming rather than fashion these days. He’s applying his design brain to his Co Sligo beef farm, with the ambition that in a decade his herd will graze outside year-round. Bright’s father died when he was young, and he inherited his mother’s farm outside Ballymote in 2003. He didn’t want to milk cows or spread fertiliser, so he turned to organic beef and sheep farming. He feeds no grain or soy to his animals. Instead the herd mob-grazes paddocks on the farm in the growing season, and eats silage when they’re wintered indoors. Trees are the key to his next leap. Anywhere he has trees the rushes, which grow profusely on his farm, have disappeared in a radius around them, their root systems fixing the soil. Silvopasture is the future for his farm, a system of grazing animals in a tree-rich savannah. His pasture-only approach is already paying dividends. Rare Ruminare beef is sold directly for a multiple of what farmers are earning by finishing their animals on grain. rareruminare.com

Cúán Greene
Bastible, Dublin
Wood sorrel from hushed Wicklow forests, and nasturtium leaves from a ceaselessly busy inner-city community garden make their way on to plates at Bastible thanks to its head chef, Cúán Greene. The former Noma chef frequently starts his day with a cycle around his foraging patches in Dublin 8 to gather some food for the kitchen. Greene arrived home last spring after more than three years in Copenhagen, and took up the role of head chef in the small Dublin restaurant set up by chef Barry Fitzgerald. Greene’s homecoming mission was to figure out the land, build relationships with farmers, foragers and makers directly, and test whether it was possible to have dozens of suppliers feeding into his larder rather than just a handful of the larger firms. The food at Bastible has flourished. On an Irish Times Food Month walking tour in November, Greene gave a short workshop on some of the oils, ferments and dried ingredients that go into his brilliantly creative cooking. This delicious adventure is only just beginning.

ART AND DESIGN, BY GEMMA TIPTON

Joan Ellison and Caroline Gardner
We Make Good
Dreamed up by some of Ireland’s most exciting emerging designers, and made by people facing social challenges, We Make Good literally makes things better. Joan Ellison and Caroline Gardner met when Ellison came to work at Quality Matters, the charity that aims to improve services across Ireland. “Joan’s background is in communications and retail, and mine’s in project management, and we both had a real interest in design,” says Gardner. “So it just came together – although it took, of course, thousands of hours of work...” A pop-up shop at Christmas was a runaway success, and a new workshop in Dublin is helping the duo to expand the range. Add commercial contracts from the likes of the Children’s Hospital and Imma, work with young designers at NCAD, plus a new range for museum and gallery shops designed by Laura Buchannan, it’s set to be a busy year. Gardner loves “how much people are moved by other people’s opportunities. When we can bring that, it really has a profound effect. Helping people to become their best has been a really beautiful part of the project.” wemakegood.ie

Zara Devlin

Zara Devlin
Growing up in rural Co Tyrone, Zara Devlin didn’t believe that acting could become a career. “I used to put on small shows for my family, and was involved in drama my whole life,” she says. “But if my 10-year-old self could see what I’m doing now, she would not believe her eyes.” After she graduated from the Lir Academy in 2018, roles came thick and fast, with the Abbey, Druid and Gate and, most recently, in Rough Magic’s acclaimed Hecuba. Now she’s in New York, playing the lead role of Raphina, in Enda Walsh’s theatre adaptation of John Carney’s 2016 film Sing Street, which has just opened. “What a person!” says Devlin of the role. “So complicated and beautiful – I love the challenge. Because I mostly do theatre,” she adds, “I love how it’s live, every single night with a brand new audience. We all witness and feel something together, and it will never ever be repeated the same way. I think that’s pretty cool.” So is she.

James McGlynn Seaver
After claiming first-class honours in fashion design, the costume designer James McGlynn Seaver worked at Avoca, and at the Aran Woollen Mills; but at the same time he had always loved theatre. He made Panti’s dress for her Noble Call appearance at the Abbey in 2014. “I’m known mainly for my corsetry work and my love for historic and period clothing,” he says. “My favourite person I’ve dressed is Majella O’Donnell, I made a gown for her to wear to Cliff Richard’s birthday party and she was so fab, kind and such good fun.” Since September, Seaver has been head of the costume department at The Gate. “In fashion you need to always think of the end user and profit margins, whereas in theatre you are helping to create a vision that tells a story. There are so many tricks in theatre, I love the creation of the smoke and mirrors, for example: taking Panti, who is a tall, broad man, making him into a woman with the most amazing hour-glass figure. Quick changes are a nightmare for actors, so small things that can help are always built in. You have to be creative and each situation calls for something different, but Velcro and magnets can often be a good start.” Take note.

Caroline Gardner, Joan Ellison, James Seaver and Celina Muldoon. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Celina Muldoon
Graduating from NCAD’s MFA programme in 2017, Celina Muldoon received a Next Generation Bursary from the Arts Council. “The first two years following graduation are daunting,” she says. But the award allowed her to concentrate on making, and thinking about her art and the world. Mainly working in performance, her most recent project has been a gallery exhibition at the Royal Hibernian Academy’s Futures showcase, where she explored issues of myth making, mental health and road deaths in the northwest of Ireland. Artists are shaped by the world they inhabit, but their work goes on to shape how we see the world in the future. Muldoon’s project is part of her SIRENS series, which she also exhibited at the Kevin Kavanagh Gallery. It’s arresting and exciting work, and as 2020 plans include research projects with Clare Kelly at Trinity’s Neuroscience Department, and Rhonda McGovern at that college’s Department of Geography. Expect fascinating findings, presented in a way that is entirely new. celinamuldoon.com

Jonathan Janssens and Jennifer O’Donnell of Studio Plattenbau

Jennifer O’Donnell and Jonathan Janssens
Studio Plattenbau
Having studied at UCD, Jennifer O’Donnell and Jonathan Janssens moved to Berlin, where they set up Studio Plattenbau in January 2018. “As recent graduates, we still had a lot to learn about architecture, and Berlin was the place to do that,” explains Janssens. They have a busy year ahead – in Berlin, they are continuing work on their first house project, while in Dublin, they are gearing up to exhibit new drawings at the Irish Architecture Foundation’s gallery space. As well as this, they’re designing a pavilion as part of CoLab, a self-initiated group of young Irish architects who have come together to develop new ways of working. Meanwhile, they have been working on the Grangegorman development project, as well as teaching and running drawing workshops. As Janssens explains, a lot of what architects do today has nothing to do with building directly, but everything to do with making a difference to how we live. “That’s what we find exciting about the next generation; the growing opportunity to redefine what an architect is and does. Our decisions have consequences for other people whom we might never meet. But to do this we also need to generate awareness of and support for our role in the design of buildings and cities.” plattenbaustudio.com

ENTREPRENEURS, BY CHARLIE TAYLOR

Seán McGarry
Showergem
Not many people walk away with money in their pocket after appearing on the UK television show Dragons’ Den, but Mayo man Seán McGarry is one of them. His shower accessory company saw its valuation triple following his appearance early last year, when he secured a £100,000 (€118,315) investment from three investors – Sara Davies, Touker Sulyman and Tej Lalvani – in return for a 24 per cent equity stake in Showergem. Since then he’s had further investment offers, including one that valued the business at €1.6 million. Not bad for a 25-year-old. McGarry and his father designed a shower caddy that doesn’t require suction cups or drilling, and is rustproof. More than 13,000 units have been sold in Ireland and Britain. McGarry will appear live on the world’s biggest teleshopping channel QVC USA early this year to promote his product.

Thomas O’Connell of Moby. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Thomas O’Connell
Moby
Another Irishman to have appeared on Dragons’ Den, although without the same level of success as Seán McGarry, is Thomas O’Connell. He was on the show back in 2005, trying to secure investment for a new type of action bike he had developed, but walked away empty-handed. O’Connell has achieved plenty of success since then, having co-founded Yvolution, a company that produces scooters and balance bikes for kids. That business recorded €41 million in turnover in 2017. Having cashed out of it, O’Connell is back with Moby, a dockless electric bike share scheme which is due to go live in Dublin shortly after a slight delay. Moby has also devised a number of micro-mobility vehicles for sale, including the Jyroball, a self-balancing ball that improves the hoverboard ride experience, and the YX One all-terrain eboard.

