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Love and Courage

Author: Ruairí McKiernan

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The Love and Courage podcast features interviews with inspirational people who are making a real difference in the world today. Guests are typically people passionate about social justice, and who have demonstrated courage and conviction in their lives. Ruairí McKiernan is a multi award winning Irish social innovator, campaigner, writer and public speaker. He is the founder of the pioneering SpunOut youth organization, and helped set-up the Uplift and the A Lust For Life non-profits. In 2012 the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins appointed Ruairí to the Council of State, a constitutional advisory body whose members include all former leaders of the country. Ruairí is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Fulbright fellowship, and he contributes regularly to the media on youth, health, community and social justice issues.
72 Episodes
Tim Costello is one of Australia's most well-known and respected community leaders. In recent times he was voted one of Australia’s 100 national living treasures. A recipient of Victorian of the Year and Victoria's Australian of the Year accolades, as well as an Officer of the Order of Australia, he is an influential leader on a range of social issues, including the huge harm caused by the scourge of gambling in Australia.Tim is a previous longtime CEO of World Vision Australia and has helped lead the response to some of the greatest humanitarian disasters of recent times, including the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. A former Lawyer, Tim is a man with many hats. He’s the Director of Ethical Voice, Executive Director of Micah Australia, Chair of the Community Council of Australia, Senior Fellow for the Centre for Public Christianity, and Chief Advocate for the Alliance for Gambling Reform. He is also the Chief Advocate of the Thriving Communities Partnership and Patron of the National Youth Commission. He’s also the author of several books, including his excellent memoir, A Lot with a Little, which I highly recommend. I particularly enjoyed the section of that book that describes Tim and his wife Merridie’s journey in building a congregation at St Kilda Baptist Church and an accompanying drop-in centre and outreach program. It was from here that Tim’s advocacy grew and he later went on to become the Mayor of St Kilda, where he developed a reputation as an outspoken social and political voice for change, a voice that is very much a voice of love and courage. 
This episode features a conversation with Cork man Don O'Leary. Don is the Director of the Cork Life Centre, which is a voluntary organization established over 20 years ago to offer an alternative learning environment to young people aged 12-18 who have not thrived or coped in a mainstream educational setting. I have visited the centre as a guest speaker in the past and witnessed first-hand the loving and creative environment in which young people can flourish. The centre has struggled to receive state support and recognition and the first few minutes of the podcast include some updates and insights from Don concerning the battle to stay open in recent months despite the centre winning widespread acclaim, and being the feature of a major TV documentary, among other accolades, which has included Don receiving an honorary doctorate from University College Cork. There's lots more in this conversation including Don's reflections on a lifetime of youth and community work and social activism, his thoughts on the recent tribute concert for him by folk music legend and previous podcast guest Christy Moore, and lots on his critiques of social, economic and education inequalities. Don also shares openly about his experience of living with a terminal illness and how he has responded to that challenge with great grace, strength and dignity.There's so much we didn't get to talk about including his overland visit to Ukraine as part of an Irish community fundraising and war relief effort. At the heart of the conversation is a passionate appeal for greater care, support, love and investment in children and young people, especially those that are on the margins. 
Wallis Bird is one of my favourite artists and perhaps my favourite all-time performer. Originally from Wexford Ireland, Wallis has been based in Berlin Germany for over a decade. She has 7 albums to her name including her latest called Hands, which is in many ways is a celebration of uniqueness and difference. The origin story goes back to when Wallis was 18 months old 5 of her fingers were severed in a lawnmower accident. 4 were sown back on meaning she ended up losing one and from then on was forced to do things differently to many people, including how she learned to play the guitar. And for anyone that has seen her play, she truly is a force of nature. 
