1 Jul 2022

AONTAS announces Dearbháil Lawless as new Chief Executive Officer

Dearbháil Lawless smiling facing the camera, following her announcement as new AONTAS CEO

Following a competitive open recruitment process led by AONTAS Chairperson John D’Arcy, with applications received from a wide range of national and international candidates, we are delighted to announce Dearbháil Lawless has been appointed CEO of AONTAS.

Dearbháil is an experienced and passionate advocate and adult educator. She joined AONTAS as EU Project Officer in 2018 and became Head of Advocacy in 2020. She has represented the organisation at national and international levels, including at the recent UNESCO CONFINTEA VII conference as an Irish national delegate. Dearbháil is Vice-President of the European Association for the Education of Adults (EAEA), on the Board of Directors in Dublin 8 Community Education Centre, and the Editorial Board of European Lifelong Learning Magazine.

Before joining AONTAS Dearbháil was on the senior management team in Exchange House Ireland National Travellers Service, designing and leading multiple national and European-funded projects on adult learning, mental health, domestic violence, and social inclusion. Dearbháil lectured on adult education in DCU, where she was shortlisted for the President’s Award for Excellence in Academic Teaching. She has also taught in Marino Institute of Education, and in range of community education and Further Education and Training settings, working with a diversity of adult learners and practitioners.

AONTAS Chairperson John D’Arcy commented, “I am delighted that Dearbháil Lawless has accepted the role of CEO of AONTAS. The Board was impressed by the calibre and range of candidates applying for this important role. I am certain that Dearbháil will continue to lead and deliver the excellent work that AONTAS provides for adult learners and the organisations that supports them across Ireland. This is an important time for AONTAS as we conclude our current five-year strategy and begin work on our next one. The new strategy will be developed within changing economic, social and political contexts in Ireland, Europe and globally, and Dearbháil is ideally placed to lead AONTAS at this pivotal time for adult and community education.”

Dearbháil said, “It is an honour and privilege to be appointed as CEO of AONTAS. The adult and community education sector is built on the principles of social justice, inclusion and feminism. AONTAS is representative of that political and social commitment. We believe in learning and collective action that gives people hope, freedom, voice, and collective understanding. AONTAS has been a key pillar in this sector for over 50 years. I am looking forward to leading the organisation on to the next phase of its journey and working in partnership with our team, Board, members, learners and the sector.”

Dearbháil’s role will begin on 1st July 2022, ensuring a comprehensive handover from outgoing CEO Dr Niamh O’Reilly.