Kevin Glynn of Butternut Box

Kevin Glynn
Butternut Box
One of eight Irish people to have been included in last year’s Forbes prestigious “30 under 30” list of leading young innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders, Kevin Glynn is a London-based businessman with a fresh dog food company that is really going places. Having raised £15 million (€17.8 million) in April to fund expansion, Butternut Box is looking to take the business global, with Ireland among the countries under consideration. The former Goldman Sachs trader came up with the idea for the business after his best friend and co-founder David Nolan’s sickly dog Rudie recovered after being fed home-cooked meals. Realising that the hound’s ill-health was largely a result of over-processed food, the two decided there was a gap in the market for a healthy dog food company. Founded in 2016, the business has gone on to produce more than eight million meals for dogs across the UK, and in 2017 saw revenues rise by 700 per cent.

Alvan Hunt and John Lynam
Hexafly
A business that is really trying to make a difference, Hexafly is revolutionising food for plants, fish and livestock. The Meath-based start-up has developed an innovative method for converting waste products into high-value feeds, fertilisers and bioplastics, which it supplies to a range of companies in the aqua and animal feed, medical, cosmetic, food and plant nutrition industries. The start-up’s primary market is the aquaculture sector, a $100 billion industry which has a considerable problem with the quality and sustainability of feed in fish farming. Hexafly’s insect protein can be used to replace fish meal. It could potentially provide an alternative to soya for swine and poultry feed, another huge market opportunity given the EU is expected to allow it to be used for this purpose in the near future. The company is busy raising funds to build a new production facility in Ashbourne, which will lead to the creation of at least 50 jobs.

Thomas O’Connell, Orlaith Ryan, Sharon Cunningham and Sean McGarry. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Orlaith Ryan and Sharon Cunningham
Shorla Pharma
A female-led healthcare company that develops innovative pharmaceutical therapies to help cancer patients, Shorla is picking up prizes all over the place. Sharon Cunningham, who co-founded the company with Orlaith Ryan in 2018, was named Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur last year, beating 185 other entrants. Starting out with a grant from their local enterprise office, the Clonmel-based business is now in fundraising mode as it looks to create an innovative line of oncology products, with a particular interest in women’s and paediatric health. The founders, who met when they worked together at EirGen Pharma, are a bit of a dream team; Ryan’s background is in pharmaceutical product development, regulation and compliance, while Cunningham’s is in corporate finance, accounting and fundraising. Shorla is still in its prelaunch R&D phase, but its first few products have already been presented to the FDA in the US for approval.

TECH, BY CIARA O’BRIEN

Paul O’Hara and Niamh McKenna
ChangeX
When it comes to making an impact, ChangeX is certainly rising to the challenge. The social entrepreneurship platform offers an “impact as a service” model to track philanthropic investments in real time. It also connects people with proven ideas for building communities, and the resources to get started. Projects range from “green schools” and repair cafes to workshops on using tech safely and pop-up museums. In 2019, ChangeX signed up with the United Nations to create millions of projects in line with the organisation’s sustainability development goals, giving investors the chance to back them. The organisation is now in the process of raising $3 million to take ChangeX to the next level.

Mairin Murray and Ellen Ward
Tech for Good Dublin
The tech industry may have tarnished its image in recent years, but organisations such as Tech for Good may yet provide a bit of rehabilitation. In Ireland, that is down to Máirín Murray and Ellen Ward, who co-founded the Dublin chapter of Tech for Good in 2017. The movement is about using technology for positive social impact, and isn’t just for tech-focused people. It’s a voluntary group, focused on inclusivity, equality and responsible, trustworthy technology. Since its establishment in March 2017, the organisation and its co-founders have held workshops, meet-ups and other events looking at virtual reality, app development, smart cities, 3D printing for good, and saving the bees. Its next event takes place on January 9th, looking at nurturing mental health.

Shane Curran

Shane Curran
Evervault
The future of data privacy may be in the hands of a Dublin teenager. In 2019, 19-year-old Shane Curran raised $3.2 million for his start-up Evervault, a company developing a cloud-based secure processing product that could improve how apps manage privacy. Instead of companies seeing privacy as an issue of compliance, Evervault aims to provide an easier way for developers to bake data privacy in from the very beginning. App developers can deploy their apps in Evervault’s secure data privacy cages, letting Evervault take care of encryption without changing how they build their software. Customer data is secured and encrypted, which means developers fulfil their obligations to consumers, and consumers get peace of mind. Things may be at an early stage – Evervault is in the process of building its engineering team – but some big names are backing it. Tech investor Sequoia led the recent funding round, with Frontline Ventures, Kleiner Perkins and SV Angel also getting involved; 2020 should be an exciting year for the fledgling company.

Shane Hassett and Mariana Kobal of Wazp

Shane Hassett and Mariana Kobal
Wazp
Established in Tralee in Co Kerry in 2015, Wazp has one goal: to become the world’s largest supplier of 3D printed consumer products. It is already on the right road, helping develop Ikea’s first mass-produced 3D-printed product, a wall-hung hand, designed by celebrity stylist Bea Åkerlund. It has also worked with Next and Puma. Wazp’s platform allows large manufacturers to collaborate with 3D printing professionals to quickly bring new products to market. In 2019, the company raised €2 million in funding from backers including former Glanbia managing director John Moloney and serial tech investor Pa Nolan. Wazp is still a small operation, but it has big plans. That includes expansion of its manufacturing capability in the US, and strengthening its footprint in Europe.

Graham Curry
HandiCaddie
“Go with what you know” can be powerful advice. For Graham Curry, it was sticking with what he knew that led him to set up HandiCaddie, an online booking system for golf caddies. Twenty-year-old Curre was a schoolboy player and caddie at the Castlerock Golf Club near Coleraine, Co Derry, so the business management student knew well how the existing caddie booking systems were falling short. Not only was it extra admin work for club staff, but caddies were often overbooked, and there was no way for golfers to research their potential caddy before booking, so players may not get a caddie with the experience they need. Curry has a large target market for the solution: golf tourists, golf clubs and the caddies themselves, both in Ireland and abroad. The initial test of the product will come early this year in Northern Ireland and the Republic.

SPORT, BY MALACHY CLERKIN

Adam Idah. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Adam Idah
Soccer
While Troy Parrott and Aaron Connolly are the most obvious up-and-coming men in Irish international soccer, it wouldn’t take an awful lot for Adam Idah to join them. Still only 18, the Cork native made his debut for Norwich earlier this season in the League Cup, and on New Year’s Day came off the bench against Crystal Palace for his first taste of Premier League action. A couple of injuries or suspensions among those ahead of him would hand him a chance to really make a breakthrough. Tall and quick with tricky close control, Idah has been a stand-out player for Stephen Kenny’s Ireland under-21 team over the past six months. Nominally a striker, he’s at his best raiding from the wings, and should only improve as he grows into his frame.

Chloe Watkins. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Chloe Watkins
Hockey
Regardless of how they fare, the women’s hockey team are going to be the Irish story of the Tokyo Olympics. Teams tend to engage the casual sports fan in a way individuals can’t, so they’ll be household names for a week or so. With the best goalkeeper in the world in Ayesha McFerran at one end, Ireland’s big hurdle will be at the other, which is where Chloe Watkins’s creativity, vision and blinding stickwork comes in. Watkins is the best athlete on the Irish side, as well as its most skilful player. The grinding play-off win against Canada, for all the excitement that came attached, didn’t show any of the Irish attackers in their best light. There is more in them, both in open play and from short corners. We can presume McFerran will have a big Olympics – if Watkins matches her, a medal is no impossibility.

Ronan Kelleher. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Ronan Kelleher
Rugby
The tide looks to be turning Ronan Kelleher’s way; now it’s up to him to show he can stand steady on the board. With Rory Best retired and Sean Cronin starting to show some wear and tear, there is ground to be made for an up-and-coming Irish hooker. So far, nobody is coming up as quickly or as impressively as the 21-year-old Dubliner. Fast, elusive and built like a tank, Kelleher has impressed with his work-rate and all-round rugby nous since breaking into the Leinster line-up this season. The one thing he needs to improve is his line-out throwing. A biggie, admittedly, but he wouldn’t be the first Irish hooker to find the last piece in the jigsaw. If Kelleher can get it right, he has the potential to pencil himself in as the Irish number two for a very long time.

Natalya Coyle: Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Natalya Coyle
Modern pentathlon
The tyranny of the four-year Olympic cycle demands that this has to be Natalya Coyle’s time. She goes to Tokyo as a genuine medal hope in the quirky, niche sport of modern pentathlon. This will be her third Olympics, and she will be 29 when it’s over. It’s difficult to imagine she will subject herself to the extra four years it will take to carry her to Paris in 2024. So this is it, whether she likes it or not. She came from nowhere to finish ninth in London in 2012, and followed it up with a gutsy sixth in Rio in 2016. Since then, she has elevated herself into a consistent spot in the top five in the world, including a silver medal at a World Cup event in March 2019. She has been building towards Tokyo all the way along, and for two days in August, we’ll all become experts in fencing, show-jumping, swimming, pistol shooting and cross-country running.