My guest in this episode I Michael Barron. Michael is a well-known Irish human rights activist originally from rural Co Kilkenny where he grew up as a young gay man dancing to Madonna while many of the other boys focused on hurling and sports. He shares some fascinating stories and insights from that time in his life and his coming of age in Dublin and New York. Michael is currently working as the Executive Director of the Rowan Trust, which is an important independent foundation that funds important social movements, campaigns and initiatives. Since the 1990s Michael has worked with communities pushed to the margins - as a front-line youth and community worker, an executive director of a number of national organisations, a researcher, a grantmaker and a campaigner. As well as being an activist, hes also a great thinker and a bit of a scholar – he has a PhD in the social sciences and he tells me he’s also working on a book.   I first met Michael when he was working as the founder and Executive Director of the BeLonG To, a pioneering LGBTI+ organisation that does amazing work with young people in Ireland. Michael went on to play a leading role in the Marriage Equality referendum he also headed up a campaign to remove the so-called Catholic baptism barrier from Irish public schools in 2018 - both major milestones in our recent history. As you’ll hear now, Michael doesn't shy away from taking on important issues such as the separation of church and state, Trans rights, and the rise of the far right. We also reflect a lot in this on our shared experiences of working in the non-profit sector, some of the trials and tribulations, and the importance of authenticity, creativity, and self-care.
Eugene O'Brien is a  playwright, screenwriter, and former actor originally from County Offaly in the Irish midlands. He has written for the stage, screen and radio. His work includes the critically acclaimed TV drama Pure Mule, winner of five IFTA Awards, and which, according to the Irish Times, ‘spectacularly raised the bar for Irish TV drama’. The show was inspired by his play Eden, which debuted at the Abbey Theatre and has since played the West End and Off-Broadway. At the time of recording, Eugene is on the cusp of a creative wave with a new play called Heaven, a film called Tarrac, and a new book, his first novel, which is called Going Back.  Eugene is someone hugely dedicated to his craft and to the role of the artist in exploring ideas and understanding in society and we cover this and so much more in this conversation.
My friend Grace Dyas is still relatively young but she’s already something of an Irish legend. Grace is an artist, activist, writer, director, producer, and performer. Originally from south inner-city Dublin, she now lives on the Inis Oirr, one of the beautiful Aran Islands off the coast of County Galway. Grace has an incredible portfolio of work and award-winning achievements to her name. She has created films, plays, live performances and large-scale projects with people who had never done art before. She has made art about all facets of addiction, and topics such as sex work, social housing, political conflict and corruption, abortion, and the legacy of Church and State abuse in Ireland, mostly with survivors of Magdalene Laundries. Grace writes on her website, “I make art because I know it changes lives for the better”. We’re going to dive into some of these areas and more in this rich conversation. We also talk a good bit about emotional health and some of the challenges Grace has been through and I want to say if you find yourself in need of help or support, please do reach out to a friend, a GP, a relevant helpline, or support service in whatever country you are in. It’s also important that we look out for each other these days when so many people are under pressure.
I’m delighted to welcome John Connell back to the podcast. This is his second time on the podcast and it was great to catch-up with him. John is a multi award winning bestselling author, journalist, producer and farmer. He writes a weekly column for the Irish Independent newspaper and lives and works in Longford in the Irish midlands. His newest book is called the Stream of Everything and it’s a bestseller, as were his previous 2 books – The Running Book and the Cow Book. John is a deep thinking man with plenty of insightful stories and reflections to share and I’d also encourage you to check out the previous episode with John from September 2020.
Kindred Motes is an award-winning social impact entrepreneur and an inspirational voice for change from working-class, rural Alabama in the southern United States. After approximately a decade working with some of the world’s leading social justice organizations, Kindred recently established the Washington DC based KM Strategies Group to support organizations working for social impact and positive change.   I first encountered Kindred when he was working with Wallace Global Fund and I was struck by his intellect, passion, and drive, and his deep commitment to change on many issues such as LGBTQI+ rights, which has been informed by his own experiences growing up gay in the Deep South. Kindred is also passionate about mental health supports, immigration reform, democracy, participation, and amplifying citizen voices in general. He also has a lot to say on the topic of burnout and wellbeing, and how we can create healthier and more appealing workplace cultures.
