AONTAS Annual General Meeting 2021

28 Oct 2021
On Wednesday, 20th October, AONTAS held its 51st Annual General Meeting (AGM) online via Zoom. Over 90 members were present, including community education organisations, adult learners, Education and Training Board (ETB) representatives and nominees for the AONTAS Board.

The AGM acknowledged the immense effort of educators and learners over the last year, and considered how we can strengthen the adult learning community as a collective voice for educational equality. AONTAS members were encouraged to reflect on their achievements and invited to network with colleagues in the sector through breakout room discussions. Outgoing Chairperson Tara Farrell walked us through the AGM agenda. This included a presentation on AONTAS’ 2020 Financial Statements by Colm Kilgallon, Chair of the Audit and Risk Subcommittee; a keynote address by clinical psychologist and author Dr Eddie Murphy (RTE’s Operation Transformation); a virtual look at AONTAS’ achievements and outcomes in 2020; and a live online election for the AONTAS Board of Directors.

“We’ve learned how important connection is.”

- Tara Farrell, former AONTAS Chairperson and CEO of Longford Women’s Link

A Thank You to Outgoing AONTAS Chairperson - Tara Farrell

This year was very special as our wonderful Chairperson, Tara Farrell, completed her term of office at the AGM. AONTAS Board members and colleagues expressed their thanks to Tara for her stellar leadership as AONTAS Chairperson since 2018. The video below features a short recording of their thanks. 

"Tara was an excellent Chair and is a brilliant leader with fantastic communication skills. A true visionary.”

– AONTAS Member

AONTAS Board of Directors - Election Results

John D’Arcy, Director of The Open University (OU) in Ireland, was elected as Chairperson at the AONTAS AGM.

“It really is an honour to have been elected and I’ll give my all to repay your trust in me and to support the important work that we will do over the next period of time to support learners and learner organisations across Ireland."

- John D’Arcy, Director of The Open University in Ireland


AONTAS also welcomed newly elected members of the Board from Education and Training Boards (ETBs), community education organisations and the NGO sector from across the island of Ireland:

AONTAS members also elected adult learners Anna Jakobek and Daniel Kenny, and individual member Collette Ainscough to the AONTAS Board.

For more information about the work of the AONTAS Board of Directors, click here.

Keynote Address by Dr Eddie Murphy

AONTAS was pleased to offer members this opportunity to take time to reflect on the incredible and critical work they do. Dr Eddie Murphy’s session focused on how education and AONTAS members’ work links to positive psychology. The session was well received by members as they actively engaged through Zoom’s chat function. Dr Murphy shared his own adult learning story and commended members for their amazing work, especially in the face of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He further encouraged members to appreciate the real impact of their work on the wellbeing and lives of adult learners across Ireland.

“You are seed planters and you’re planting confidence, you’re planting growth, you’re planting wellbeing. But who’s doing that for you? Are you doing that for yourself? Are you prioritising your own self care?"

- Keynote Speaker Dr Eddie Murphy, Clinical Psychologist 


Crucially, Dr Murphy described the importance for the members present to prioritise their own self-care.

AONTAS Achievements and Outcomes in 2020

AONTAS shared a video of highlights from the Annual Report 2020. AONTAS CEO Niamh O’Reilly introduced this video, describing 2020 as:

“A year where we collectively faced the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic brought about, particularly with regard to disrupting adult and community education.”

You can watch the video, which gives a brief overview of our key areas of work in 2020, below.

From starting the year off with the in-person Adult Learners’ Festival 2020, which saw 16,320 attendees at 340 local events, to moving the National FET Learner Forum online and conducting the first ever CEN Census, the Annual Report 2020 captures how we have adapted and responded during the pandemic. Through the STAR Awards 2020, 7 adult learning projects and 21 shortlisted projects were celebrated at a vibrant ceremony hosted at The Law Society of Ireland in Dublin. We hosted 65 events including 34 weekly membership update and engagement webinars. Through advocacy efforts including chairing 21 Mitigating Educational Disadvantage Working Group meetings, AONTAS successfully advocated for the largest single investment in community education, resulting in the announcement by Minister Simon Harris TD of an €8 million Mitigating against Educational Disadvantage Fund (MAEDF). Communications took on even greater importance as we sought to stay connected with members while working and learning remotely. AONTAS communications outputs reached over 5 million people across print, radio and online media. The Annual Report 2020 encompasses the breadth of the work we achieved in the sector.

The report is available to download here and below.

During 2020, AONTAS worked to mitigate educational disadvantage through leadership by proactively responding to the challenges and opportunities presented, and to do so in solidarity with our members and partners. AONTAS will continue to bring forward learnings from 2020 and steadfastly strive to address the impact of COVID-19 on adult learners. Members responded to this part of the AGM by referring to the impact and energy of AONTAS’ work across Ireland.

“A huge thank you and acknowledgement of the hard work of AONTAS staff particularly during the pandemic. The broad range of webinars supported us to continue our work and minimise the isolation.”

- AONTAS Member

Thank you to all of our members and guests who participated in this online event.

The AONTAS team looks forward to meeting members again in person. Please stay up to date on our future activities by visiting and our Events webpage. For regular updates, follow @aontas on Twitter.

We would also like to thank our members, the AONTAS Board and adult learners who participated in our work throughout 2020. It is through your engagement, support and commitment that we able to complete this work.


AONTAS Annual Report 2020:

AONTAS Strategic Plan 2019 – 2022:

AONTAS Upcoming Events: