27 Jan 2020

Former AONTAS CEO, Berni Brady leads the tributes to Emer Dolphin, a dedicated adult and community education leader, practitioner and activist

L-R Emer Dolphin, Willie O’Dea TD, Berni Brady (Circa, 1998)

Emer Dolphin. 1957-2020 A Tribute

It is with great sadness that I write this short tribute to Emer Dolphin, my friend and colleague who died on January 20th 2020. I first met Emer in the eighties when I was Director of the then Dublin Adult Literacy Scheme. She joined us as a volunteer literacy tutor having returned from teaching in Zimbabwe. It was the beginning of a long and varied career in adult and community education.

                                                                                          L-R, Emer Dolphin, Willie O’Dea TD, Berni Brady (Circa, 1998)

Emer was passionate about social justice and the right to learn throughout life and, being an ardent feminist was particularly interested in women’s education. During the nineties Emer was one of the architects of the AONTAS led women’s community education movement and was instrumental in achieving much needed funding through the European New Opportunities for Women Initiative. Both the recognition and resources were hard won in a period where there was neither. Emer made a huge contribution to the work of AONTAS including three years as President.  Working with me and other colleagues we created the first AONTAS Strategic Plan, A Vision for the Future, in 1998, beginning a period of hope and development with the publication of the seminal White Paper on Adult Education (2000), Learning for Life. After AONTAS, Emer expanded her own activities and through her consultancy work assisted many community groups in their growth and development. 

As a friend Emer was always positive with a great sense of humour, fun and loyalty. She was a bundle of energy, fearless, straight talking but always with empathy. This short tribute does little justice to her passionate soul but her legacy lives on in the work of the AONTAS Community Education Network. Codladh sámh, a chara.

Berni Brady (AONTAS CEO 1992-2015)