Noeline Blackwell is the CEO of Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. Noeline has worked for several decades as a solicitor and previously as Director General of FLAC, the Free Legal Advice Centres, She’s a powerful voice for change in so many areas of society, not least sexual violence.   Website E-newsletter |  Twitter Instagram Facebook LinkedIn Book Patron Love and Courage Podcast Creative Souls of Clare Podcast | My No.1 bestselling book available direct or from main retailers. Info  'Hitching for Hope - a Journey into the Heart and Soul of Ireland'
My guest is this episode is someone I’m been keen to talk to for white a white. Tara Flynn is much loved Irish actor and writer and is well known for her leadership in the campaign to repeal the 8th amendment in Ireland, as well as her various books, articles and creative productions. Tara is the co-host of a popular BBC podcast called Now You’re Asking with Marian Keyes and Tara Flynn, something to add to your podcast radar if you haven’t come across it yet.
Johann Hari is well known as the author of international bestsellers Chasing the Scream about the failure of the so-called war on drugs and Lost Connections, which explores depression, anxiety and the importance of social connection in our lives. Lost Connections was described by the British Journal of General Practice as “one of the most important texts of recent years”, and shortlisted for an award by the British Medical Association. Johann’s latest book Stolen Focus ‘why you can’t pay attention’ uncovers the reasons behind our shortening attention spans and how we can start to reclaim our focus, our minds, and our humanity. The book is creating a huge stir globally and has attracted praise from reviewers and people such as Eve Ensler, Stephen Fry, Susan Cain, Emma Thompson, and Gabor Mate. Johann has had tens of millions views of his two TED talks  ‘Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong’ and ‘This Could Be Why You Are Depressed or Anxious’. He is also an award-winning journalist and he has written over the past decade for some of the world’s leading newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, the Spectator, Le Monde, the Melbourne Age, and Politico. He is a regular panellist on HBO’s Realtime With Bill Maher. I first met Johann back in November 2018 in Dublin when he was on tour with Lost Connections. You can listen to my conversation with him in the archives of this podcast so consider that as a listen for after you listen to this one. It was great to talk to Johann again recently and I was really struck by his clarity of thought and his passion for change is one of the most important issues of our time. I’d encourage you to give this episode your full attention, and indeed your full focus, and please share this episode far and wide. Also please consider rating and reviewing the Love and Courage podcast, subscribing through your app to receive updates, and chipping in as a once off or monthly patron at You support helps me bring important voices like Johann’s to the world.
Keith Walsh is a popular writer and broadcaster. Keith is also the host of the popular Keith Walsh podcast and at the time of recording he had just completed a tour of his debut play, titled Pure Mental, which you’ll hear about shortly.  We also get talking Keith’s 20-year career in radio, his thoughts on success, therapy, relationships, parenting, alcohol, masculinity, and lots lots more. A huge thanks as always to all you wonderful patrons and supporters who chip in to support the podcast over at As always, your support in promoting, sharing, rating and reviewing the podcast is hugely appreciated, especially as it helps get voices like Keith’s out into the world. If you're new to the podcast, please be sure to hit subscribe in your app to be notified of upcoming episodes and have a look through the archive of great conversations once you finish this one. 
Sarah Clancy is a well-known poet, activist and commentator who works in community development in County Clare where she now lives. Sarah grew up in Galway immersed in the world of ponies and horses which led her to working all over Ireland and later in Australia and New Zealand. Although she dabbled in poetry in her youth, it wasn’t until her 30s that she really found her poetic voice. And when she did, things really took off. It wasn’t long before she was winning awards, performing on major stages and on radio. She also released 3 separate poetry collections, published by Lapwing Press and Salmon Poetry. During this same period Sarah delved deeper into the world of social justice, both through academia, and through community organising and campaigning. This is when I first met Sarah. I was running the SpunOut youth organisation which was based in Galway at the time. We ended up involved in different campaigns together and over the years I always found her to have one of the sharpest and most insightful minds I’ve ever encountered. This conversation covers a lot of ground and although it’s a long one, it’s worth going the distance and listening to the end, or perhaps in different sittings. In it, we talk about Sarah’s early years, her travels, some of the campaigns she has been involved in, as well as her courageous and difficult personal journey of reporting the man who abused her. Sarah also talks about how poetry helped her navigate this particularly turbulent period, as well as discover an unexpected platform for social and political expression. I had a couple of minor issues with the online sound recording which resulted in me turning my microphone down but in general the quality should be okay. I’m working on improving the overall sound recording for remote recordings and appreciate your support and patience while I work on this. As always, your support in promoting, sharing, subscribing, rating and reviewing the podcast is hugely appreciated, especially as it helps get voices like Sarah’s out into the world.  