Rhys McClenaghan. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Rhys McClenaghan
Gymnastics
There would be no more popular medallist at the Olympics than Rhys McClenaghan. The 20-year-old from Newtownards has hauled himself to the top of his chosen discipline by sheer force of will. Ireland never had anyone medal at a gymnastics World Championships until he did it in October 2019, taking bronze for his pommel horse routine in Stuttgart. He came within 0.1 of Olympic champion Max Whitlock in that final, nothing he can’t make up in the space of the next seven months. McClenaghan is a bubbly, engaging character who famously moved to Dublin as a 17-year-old to continue working with his coach Luke Carson. He has since won European and Commonwealth gold medals, and has poured everything into taking his chance in Tokyo. Whitlock beat him purely on the degree of difficulty of his routine in Stuttgart, so McClenaghan knows exactly what he has to do now.

FASHION AND BEAUTY, BY DEIRDRE MCQUILLAN AND LAURA KENNEDY

Eoin Greally

Eoin Greally
Photographer
The 22-year-old fashion photographer from Glenamaddy in Co Galway harboured an ambition for fashion from a young age, a passion ignited after he borrowed his mother’s digital camera (and broke it). Straight after his Leaving Certificate, Greally moved to Dublin in 2017 and started a general photographic course in DIT Grangegorman, but left after a year to freelance and learn on the job. Bringing a fresh, softer approach to his imagery using a Nikon D850, as well as shooting analog and film, he got his first job backstage at London Fashion Week in February shooting for Paul Costelloe and Pam Hogg. In the summer, his shoot with NCAD student Adam Farrell (now interning with Richard Malone in London) and model Appiok was a turning point, and led to a major commission for Harper’s Bazaar Arabia. “It went from a year forcing my sister to pose for me, to that,” he says. London will probably be where he will further his career, but there are many projects in the pipeline for 2020 in Dublin.

Cadhla and Sadhbh O’Reilly
Models
These twins from Lucan, both studying in Maynooth, who are 18 , attracted the attention of Aislinn Lawlor of NotAnotherAgency when a friend posted an image of them on Instagram. That was in November 2018, and they were signed up straight away. Their first job was with acclaimed photographer Perry Ogden, on the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland film called Fi, shown in Dublin, London, Paris and New York. “They were busy studying for their Leaving Cert, so we carefully selected the jobs for them so they were not overloaded,” says Lawlor. So far this year, the twins, who decided to work jointly, have shot for Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, been the faces of Cleo Prickett’s new collection and fashion film, appeared in Conor Clinch’s video of Dublin for Wonderland magazine, walked in the Arnott’s show and The Gloss Look the Business event, as well as shooting the Christmas campaign for Savida. “Modelling is like acting,” says Cadhla, “and we show diversity and different types of beauty. Our confidence has grown, and you need it to model.”

Sadhbh and Cadhla O’Reilly with Colin Burke. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Colin Burke
Knitwear designer
NCAD graduate Colin Burke from Co Galway was named Student Designer of the Year in 2016. He presented his first knitwear and crochet collection in July for Create in Brown Thomas. His innovative, ornately beautiful sweaters (one of which was made for Sinéad Burke for her appointment as a member of the Council of State) with elaborately worked sleeves revisit Aran motifs, and display a masterful control of the craft which he only started to learn while at college. Sustainable fashion, each piece in Donegal yarn is made by hand, either by Burke himself or with the help of Aran Island knitters. He does most of the crochet himself. In November, he was one of a number of Irish designers brought to New York by the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland that attracted the most attention. Samantha Barry, the Irish editor of Glamour magazine, bought one of his pieces, while the former head of JP Morgan not only purchased several sweaters, but now wants to promote him further in the US. He returns to the US next month.

