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22 activists to watch in 2022: From countering racism to saving the planet, the people fighting for change in Ireland

They fight racism and prejudice; lobby for improved conditions for asylum seekers; promote body positivity and mental-health awareness; help people with disabilities get paid work, try to save our planet, and do so much more  here are the change-makers to watch this year

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Climate Activist Beth Doherty from Fingal outside Leinster House. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Climate Activist Beth Doherty from Fingal outside Leinster House. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Mary-Kate Slattery launching the 2020 Irish Life helath schools' fitness challenge. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Mary-Kate Slattery launching the 2020 Irish Life helath schools' fitness challenge. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Bulelani Mfaco, pictured in Limerick City. Pic: Don Moloney

Bulelani Mfaco, pictured in Limerick City. Pic: Don Moloney

Cora Kearney photographed in her home in Dungarvan. Photo; Mary Browne

Cora Kearney photographed in her home in Dungarvan. Photo; Mary Browne

Pictured is Orna Murray from Tramore, Co. Waterford. Photo: Patrick Browne

Pictured is Orna Murray from Tramore, Co. Waterford. Photo: Patrick Browne

Robbie Lawlor and Veda Lady, hosts of the Poz Vibe podcast

Robbie Lawlor and Veda Lady, hosts of the Poz Vibe podcast

Mental Health activist and entrepreneur Michal Sikora pictured in Cork city. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Mental Health activist and entrepreneur Michal Sikora pictured in Cork city. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Yara Alagha, parliamentary researcher in Seanad Éireann for the Civic Engagement Group, and board member for Women for Election Ireland

Yara Alagha, parliamentary researcher in Seanad Éireann for the Civic Engagement Group, and board member for Women for Election Ireland

Sarah Murphy, award-winning fashion designer who has fundraised for the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and also worked as a patient-advocacy advisor with the National Eating Disorder Clinical Team

Sarah Murphy, award-winning fashion designer who has fundraised for the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and also worked as a patient-advocacy advisor with the National Eating Disorder Clinical Team

Ashley Chadamoyo Makombe, writer, producer, and co-founder of The GALPAL Collective.

Ashley Chadamoyo Makombe, writer, producer, and co-founder of The GALPAL Collective.

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Climate Activist Beth Doherty from Fingal outside Leinster House. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

1 Órna Murray Social entrepreneur Murray’s aim is to support the next generation of girls in accessing the educational experiences sport can provide. As well as completing a master’s degree in health psychology at NUIG, she studied in the US on an athletics scholarship and represented Ireland in athletics at international level. She has also trained as a yoga teacher and neuro-linguistic programming practitioner. Together with her sister Niamh Murray, a secondary school teacher, she created the Move2B project, which aims to help girls overcome barriers to physical activity.

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Pictured is Orna Murray from Tramore, Co. Waterford. Photo: Patrick Browne

Pictured is Orna Murray from Tramore, Co. Waterford. Photo: Patrick Browne

Pictured is Orna Murray from Tramore, Co. Waterford. Photo: Patrick Browne

 

2 Cora Kearney
After being diagnosed with benign intracranial hypertension, Dungarvan woman Kearney was left with an acquired brain injury, which left her with movement restrictions, short- and long-term memory issues, and difficulties with fine motor skills. Kearney went on to return to college, studying for a marketing degree, but found herself unsure to as to what lay ahead in the workplace. She has since set up The Positive Ability Network, aimed at getting employment for people living with a disability. Kearney has also founded the Trash
to Treasure project (@Trash_Upcycle on Twitter), which aims to provide jobs for people from marginalised groups.

 

3 Leon Diop
Leon Diop is the co-founder of Black and Irish, an organisation whose aim is to highlight and celebrate the identity of Black and mixed-race Irish people. The group’s Instagram account has over 53,000 followers, and Diop co-hosts The Black & Irish Podcast
.

 

4 Sarah Murphy
Murphy is an award-winning fashion designer. She has created T-shirts to raise funds for the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre; an organisation she rang on the night she herself was raped. Having spoken out about the difficulties in accessing eating-disorder services, Murphy has worked as a patient-advocacy advisor with the National Eating Disorder Clinical Team on a support-group handbook for patients with eating disorders and a history of sexual abuse/rape.

 

5 Yara Alagha
Alagha is a parliamentary researcher in Seanad Éireann for the Civic Engagement Group. She’s also a board member for Women for Election Ireland who work to train and support women to succeed in Irish political life, and Amal Women Association, a Muslim, women-led, civil society group. Alagha also works closely with Arabic-speaking asylum seekers in Ireland.

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Yara Alagha, parliamentary researcher in Seanad Éireann for the Civic Engagement Group, and board member for Women for Election Ireland

Yara Alagha, parliamentary researcher in Seanad Éireann for the Civic Engagement Group, and board member for Women for Election Ireland

Yara Alagha, parliamentary researcher in Seanad Éireann for the Civic Engagement Group, and board member for Women for Election Ireland

 

6 Da Silly Heads
Social entrepreneurs Daniel O’Mahony and Michal Sikora founded Da Silly Heads in 2018, with the aim of creating visibility around mental health. Fuelled by their own personal experiences, they aim to further the conversation around mental health, through their ‘Stigma is Silly’ workshops, a product range of hats, and a host of cartoon characters they have created.

 

7 Megan Berry
Berry is the Traveller outreach officer at Maynooth University, where she achieved a master’s in community and youth work, and now focusses on encouraging access to education for young people in the Travelling Community.

 

8 Megan Sims
In 2016, when Sims was a teenager, images of her were posted online as an act of revenge. They were shared thousands of times, leading to her experiencing horrific abuse, and fearing for her employment prospects in the future. She also tried to take her own life. Sims went on to launch a petition on
change.org to make revenge porn a criminal offence. The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020 came into action in February of 2021.  