Anne is a singer, songwriter and community stalwart living in Miltown Malbay not too far away from me here in County Clare on the wild west coast of Ireland. Anne took up the guitar in her 60s and since then has created and released 2 albums. It might be no surprise that music was calling Anne given her family background. She grew up in Co Kildare in the same household as two famous Irish folk musicians, Luka Bloom and Christy Moore. Anne is hugely respected in her community as a real force for love and courage. This episode was originally created for my other podcast, the Creative Souls of Clare podcast, and it got a great response so I thought Love and Courage listeners might enjoy it too. It was recorded over Zoom during one of the lockdown periods so the video version is also available if you just look up Anne Rynne Creative Souls of Clare.
Declan O’Rourke is one of Ireland’s finest singer-songwriters and musicians and is respected and loved by music lovers around the world. He has received praise from the likes of John Prine, Paul Weller and other luminaries. Declan has created 7 excellent albums, including the latest Arrivals, which I have to say is one of my favourite albums of recent years. A truly stunning piece of art for your ears. Do check that out. Declan is also wise and informed voice when it comes to history and social issues, as evidenced in his 2017 album Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine. Continuing with the theme of An Gorta Mór, the great hunger, and showing he is a man of many talents, Declan is about to release his first book, a novel of historical fiction called The Pawnbroker’s Reward.
Colm O’Gorman is an author, activist, cook, charity founder, and lots more. Colm is one of Ireland’s best known activists. Colm O’Gorman was born in Wexford, Ireland in 1966. He’s from a farming background and spent the first eleven years of his life in the village of Adamstown before moving with his family to Wexford town in 1977. He left Wexford in 1984, living in Dublin for a few years before moving to London in 1986. He has had an impressive list of jobs and careers to date. He previously worked as a waiter, a barman, a charity fundraiser, a hair salon manager, a security guard, a coat check attendant, a radio dj, a cook, a restaurant manager and a mini cab driver before he finally decided to get serious about a single career and train as a therapist. He qualified as a physical therapist in 1994, and as a psychotherapist in 1996. He worked initially in private practice before founding the organisation One in Four in 1999 to support women and men who have experienced sexual violence. In 1998 he launched a legal case against the Roman Catholic Church as a result of his experiences of sexual abuse at the hands of one of its priests when he was a teenager. He went on to sue the Bishop of his home diocese of Ferns and the Pope. In 2002 he took part in a BBC documentary, which told the story of his battle with the Roman Catholic Church. The film, Suing the Pope aired in March 2002 and resulted in the resignation of the Bishop of Ferns Dr Brendan Comiskey. Colm returned to live in Ireland in 2003 to found One in Four Ireland. In his role as Director of One in Four, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Ferns Inquiry, the first state investigation into clerical sexual abuse in Ireland. The inquiry investigated the management of child sexual abuse concerns and allegations by the Catholic Church and by State authorities. In 2005 he helped to establish Gorey Educate Together National School ; a multi-denominational, co-educational, child centred and democratically run primary school. Colm is a regular media commentator and contributor, has written extensively on social justice and human rights. He has made a number of documentary films, including the BAFTA awarding winning A Family Affair (2000), Suing the Pope (2002) and Sex Crimes and The Vatican which he presented for BBC Panorama in 2006. Colm’s work as a human rights defender is driven by a deep commitment to human rights and social justice and an abiding belief in the power of advocacy and activism, which challenges all of us to use our individual and collective voices to demand change where it is most needed. Colm served briefly as a member of Seanan Éireann, the upper house of the Irish parliament. He unsuccessfully contested the 2007 Irish general election and discovered that electoral politics was most definitely not his thing. In February 2008, Colm was appointed Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland. His first book Beyond Belief was published by Hodder & Stoughton. It became an instant bestseller, reaching number one in the Irish non-fiction bestsellers list within a week of its publication. Colm lives in County Wexford with his family.