Katie Ann McGuigan
Fashion designer
Print, texture, subcultural sources of inspiration, and an obsessive preoccupation with finish mark out the work of award-winning fashion designer Katie Ann McGuigan, whose work ethic is drawn from that of her parents, furniture makers in Newry. The fashion design graduate of the University of Westminster is now based in London and working on her autumn/winter 2020 collection. McGuigan has always emphasised sustainability in her collections, and all fabrics are sourced, printed and made locally to support other creatives and small businesses. “I want to grow organically and keep control of where my brand is produced – I never want to go to another country to produce my garments,” she says. Her clothes have appeared in Love magazine, Vogue Italia, Marie Claire Hong Kong, Metal magazine and Irish Tatler. Following a show in Paris a few months ago, McGuigan is now on the radar of netaporter.com, the world’s premier luxury fashion website.

Sadie Chowen of Burren Perfumery

Sadie Chowen and Ralph Doyle
Burren Perfumery
The Burren Perfumery, founded in 1972, may seem like an unorthodox choice for One To Watch in 2020, but the beauty company is unorthodox. Bought in 2001 by Sadie Chowen (her husband Ralph Doyle joined in 2005), the perfumery’s methods and philosophy were ahead of their time from the start. Based in Co Clare, they make and fragrance natural and organic cosmetics, candles and soaps, inspired by the unique Burren landscape. “We’re a different shape to most brands: we’re a manufacturer but we don’t live in an industrial estate. We’re a consumer brand, but we don’t really do wholesale. We’re a tourist destination, but our offering isn’t designed for tourists,” Chowen says. Sustainable methods and materials are a priority for them. Their big launch of 2020? Chowen has successfully composed a 100 per cent natural and organic wild rose perfume in recycled packaging, showing the industry heavy hitters how it should be done.

MUSIC, BY UNA MULLALLY

Luka Palm

Luka Palm
There are many new talents in Irish music landing seemingly fully formed, but watching this Dublin rapper’s evolution since his early releases and performances emphasises the value of progression. When Luka Palm released Pink Lady in 2015 aged just 16, it offered a glimpse at what could be. Since then, his craft has been honed, an incline that has also coincided with his growth as a confident and compelling live performer. Part of the Soft Boy Records crew – the most fizzing collective in contemporary Irish music – Palm’s collaborations with Kojaque gave us Green Diesel in 2019, a brilliant batch of yin and yang tracks shared by both artists. There’s also his relationship with the Mercury Music Prize-Nominated Slowthai, and the European tour the latter brought the Soft Boys on towards the end of last year, plus that blisteringly entertaining Boiler Room session. Intuitively understanding the magic of how timbre and flow need to coincide to make an impact, his brilliantly sullen lyricism is a vital pillar in Irish hip hop’s pantheon.

Byron Yeates of Radiant Love

Byron Yeates
This 50-strong list could be made up entirely of Irish DJs and electronic musicians; Saoirse, R. Kitt, OR:LA, ELLLL, Colin Perkins, Hubie Davison, Kettama, on and on. But for 2020 we’re looking forward to what Byron Yeates does next. Moving to Berlin and inventing a party that sets the city alight is a bit like teaching Hollywood how to produce a movie, but that’s just what Radiant Love – of which Yeates is a co-director – has done. Earning plaudits from the notoriously picky Berlin crowd, the party and record label has cut through the most forward-thinking clubbing city in the world. Yeates wrapped up their year playing Säule at club Berghain, and in 2020 will be touring in the US, and throwing a Radiant Love party in Ireland for the first time. Radiant Love’s success is also a reminder of the stellar contribution the Irish diaspora is making to Berlin’s fabled electronic music and clubbing life, and to dance floors across Europe.

Denise Chaila. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Denise Chaila
One of the most under-rated Irish tracks of 2019 came early, Denise Chaila’s brilliant Copper Bullet. The Limerick-based artist is elevating the scene in thrilling ways. Live, Chaila is electric, with energy that urges chests and fists forward. Her work with Rusangano Family introduced her to many, Duel Citizenship solidified her prowess, and there was also Sim Simma’s crazy Pass The Aux Cord mixtape, where Chaila stomped all over the track Man Like Me. If they’re smart, her presence and talent should send promoters and bookers scrambling this year to put her on their festival line-ups, and nab her for support slots for international acts. As the scene and industry grappled with contextualising Irish hip-hop, Chaila did it for us, rapping, “What’s Irish rap? It’s a sound that you can’t predict.” Exactly.

PowPig

PowPig
A curiosity of contemporary Irish music has been the re-emergence of guitar bands. Perhaps it demonstrates the scope of talent on this island right now, that there is genuinely room for everybody in every genre. PowPig is one of those bands that prompt a “what am I hearing?” reaction upon first listen; refreshing, liberated, funny, serious, and with a canny ability to search out sounds and artistic articulations of spirit without sticking to a single tone. The canny talent spotters at Other Voices and Body & Soul have already hosted them. Anna Marie Rooney, Laura Drennan, Andrea Mocanu and Leah O’Donnell are emerging at a time when the broader industry is obsessing over Irish guitar music, and are amongst the architects of those musical renovations.

Ema

Ema
The highlights of Ema’s 2019 were still coming as the year drew to a close. She played the now-legendary After Dark party at Other Voices in Dingle, on the back of a cracking set to thousands of ravers on Electric Picnic’s Anachronica stage, as well as a hugely enjoyable Boiler Room stint at Pygmalion in Dublin (which also deserves a mention as a club holding the fort for visiting and home-grown DJs), and frequent sets at Mango, a party at the Berlin nightclub Griessmuehle. This talented DJ is just one of a number of great artists with a show – Sauce – on Dublin Digital Radio, a platform and community that deserves a huge amount of kudos for holding things down in Dublin when city living can feel so hostile. In 2020, we’re looking forward to Ema’s own club night, Woozy, at the Kaizen Bar in Dublin, with plans to develop a record label later in the year.

POLITICS , BY JENNIFER BRAY

Saoirse McHugh

Saoirse McHugh
Green Party
In the early summer of 2019, Saoirse McHugh took political pundits by surprise when she nabbed 51,000 first-preference votes for the Green Party in the European elections. Although she fell short in the end, missing out on a seat in Midlands North West, the strong vote catapulted her into the public sphere – and sparky exchanges with Peter Casey during an RTÉ Prime Time election debate didn’t do her any harm either. This year, she is to stand in Mayo in the general election which is expected in months if not weeks, and the party is hopeful that she can take a seat in the Dáil. “Mayo definitely feels like it has been left behind in a lot of ways. People are looking for something a bit different, maybe something optimistic,” the 29-year-old Achill native says. “In the campaign, I plan to link rural decline with climate action… I believe both things have the same answers. We have a food system that doesn’t work for farmers or the environment. I look at Achill and I think so much climate action could have positive regenerative effects. As we move to renewable energy, why can’t it be community owned, or community based?”

Ciaran O’Carroll of Extinction Rebellion

Ciaran O’Carroll
Extinction Rebellion
Ciaran O’Carroll is a 32-year-old scientist and marketing executive who has become the face of the Irish arm of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement, a non-violent socio-political movement. While he currently works as a marketing executive for PwC Ireland, he has spent the last decade highlighting the climate crisis. This year, the movement will ramp up its efforts. “The Government’s ambition in tackling climate change is just so weak. Everyone from the head of the United Nations to leading world scientists have said that without radical action, if we don’t take dramatic steps, our grandchildren won’t have good or happy lives to live. In 2019 we staged two rebellions in Easter and September. You can be absolutely sure the rebellion will increase on this in 2020, and we will increase in size and support. But this is a numbers game. We need people to come out.”

Ruairí Ó Murchú. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Ruairí Ó Murchú
Sinn Féin
After a difficult outing during the local elections last May, the Sinn Féin party is looking to fresh faces to change their electoral fortunes. Fewer people have had a bigger impact in the Sinn Féin party than former leader Gerry Adams, but he will not be standing in the next general election. Party strategists are hoping Ruairí Ó Murchú can give a new voice to the constituency of Louth. In the 2019 local elections, he was elected on the first count with 1,423 votes. The 41-year-old lives in Dundalk and practises boxing, Brazilian jiu jitsu, kickboxing, running and mountain walking. “Gerry Adams walks around and he has a rock-star status, kids look to get selifes with him. Even people who don’t necessarily agree with him have come out to vote for him in the past. I’m excited, but no one wants to be the person who loses Gerry Adams’s seat,” he says. “It is possible the Government can still go all the way to May, but a lot of people are betting on February. So I will need to keep a lot of plates spinning. The focus will be on housing and health, but in areas such as urban Dundalk there is a huge issue with drug crime and a lack of services.” He will also be campaigning on insurance reform, which is likely to be a big topic this coming year.

