Council of State nominees unveiled


President Michael D Higgins has announced his seven nominees to the Council of State.

During his presidential campaign, Mr Higgins said if elected president he would make sure the council was “representative in an inclusive sense”.

The President can convene the council to consider legislation. Aside from the seven appointed members, former presidents, taoisigh and chief justices sit on the council, along with “ex officio” members including the Taoiseach and Tánaiste.

The presidential nominees are former Supreme Court judge Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, senior solicitor with Free Legal Advice Centres Michael Farrell; Prof Deirdre Heenan of the University of Ulster; Prof Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, Professor Emeritus in History at NUI Galway; a community activist and social entrepreneur Ruairí McKiernan; Irish emigrant rights campaigner Sally Mulready and Prof Gerard Quinn of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at the NUI Galway School of Law.

The "ex officio" members of the Council of State are Taoiseach Enda Kenny; Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore; Chief Justice Ms Justice Susan Denham, Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett, Seanad Cathaoirleach Senator Patrick Burke, President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns and Attorney General Máire Whelan.

The other members are former presidents Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson, former taoisigh Liam Cosgrave, John Bruton, Albert Reynolds, Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen; and former chief justices John L Murray, Thomas Finlay and Ronan Keane

Áras an Uachtaráin has provided biographies of the new nominees:

Michael Farrell

Michael Farrell is the senior solicitor with Free Legal Advice Centres. He was involved in the Civil Rights movement in Northern Ireland and is a former co-chairperson of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. Mr Farrell was a member of the Irish Human Rights Commission from 2001 until last year and is currently the Irish member of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance. He is also a member of the Human Rights Committee of the Law Society.

Professor Deirdre Heenan

Deirdre Heenan is Provost and Dean of Academic Development for the University of Ulster’s Magee Campus, where she a member of the Senior Management Team. She was appointed to a Lectureship in Policy Studies at the University of Ulster in 1995 and became a Professor in 2007. Prof Heenan is a co-founder and former co-director of the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey which has become a key statistical resource for schools, academics and policy makers. Her particular areas of expertise are devolution, education and social care.

In 2008-9, Prof Heenan spent nine-months working as a policy adviser in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister. Last year she was appointed by Health Minister, Edwin Poots, to join the five strong panel of advisers to assist with the Review of Health and Social Care Services in Northern Ireland.

Judge Catherine McGuinness

Judge Catherine McGuinness was called to the Bar in 1977 and to the Inner Bar in 1989. She was a member of Seanad Éireann from 1979-82 and was a previous member of the Council of State from 1988-90. She served as a Judge of the Circuit Court from 1994-1996, of the High Court from 1996-2000 and of the Supreme Court from 2000-2006. From 2005-2011, she was President of the Law Reform Commission. She is currently the Adjunct Professor of Law at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Professor Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh

Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh is Professor Emeritus in History and former Dean of Arts and Vice-President of the National University of Ireland, Galway. A former member of the Senate of the NUI and of the Irish-US Fulbright Commission, and a former Cathaoirleach of Údarás na Gaeltachta, Professor Ó Tuathaigh has published widely – in Irish and English – on many aspects of modern Irish history.

Ruairí McKiernan

Ruairí McKiernan is a community activist and social entrepreneur. He is the founder of the national youth organisation He is also a founder and organiser of the Possibilities 2011 Social Summit. Mr McKiernan is a business graduate and is a recipient of numerous awards including a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Award, a Net Visionary Award, and a Junior Chambers International Award. After 8 years as CEO of, he recently stepped down to develop new social innovations.

Sally Mulready

Sally Mulready has made a huge contribution to the Irish emigrant community in Britain over many decades. She was born in Dublin and moved to Hackney, London with her mother in the 1970s.

She is a local Labour councillor in the London Borough of Hackney since 1997. In her former capacity as the Secretary of the Federation of Irish Societies, Ms Mulready was involved in securing the Irish Government’s agreement for the creation and funding of five Survivor Outreach Services in Britain. She is also a founder member of the Irish Women’s Survivors Network and Director of the Irish Elderly Advice Network. She was prominently involved in the campaign to free the Birmingham Six and is currently active in the Magadelene Launderies issue.

Professor Gerard Quinn

Professor Gerard Quinn is the Director of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at the NUI Galway School of Law. The Centre is part of a new Lifecourse Policy Research Institute at the University which researches policy innovation covering age, child and family as well as disability. He is a graduate of UCG (BA, LL.B.), was called to the Irish Bar in 1983 and holds a masters (LL.M.) and doctorate in law (S.J.D.) from Harvard Law School. His specialization is international and comparative disability law and policy.

Professor Quinn led the delegation of Rehabilitation International (RI) at the UN Working Group that elaborated the new UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He has worked in the European Commission and held a number of posts such as Director of Research at the Law Reform Commission and First Vice President of the European Committee of Social Rights (Council of Europe). He is a former member of the Irish Human Rights Commission.

He voluntarily participates on a number of international boards dealing with disability law and policy issues.