Razan Ibraheem is an Irish-Syrian journalist and activist. She first came to Ireland to do her MA at the University of Limerick and ending up unable to return home after the war started in her native Syria. Razan worked for several years with the Storyful news agency and recently joined Kinzen as a senior editorial analyst researching misinformation on social media. Part of her past work has included contributing additional research to The New York Times visual investigations team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2020. Razan’s deeply personal connection to the tragic situation in Syria prompted her to volunteer on two occasions to help refugees arriving in the Greek islands. Razan is increasingly recognised as a trailblazing force for change and is a recipient of an International Woman of the Year award by Irish Tatler.
Joe Murray is the coordinator with Afri – Action from Ireland, which is a small but significant national and independent Irish organisation working for human rights, global justice and environmental action since 1975. Afri’s patron is none other than Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Originally from Ballyglasson, Carrickboy in County Longford, Joe has been with Afri for over 40 years. Not one for the limelight, Joe is highly regarded a humble leader, often quietly working behind the scenes. He has however been recognised in the past with an unsung hero award from Desmond Tutu and a humanitarian award from the Dalai Lama. I’ve known Joe a long time and as you’re about to hear, he’s often reluctant to speak about himself and his work so it was a great honour that he finally accepted my invitation to come on the Love and Courage podcast. This podcast is also available as a video version on YouTube and Facebook. I want to say a big thanks as always to all who chip in to support the podcast, either on a once off or a monthly basis. It helps us reach listeners in over 50 countries and share important voices like Joe’s. If you want to chip in please make a note to head over to , it takes just a minute. If you’re new to the podcast, do check out the archive of great conversations, and be sure to hit subscribe on your podcast app. Ratings and reviews are also appreciated, as is recommending the podcast to friends and family and on social media. Thanks also to everyone who continues to support my book Hitching for Hope and for all the support with my wife Susan Quirke’s album launch. Her debut album into the Sea is out about 2 weeks now and it’s been a great success so far with lots of national and regional radio play, features and reviews in the media, and musician lovers buying digital and signed CD copies direct from her via her Bandcamp page That support matters greatly so thank you all and please do have a listen to the album. It’s Into the Sea by Susan Quirke and you can find out more about Susan, her music, and online learn to meditate classes, over at I end this episode with a song from the album, a track called Home which is about the global refugee crisis.
Colm Mac Con Iomaire is an acclaimed Irish violinist and composer. He was a founding member of renowned folk fusion band Kila and, at the age of 19 became a founding member of legendary indie rock band The Frames, which led him to tour the world for up on 30 years. He was also a member of The Swell Season. In recent times Colm has been focused on his solo career and has released three albums to great acclaim. Colm has also performed on albums by numerous other artists including on the White Ladder by David Gray and on O by Damien Rice. He has also written music for several movies, TV, theatre, and dance productions. Colm is a passionate champion of the Irish language and very politically engaged when it comes to cultural, environmental, and social justice issues. He’s a guy who oozes wit and wisdom while staying grounded with a great sense of fun and zest for life. Just to say, this podcast is also available as a video version on the Love and Courage YouTube channel and on my Facebook page, just look up Ruairi McKiernan Hitching for Hope on Facebook. And a heads up. We have a surprise special guest half way through the podcast. Colm’s son Darach makes an impromptu appearance and things go a bit off script for a couple of minutes in case you’re wondering what’s going on. It’s a bit more obvious on the video version. It’s only a couple of minutes but it might be confusing. I chose to not to edit this out as we get talking about Darach soon afterwards and Darach makes another fun reappearance later on. So, back to Colm. I first met Colm 10 years ago when he performed at the POSSIBILITIES summit, which I was involved in organising. The Dalai Lama was the keynote speaker that day, and Colm joined Kila on stage for a musical celebration. A day I’ll never forget. We stayed in touch, and over the years, Colm performed