MS Ireland is governed by a Board of voluntary members. These members have a wide range of experience and skill. Some have MS themselves or have family members with MS. Others have long careers in business, social services and other areas. The Board promotes the vision and aims of the Society and charges the Chief Executive to meet these aims through the various departments, services and resources of the Society.
Mr. Paddy Stronge, Chairman
Paddy worked for over 40 years in Bank of Ireland and since his retirement he has been involved in training and consultancy both in Ireland and overseas. He has lectured in Finance for the Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business, the Irish Institute of Bankers and the National College of Ireland. He is a qualified accountant and has been a director of a number of companies. He was financial adviser to the Dublin Simon Community for many years. He has also contributed articles in national newspapers on banking and finance matters. Paddy would like to assist in the activities of MS Ireland particularly as some family members have been diagnosed with MS.
Mr Robin Bradley
Robin Bradley is a highly experienced company director and business transformation project manager. He is an ex banker who spent over thirty years analysing SME’s and large Corporate clients. He is a former member of the board of the Irish Credit Bureau. He brings experience in business management and strategic planning. He has worked abroad for many years and currently is a self employed financial consultant. Robin holds an MSC in organisational behaviour from Trinity College Dublin, a B.A in business studies from West London University and is a Qualified Financial Adviser from the Institute of Bankers in Dublin.
Robin is married with two children, living in Dublin.
Robin has a sister who is in long term care and is keen to lend his skills to MS Ireland which does so much to improve peoples lives.
Ms. Noelle Burke
Noelle Burke is the HR Director for RSA Insurance in Ireland. She is a Human Resources Professional with over 16 years’ experience in Technology, Manufacturing and Financial Services industries in Ireland & EMEA. She has a Masters in Strategic HR leadership and believes her greatest learnings have been from some of the brilliant leaders and mentors she has met throughout her career. She has enjoyed years of fun and success creating people focussed HR Strategies and delivering results through others.
Noelle has been involved in activities and fund raising for a number of communities and charities. She is married to Keith and lives in Kildare.
Noelle became interested in MS Ireland after a number of people in her life shared how their lives had been impacted by an MS diagnosis. She is keen to contribute in a positive way to allow those living with MS in Ireland flourish and reach their potential.
Mr. Thomas Cronin
Tom was married to Ellen for 27 years. Ellen lived with MS for 21 years and she sadly passed away in 2004. Tom aims to apply his personal experience of living with a Person with MS, to the decisions being made at Board level and would aim thereby to improve the quality of life for People with MS, whenever possible.
Tom has one daughter and lives in Mallow, Co. Cork. He is a retired telephone technician having worked with Eircom for 37 years. Tom is very active in the community. He is a member of the Cork City Branch of MS Ireland. He is former Chairman of the Branch. He is currently President of Mallow Credit Union, is a member of the local Board of MABS (Money Advise and Budgeting Service) in Mallow. He also sits on a committee dealing with dementia care and awareness in the community. Tom recently completed a Certificate in Credit Union Governance from UCC.
Ms. Marcella Flood, Deputy Chairperson
Marcella is a Director in the operations group at Microsoft Ireland. She is a passionate people manager with over 25 years' experience in Financial Services, Operations and Technology. She started her career in the technology group at Bank of Ireland, but has also been involved in 3 start-ups, before moving to Microsoft in 2010. She completed a Bachelor's Degree in Business with University College Dublin in 1988 and a Master Degree in Business Administration with UCD Smurfit School in 1998.
Marcella is married with two children, living in South County Dublin.
Marcella is keen to contribute to the Societies aims of supporting those living with MS to live positive and active lives.
Mr. Ian MacDougald
Ian MacDougald is the Country Manager for Vifor Pharmaceuticals in Ireland. He has worked in commercial roles in the pharmaceutical industry for over 15 years and has extensive knowledge of the Irish healthcare system from interacting with various hospital specialties and primary care healthcare providers.
He studied science at University College Dublin, before taking a Masters in International Business Administration in Bournemouth University. He also holds a graduate diploma in Management Practice from NUI Galway.
Ian has been a member of the Sustainability Committee (sub-committee of the Board of MS Ireland since 2015).
Ian is married with two children and lives very close to the MS Care Centre.
