President appoints seven new members to Council of State

New council members include advocates Sinéad Burke and Dr Sindy Joyce

President Michael D Higgins has announced seven new appointments to the Council of State.

The President can appoint up to seven members who join current and former taoisigh, former presidents Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese, the chief justice Mr Justice Frank Clarke and the Attorney-General Séamus Woulfe SC in advising him on matters such as whether to refer a Bill to the Supreme Court.

They have the authority to provide for the temporary exercise of the duties of the president, in the event that these cannot be exercised by either the president or the presidential commission.

The new members announced on Thursday include disability advocate Sinéad Burke and Traveller rights advocate Dr Sindy Joyce.


Educator and advocate Ms Burke consults within the fashion, architecture and design industries to ensure that spaces and products are accessible to all. According to British Vogue, she was one of the 25 most influential women in 2018.

Dr Joyce has a BA in English and history and a MA in sociology and she recently became the first Mincéir in Ireland to graduate with a PhD which looked at young Travellers’ experiences of racism.

Other appointees include Dr Cara Augustenborg who is a Fellow in environmental policy at University College Dublin. She holds a doctorate in environmental science and engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and conducted her research in agri-environmental science at Teagasc as a Fulbright Scholar and Wash Fellow.

Joining them will be Sean Ó Cuirreáin, a former journalist, broadcaster and deputy head of RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta. He was appointed as language commissioner in 2004 and was re-appointed to the position in 2010.

He resigned in 2013 citing the widespread failure of Government departments and public bodies to ensure the right of citizens to use Irish when interacting with State agencies. He was dissatisfied with the promotion of language rights in the Irish-language community and in the Gaeltacht.

The other three appointees include Dr Mary Murphy, senior lecturer on the BA politics and active citizenship in Maynooth University; Rev Dr Johnston McMaster, a Methodist minister and adjunct assistant professor at the Irish School of Ecumenics at Trinity College Dublin; and Maurice Malone, chief executive of the Birmingham Irish Association.