and my and Susan’s wedding, which was an incredible honour, he features in my book Hitching for Hope. In recent times he played on Susan’s debut album Into the Sea alongside some other musical luminaries, including Colm Quearney, Justin Carroll, Graham Hopkins, and Robbie Malone. That’s the big focus for me these days, supporting Susan as her album makes its way into the world. It’s an exciting adventure after several years of working on it. I’m including one of her tracks HOLD ON at the end of the podcast for you to enjoy, you’ll hear Colm working his magic on it, so consider hanging back to listen after the conversation with Colm. I’m pleased to say things are shaping up nicely with national and regional airplay for recent singles and people getting behind her by buying digital and signed CD copies of the album via Bandcamp. It’s so important to support independent musicians like Colm and Susan. These days we listen to so much fantastic music, but it’s not always easy for the artist to make money to pay for the costs of recording, production, and album releases, especially now during Covid times when there are no gigs in this part of the world. So you’ll understand why I’m keen to promote Susan and encourage as many people as possible to get behind her debut album, a stunning piece of art and a real labour of love that is available on Bandcamp, and through Apple, Spotify and her website at The same goes for Colm, do check out his incredible repertoire at . Thanks for supporting the music and also a big thanks as always to you podcast patrons who chip in to support and help grow this podcast over at I really appreciate all your support as together we help share important voices like Colm's, which need to be heard in these turbulent times. Finally, before we get started, please don’t forget to subscribe, rate, review and share the podcast if you feel so inclined, it all helps get these great voices out into the world.
Noelle Brown is a well-known Irish actor, playwright, and activist. Noelle was born in the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork and much of our conversation centres around her campaign work to advance the rights and voices of Mother and Baby home survivors. Mother and Baby Homes were institutions mostly run by the Catholic church where pregnant women who were unmarried were sent to have their babies. These institutions were established in 1922, the same time as the foundation of the state, and the last one didn’t close until as recently as 1998. In that time, tens of thousands of women were sent to these institutions. Many of the women, incarcerated against their will in often cold and cruel conditions, were under the age of 18. Some were as young as 12. Some were the victims of rape. The Irish state, which in many ways modelled itself as a catholic state, had the world’s highest proportion of women sent to such institutions in the 20th century. At the heart of this regime was a dominant moral and religious code which deemed these women to be somehow impure and lesser, and their children, for some reason, were to be seen as illegitimate, despite the creed that we’re all God’s children. It is estimated that 15% of babies born in these homes died. At one point an inspection of the Bessborough home revealed a 82% infant mortality rate. These children were often buried in unmarked mass graves such as that discovered in Tuam, Co. Galway. One of those buried there was a relative of mine by the name of Peter Malone, someone my family only recently found out about thanks to the campaigning of historian Catherine Corless. Large numbers of children were sold to foreign couples, often in secret deals and against their parents’ wishes. Many of those born in the homes are unable to access their birth certificates, despite years of trying. Many, like Noelle, never got to meet their birth parents, and were often blocked by the authorities and the relevant institutions from doing so. Another guest on this podcast, Joseph Farrell, talks about his story in a previous episode that is worth checking out. At the time of recording this episode Noelle was fresh from running a powerful St Patrick’s Day production at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin called Home where the testimonies of survivors were given voice on the stage of the national theatre. This was in the wake of a controversial report from the Mother and Baby Home commission. Noelle is a hugely important voice on all of this and brings great depth, passion, insight and humanity to her work and her activism. We also talk about her life as an actor and a playwright.
Comments (1)


Given where we are now in 2022 and Peggy's insight into how she percieves the future , I wonder what she makes of Purins war , fuel crisis and the rapid decline of global warming.

Apr 17th
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