Sharon Keogan
Independent
Sharon Keogan made history in 2019 by becoming the first woman in Ireland to take a council seat in two electoral areas in Meath. In 2020, she is setting her sights on the general election. If successful, it will be the first time that Meath East has returned an Independent TD. She will have to see off competition from the current Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty, the Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee, and Fianna Fáil’s Thomas Byrne. But she is undaunted. “I think people are ready for a change. If you’re looking for help and come to my door, you will get it.” She says people from all over the county, not just from her own ward, are now coming to her for help. She has set up a text-alert service for different communities to let them know what is happening in the area, and says her campaign will be a grassroots one.

Mary Newman Julian. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Mary Newman Julian
Fine Gael
One of the most outspoken voices of the 32nd Dáil is Fine Gael’s Kate O’Connell, who has frequently raised her head above the parapet on issues such as the health service, abortion care and the leadership of the party. While she will be fighting to keep her own seat in Dublin Bay South, the party is also hoping to get her similarly no-nonsense sister Mary Newman Julian into the Dáil this year. Newman Julian is a candidate in Tipperary, and says she will campaign in defence of rural Ireland and its way of life. As a vet, she says she will make sustainable agriculture and food production a focus of her campaign.

ACTIVISM, BY UNA MULLALLY

Trans Pride
One of the highlights in the 2019 queer calendar was the Trans Pride march in Dublin. An exercise in protest and visibility, it was also an act of solidarity within the LGBTQ+ community, a diverse cohort that so often forgets about the “T”. Trans Pride, along with the Alternative Pride demonstration in Dublin last year, provides a welcome critique of the Pride space, which has become corporate and sanitised in recent years. For the most part, the marriage equality movement did not incorporate issues of class, poverty, and race within its discourse. But as a younger generation grows up, more radical and subversive queer politics is to be welcomed.

Liz Carolan
Transparency campaigner
Liz Carolan’s work on the threat the internet poses to democracy came to light when she started the Transparent Referendum Initiative in 2018, advocating for more transparency in digital advertising during electoral campaigns in Ireland. Since then, she has founded Digital Action, which works to strengthen democratic rights in the digital age. Carolan has also hosted the Coffee and Circumvention events in Dublin, a series of panel discussions exploring digital disruption in democracy. With a general election coming up in 2020, no doubt her work will once again take centre stage.

Aoife Corcoran and Philip Crowe of Space Engagers. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Aoife Corcoran and Philip Crowe
Space Engagers
Over the past decade, as urban areas have continued to grow, so too has the conversation around what makes them sustainable. How can we future-proof our towns and cities? Founded by Aoife Corcoran and Philip Crowe, Space Engagers is a research and design collective of architects, social scientists, urban planners and others, working to make towns and cities more resilient. “It’s very clear that we are not integrating science and climate change impacts into planning,” Crowe says. “There needs to be more attention on bringing people along on these processes of change. It’s not going to work if you don’t bring everyone along.” Recently they have researched issues like vacancy in city buildings. A Limerick-based EU-funded project for 2020 is +CityxChange (positive city exchange), which involves taking a block of the city and trying to make it produce more energy than it consumes.

Siobhán O’Donoghue
Uplift
The power of the collective has led to massive social change in Ireland, but such power does not begin and end with elections or referendum campaigns. Uplift is an organisation that promotes social justice, and works to defend fairness and deepen democracy. “We know that people are not apathetic,” Uplift’s mission states, “but desire engagement in our democracy. People want to have a say in decisions that determine the type of society that we live in. By connecting with each other, we will help to create a stronger, more powerful voice and have much broader impact.” Uplift’s director, Siobhán O’Donoghue, has emerged as a leader in this arena, with boundless optimism and energy. MyUplift is a platform for petitions, running and delivering campaigns – from small scale local issues impacting communities, to national initiatives.

Talamh Beo
As the climate crisis escalates, agriculture is often framed as the baddie in the debate. Talamh Beo is a collective of farmers, growers and land-based workers organising to change food and agriculture systems in Ireland to make them more sustainable. Their mission is to build a new food and agricultural system in Ireland that is about quality land and affordable food. Recent actions include Soil In the City, which saw the group bring soil to the Department of Agriculture in Dublin in protest, demanding “a thriving rural landscape where farmers and communities work together to nurture the land for the future”. Respecting and organising farmers working in conscientious ways, and prioritising the regeneration of ecosystems, Talamh Beo is an example of a force for good in rural Ireland.

For young authors to watch in 2020, see Culture/Ticket on January 11th.

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