Mr. Rory Mulcahy SC
Rory Mulcahy is a Senior Counsel, dealing mainly with commercial, construction and planning disputes, and public law cases. He has also acted frequently for regulatory authorities, such as the Medical Council and the Nursing Board, in fitness to practise inquiries.
He studied at Trinity College, Dublin, before taking the Barrister-at-Law degree at the King's Inns. He also holds an LLM in Human Rights and Discrimination Law from Queen's University, Belfast, and a Diploma in Arbitration from University College, Dublin. He was called to the Bar in 1998 and was made a Senior Counsel in 2014.
He lives in Dublin, and is married with three children.
Mr. Maurice O’Connor
Maurice has twice experienced MS in his immediate and extended family. His brother Kieran (RIP, 2008) was diagnosed with MS in the early 1990’s and as a child his family often visited a cousin of his father’s who also had MS.
Since taking voluntary severance from a senior management position in ESB in 2012, Maurice has worked as a volunteer with MS Ireland in its South East Regional Office in Kilkenny. Maurice is also a member of the Secretariat of the Kilkenny County Public Participation Network.
While in ESB, Maurice, a Civil Engineer by training, held down a wide variety of roles such as IT project management, commercial and property portfolio management, health and safety management and procurement strategy. Maurice also trained and practiced as a business coach in ESB.
Maurice became a member of MSI’s Governance Committee in 2014.
He also loves playing, recording and listening to music, and has recently taken courses on disability equality and teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL).
Ms. Anne Restan (Bio and photo for insertion)
Ms. Mary Sheahan Lonergan
Mary has been a member of MSI since 1984 and in those years has been elected to various roles within the Fermoy branch, presently she is the Chairperson.
She is a “hands on” individual & thrives when organising, publicising and marketing the Fermoy Branch fundraising events. She is always looking for new ways to engage with the public, encouraging volunteerism & at the same time raising the profile of the society.
Mary is passionate about people’s ‘well-being’ & the society’s aim for supporting all those living with MS to live active & positive lives. Her connection & (involvement) within the local community affords her the ideal opportunity to promote, educate, encourage people to participate and engage with the society.“ The society has to have the necessary resources to function, we must be aware of opportunities, and we must also create opportunities, because standing still is not an option if we are to deliver the services & supports our members need and deserve”
Mary is a Kerry native, lives in Fermoy, Co. Cork.
In our ‘MS & Money' series this week’s blog is from Willeke Van Eeckhoutte. She looks at money, employment and early retirement. Having MS means that unpredictability is part of your life. Like Emma wrote in her first piece about MS and money, “Having MS can affect our ability to earn. Not earning can cause a financial crisis and a financial crisis can affect our peace of mind causing great stress and emotional wobbles.” On my day of diagnosis, my neurologist at Beaumont Hospital, said, “From now on you should change your lifestyle, and work.” At first, changing my lifestyle was not an option. I never realised, though, that on a physical level, my body had already decided for me. Stress and anxiety flood your mind, and immediately you think, “Will I have to give up my job, and if so, for how long?” Retiring from work isn’t an easy question because you don’t want to become a liability to your colleagues or yourself, so it brings a lot of ‘What ifs…” and “I don’t want to lose my…” In fact, it took me a good while trying to find a definitive answer to that question. At some stage, the level of fatigue, trigeminal neuralgia, and other symptoms became a hurdle too many, and even sitting down in front of a computer for an hour in the office had me crying of facial and eye pain. Again, my body had decided for me even though my mind didn’t want to give up any freedom working had given me. Being on a disability allowance or invalidity pension teaches you how to be creative with money. Absolutely, you want to remain financially independent for as long as possible. There are many things to consider, i.e. will you be able to live on the level of income for example, which social welfare benefits you might avail of, can you still do some work or what is the outcome of your occupational doctor’s exams, etc. The prospect of having to rely on a weekly social welfare income is daunting. So many things depend on that social welfare payment because life in Ireland is expensive, and money seems to fly out the front door faster than it is coming in. Bills and rent require rescheduling, and you need to learn to squeeze as much money out of what is left. You can sometimes swap Debenhams for Penney’s or the weekly take away for a monthly one and instead lose weight with healthier food. Try and cut credit cards in two or phone a money advice line that can help you sort out outstanding bills, credit cards or bank loans. If you feel that giving up work is the only option left, do some research beforehand on the Citizens Information website where you can find a checklist for people with long-term illness or disabilities, be aware though that some benefits are means tested while others are not. If you need a hand filling in paperwork related to benefits, you can find a Citizen Information Centre here. Being retired has been the blessing my MS needed. I still have lots of trouble with fatigue despite using several treatment options and trigeminal neuralgia remains an ungentle reminder of my illness. What has been a blessing is that whenever I now feel I need to withdraw to rest because of stabbing facial pain or fatigue, I can do so without an employer telling me to go back to work. It sounds so simple, but it has changed life for the better. Financially, life is a challenge. For example, buying luxurious coats, shoes, and handbags, or buying an expensive new laptop or jetting off somewhere far, far away, now those things belong in the past. But, life is about adaptation. And as time goes on, you begin to realise that maybe you should have retired sooner. It didn't turn me into a wealthy, female version of Richard Branson, but it has given me another chance of starting over. Yes, with less money in the bank, but emotionally stronger and richer than I ever thought possible. If you want to read more of Willeke’s own blog, please check Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me and Twitter
Life Hacks The video is about ‘life hacks’. Life hacks are tips or tricks that help to make everyday tasks easier. For the filming, we’ll need you to hold up a card to camera and record your voice saying the tip (off camera), we’ll provide you with the tip and the card. We need people who can take part in a few hours of filming in Cork city or Dublin either on these dates: Cork - 9th or 15th May Dublin - 8th or 17th May The video will be released for World MS Day on Wednesday, 31st May. Get in touch If you’re interested in taking part please email Aoife Kirwan at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be in touch to arrange the date and confirm the venue. Thanks!
Exploring Parents' Experiences of a Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis in their young adult sons/daughters Aim of Study Volunteers are needed to take part in a study that aims to explore the lived experiences of parents presented with an MS diagnosis of their young adult sons/daughters. Who can participate? Parents of young adults aged between 20-40, with a diagnosis of any stage of MS are invited to participate. What do I have to do? As a participant in this study, you will be asked to take part in a private and confidential interview with the researcher, at a day, time and location most convenient for you. Your participation would involve one meeting with the researcher that will last approximately 60 minutes. Participation in this study is completely voluntary. All queries are confidential. Get in touch For more information or to volunteer for this study please contact: Ciara O’Meara, Masters Health Sciences (Nursing Education) Student, School of Nursing & Midwifery, NUIG at email@example.com This study has been reviewed and ethical approval received through the National University of Ireland, Galway.
On 6 April, the Government released a report “Make Work Pay”, designed to help people with disabilities and long term illnesses to achieve their ambitions and find work, and to remove the many barriers which prevent them from doing so. MS Ireland made a submission as part of the consultation process during the development of this report. The report was launched by Leo Varadkar, Minister for Social Protection; Simon Harris, Minister for Health and Finian McGrath, Minister with Special Responsibility for Persons with Disabilities at the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle. The report makes 24 recommendations, several of which will be acted on immediately. Key recommendations include the following: People with a long-term disability payment who move off the payment to get a job will retain their Free Travel Pass for a period of five years Significantly raising the earnings level disregard for people in receipt of Disability Allowance or Partial Capacity Benefit when assessing eligibility for a Medical Card Dispensing of the requirement that work must be of a ‘rehabilitative nature’ to qualify for the Medical Card and Disability Allowance earnings disregard A Fast-Track return to Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension, the Medical Card and other supports for people where employment does not work out Development of a ‘Ready Reckoner’ to calculate the net benefits and financial implications of working MS Ireland warmly welcomes many of the recommendations in the report and we are pleased to note that a number of the points made in our submission have been addressed. In particular we welcome the recognition of episodic and unpredictable conditions such as MS and the need to make it easier to reapply for supports if forced to suddenly withdraw from the workforce. We are also very pleased to note the focus on the Medical Card and how vital this is as a support for people with disabilities and long-term illnesses. The threat of losing the Medical Card can be a powerful disincentive to taking up employment and it is very positive to see the Government acknowledging this and taking measures to address it. The report also makes a number of recommendations about communications from the Department of Social Protection and the role of the Intreo Centres in particular. MS Ireland had noted in our submission that there is a need for more training for Intreo Centre staff on working with people with long term illnesses and disabilities, a need for better systems for the Department to communicate key information to disability organisations so they can disseminate it to their members, and the need for named case workers in Intreo Centres to avoid people having to repeat information and processes. All of these points have been addressed in the recommendations. Whilst the report is broadly extremely positive, some concerns still remain - whilst the proposal to raise the earnings disregard for Medical Card applicants on Disability Allowance and Invalidity Pension is very welcome, the Government also needs to consider that people who do not qualify for these payments may still struggle on low incomes and rely heavily on the Medical Card. Therefore there is still a need for a more flexible Medical Card application process that takes account of the additional costs of living with a disability or long term illness. Further reading You can read the full report here The Executive Summary (including the recommendations) can be found here Read MS Ireland’s submission to the Make Work Pay consultation
'This weeks blog is from Lucinda Russell. She takes us on a journey of clinics, friendship and what ifs? Read on for a fresh take on the day.' In the early days of my diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis in 2011, everything about my neurology appointments in Beaumont Hospital caused me anxiety – from getting lost en-route and then kicking myself for driving through the city, instead of the motorway, out of fear of accidentally driving into the Dublin Port Tunnel and orientating myself within the hospital, to the cost of the car-parking. Now, the MRI and follow up appointments are just another date in the diary. Until the day arrives. It’s here. I’m early. Without thought, I make my way to Clinic B. Neurology and the Fracture Clinic share a registration desk. It seems like an odd match, brains and broken bones. Still, it’s a people-watchers dream. The logistics of it all is like an awkward choreography, as patients hobble, or are wheeled about with various strappings and supports, making their way to somewhere else. Despite the busyness of the place, there is a comforting sense of calm. The linoleum on the floor is remarkably shiny and the space is bright and airy. There is a lot to focus on, to distract myself about why I’m here. I’m experiencing a period of really good health and the appointment almost seems unnecessary. I don’t have time for this and I don’t have time to be sick. I am called before my scheduled time. I abandon the blog post that I had started to tap into my phone. I am greeted by a neurologist whom I haven’t met previously. No student doctors shadowing this time. Like all of the neurology team that I have encountered to date, this woman is warm and friendly, compassionate. She is thorough in her physical examination of me, testing my strength and reflexes. It feels like I am as strong as I ever was. She is concerned that I haven’t had any recent blood tests and I feel silly saying that I forgotten to organise these in advance of our meeting - it is in my best interest after all. An award for ‘Patient Taking Charge’, I will not win. The neurologist talks me tells through the results of my recent MRI scan. No new significant lesions, but some minor ones. ‘How minor is minor’?, I ask. She excuses herself and says that she will speak with the senior neurologist. The minutes seem long now. My head spins. ‘Is there something she doesn’t want to tell me? News that she would prefer her senior delivered'? I think of My Lovely Friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer very recently. She’s the same age as me, also with a young family and largely managing on her own. She’s a stunner. The type of girl who turned the heads of the handsome guys in college. I recall our phone call when she tells me her news and the plans for the next few months. Chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.She tells me that she has bought a wig. I can’t remember what I said to her, but I know that I cursed a lot. I think about her children and I think of mine. The uncomfortable 'what if'? questions they ask that I'd prefer not answer. I worry about how we will cope if I could no longer work to financially support them. I have thoughts of people I know with advanced MS and what an unforgiving disease this can be. I wonder if I could still feel feminine if I looked, moved, or sounded differently. I think about My Lovely Friend’s upcoming surgery and how invasive it will be on her womanliness. A strong willed lady, she has a plan, will roll her sleeves up and get through this. I wish I lived closer, so I could offer her more practical support. The neurologist returns and the news is good. Really good. The minor lesions on my scan are old, in the sense that they were visible on last year’s scan. There are no new lesions. Those that are there have shrunk. The drugs are doing what they are intended to do, although it's not the case for other people. It's as good as it can be. I can feel the relief in my body as she completes the paperwork and refers me to haematology for blood tests. My needle aversion hasn’t lessened and I need to lie down. The blood flows easily. The sun shines. Today is a good day.
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