 

9 Saoi O’Connor 
Cork-based climate-justice activist O’Connor instigated the Fridays for Future strike at Cork City Hall in early 2019, holding a poster declaring, ‘The Emperor has no clothes’, and staying there for seven hours. A friend of Greta Thunberg, they switched to home-schooling to facilitate full-time dedication to activism. They were recently awarded the Young Humanitarian of the Year award in the annual Irish Red Cross Humanitarian Awards.

 

10 Bulelani Mfaco
A spokesperson for the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, a group formed by asylum seekers to campaign against direct provision. Mfaco himself lives in Knockalisheen Direct Provision Centre. Mfaco is a human-rights activist, PhD student, a member of the board of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, and part of Equinox, a coalition of anti-racist campaigners in the EU.

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Bulelani Mfaco, pictured in Limerick City. Pic: Don Moloney

Bulelani Mfaco, pictured in Limerick City. Pic: Don Moloney

Bulelani Mfaco, pictured in Limerick City. Pic: Don Moloney

 

11 Sharon Nolan
A Bi+ Ireland coordinator and former member of the Social Democrats’ national executive, Nolan ran for the party in the 2019 local elections as a Galway City Centre candidate. She has also been the chair of Galway Community Pride, and was involved in the marriage equality campaign as the convener of the Galway Together for Yes campaign.

 

12 Diane Ihirwe
A social worker, speaker and writer, Ihirwe has a master’s degree in social work from TCD and an undergraduate degree in social care from TU Dublin. She is a co-founder of Roots in Africa-Ireland,
a community-building anti-racism network focused on building pride in African heritage, especially for young African-Irish people. Ihirwe also co-founded the Young Mother’s Network, a support group for mothers living in direct provision centres.  

 

13 Robbie Lawlor
Along with Veda Lady, Lawlor co-hosts the Poz Vibe Podcast, a podcast about living with HIV. Lawlor is also the co-founder of Access to Medicines Ireland, and a doctoral scholar. He has talked about when he received his HIV diagnosis in 2012, and how little support there was for people in that situation. His activism has centred around providing support for people now in that same situation.

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Robbie Lawlor and Veda Lady, hosts of the Poz Vibe podcast

Robbie Lawlor and Veda Lady, hosts of the Poz Vibe podcast

Robbie Lawlor and Veda Lady, hosts of the Poz Vibe podcast

 

14 Mary-Kate Slattery
In telling her own story of having been diagnosed with anorexia at the age of 10, and how exercise saved her — specifically boxing, for which she discovered a passion after organising a charity event. Law student Slattery is a powerful voice in advocating for highlighting the link between mental health and physical activity.

 

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Mary-Kate Slattery launching the 2020 Irish Life helath schools' fitness challenge. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Mary-Kate Slattery launching the 2020 Irish Life helath schools' fitness challenge. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Mary-Kate Slattery launching the 2020 Irish Life helath schools' fitness challenge. Photo: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

15 Mamobo Ogoro
Ogoro is the founder of Gorm Media, a digital-media platform aimed at achieving impact through open conversation on social issues. The social entrepreneur and PhD student at the University of Limerick recently won the Activist of the Year award at the inaugural Black and Irish Gala
Awards.  

 

16 Emily Larkin
Larkin is the founder and director of Invisible Disability Ireland, an organisation that focusses on bringing awareness to, and advocating for, invisible disabilities. Larkin was inspired to set it up in August 2019 when she realised nothing similar existed in Ireland. She has been diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses, including rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, IBS, hypermobility syndrome, and the heart condition
supraventricular tachycardia.

 

17 Grace Alice O’Shea
Sex and relationship educator O’Shea aims to make Ireland a more sex-positive, sex-literate country. In her work, she covers topics including consent, boundaries, bodily autonomy, sexual communication, pleasure, gender, body issues, shame and stigma. She has worked as a Unesco scholar, and with Sexual Health West as a West of Ireland Sexual Education Resource (Wiser) relationships and sexuality educator, working in schools and educational settings throughout the west of Ireland. She recently published
Sex Educated, a book about sex education for young people.

 

18 Adam Harris
Harris is the founder and chief executive officer of AsIAm, inspired by his own experiences of growing up in Ireland as an autistic person. Harris was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at an early age. AsIAm aims to support autistic people and their families. In 2020, Harris was appointed to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

 

19 Blezzing Dada
Dada is one of the most compelling voices currently speaking and writing in the world of mental-health advocacy in Ireland. She writes and talks about race, disability, domestic violence and homelessness — Dada experienced homelessness during the pandemic — using her own story to highlight these problems. A student, she is an ambassador for the See Change mental-health awareness programme, and centres her advocacy around intersectionality.

 

20 Jessica Cinelli
Plus-size model Cinelli’s Instagram really took off during lockdown, when she began posting more regularly. The mother of one has spoken about her issues with dieting and body acceptance in the past, and has pushed back at notions of being ‘brave’ for posting pictures of herself online. After years of concealing her own body, in part, she aims to normalise things like stretch marks and cellulite and has spoken about how she has reclaimed the word ‘fat’ as a descriptive term.

 

21 Ashley Chadamoyo Makombe
Writer, producer, and co-founder of The GALPAL Collective — an arts and media collective supporting work by young queer people, women and people of colour. A third-year journalism student at the Technological University Dublin, Chadamoyo Makombe also writes for a number of publications, creating work that examines what it means to be a young Black woman in Ireland.

 

22 Beth Doherty
Beth Doherty is a climate activist, working with the Fridays for Future organisation. A writer and speaker, she has addressed the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action, and worked with Dublin City Council on its climate plan, and the National Youth Council.


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