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Our Staff

Here is some information on the staff working in Caranua.

Mary Higgins - CEO

Mary has over forty years experience in the delivery, design and management of services for groups who are socially disadvantaged and in advocating for changes in policy and legislation to address the underlying causes of disadvantage.

Prior to taking up this post she worked as an independent management and social policy consultant, with public, voluntary and philanthropic bodies.  She was the founding Director of the Homeless Agency in Dublin, Director of Threshold and worked as Information, Advice and Advocacy officers in Cherish and Emigrant Advice.

The CEO was appointed following recruitment through the Public Appointments Service on contract for five years at the level of Principal Officer in the civil service.

The CEO is responsible for the overall management of the organisation including driving the establishment process, recruiting staff, and designing and implementing systems and processes.  She leads on all financial issues including planning, control and reporting, and is spokesperson for the organisation.

Rachel Downes - Director of Services

Rachel has over 12 years’ experience in the area of information, advice and advocacy in the Citizens Information Board and other not for profit organisations.

Prior to starting with Caranua, Rachel worked as a Regional Manager in the Citizens Information Board, working with Citizens Information Services and Money Advice and Budgeting Services (MABS) in the Greater Dublin, Louth and Monaghan areas.

During her time in CIB, she was also involved in the development of the National Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities, and the set up and management of the Mortgage Arrears Information Helpline.

In Caranua, Rachel is responsible for ensuring that all Caranua services are designed and implemented to impact positively on the quality of life of applicants.

Rachel has a BA in Human Resources and Accountancy and a Higher Certificate in Advocacy Studies.

Siobhán Kane - Head of Communications and Engagement

Siobhán has over ten years experience as a communications professional, and is committed to empowering people who are socially disadvantaged and ensuring that their voices and issues are heard. Siobhán has initiated and led projects, campaigns and strategies on a broad range of issues, and has developed and nurtured relationships with local and national media, external agencies and policymakers, while working for policy and legislative change. For the last six years she has worked as communications manager at a national organisation that advocates for the rights of people with an intellectual disability. She previously worked as a journalist, and in the Oireachtas.

In Caranua, Siobhán is responsible for promoting the communications functions of the agency, including the website and media relations, and ensuring survivors know about Caranua and its functions. She has a B.A. in Communications Studies, an M.A. in International Relations and an M.Comm in Government and Public Policy.

Caitríona Ní Mhurchú - Head of Administration

Caitríona has over ten years’ experience in senior administrative roles across a number of public sector organisations including within the education and local authority sectors.

As Head of Administration, she is responsible for overseeing the work of the administrative team in Caranua as well as responsibility for facilities and human resources within the organisation.

Caitríona has a BA and a Masters in Management.

David A. Yeomans - Director of Finance & Corporate Affairs

David is an experienced management accountant and qualified internal auditor, having worked in a number of high-profile organisations, both in the public and private sectors. He is an expert in governance, risk management and compliance.

He was Head of Internal Audit in IDA Ireland and left to become Controller (Euro/Africa) in The Atlantic Philanthropies.  In 2005, he joined UCD Research and then, in 2008, he was appointed Group Head Internal Audit in Dublin Airport Authority.  Following this, he was Financial Controller in Traidlinks, a NGO focused on Private Sector Development in East Africa.

David is responsible for the finance and corporate affairs functions of the organisation, supporting Caranua in achieving its objectives in a transparent and efficient manner.

Leanne Hughes - Call Line Operator

Leanne joined Caranua in October 2016. She has 10 years experience working in the community and voluntary sector. Before joining Caranua, Leanne worked in her local community centre as a receptionist and project support worker.

Leanne also volunteered on the askonefamily Helpline, Ireland’s national helpline for one-parent families, where she provided support and information on a range of issues faced by vulnerable people in Ireland today.

As a Call Line Operator within Caranua, Leanne is the first contact point for applicants, supporting them with their applications by providing general information about Caranua and the services provided. 

Laoise Barrett - Administrative Assistant

Laoise Barrett joined Caranua in January 2016.

Within Caranua, Laoise’s administrative functions include processing applications to Caranua and acting as a point of contact for applicants, both by email and post.

Before joining Caranua, Laoise worked in the hospitality industry where she learned to provide an efficient and friendly service to the public.

She is currently studying Business in Dublin Business School.

Niamh Flanagan - Administrative Assistant

Niamh Flanagan joined Caranua in February 2015.

Niamh has 3 years experience working in customer service and administration.

Within Caranua, Niamh’s administrative functions include data input and processing incoming post and email. 

Lucy Kenny - Administrative Assistant

Lucy Kenny joined Caranua in January 2014. With a background in administration, most recently with the Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups, Lucy has over 20 years experience working within the not-for-profit sector.

Within Caranua, Lucy’s administrative functions include data input, processing Application Part 2 documentation and acting as a contact point for applicants.

Stephanie Dunne - Quality, Compliance and Information Officer

Stephanie joined Caranua in December 2015 as an Application Adviser before taking up the role of Quality, Compliance and Information Officer. With an academic background in public and social policy and law, Stephanie is confident in supporting clients to navigate services while promoting social and legal rights, responsibilities and entitlements. Having worked in social services for many years, namely immigration, addiction and homeless services, Stephanie is a strong advocate and feels passionate about ensuring a best quality service is offered to clients.

In Caranua, the Information, Quality and Compliance officer is responsible for managing queries, complaints and appeals in accordance with organisation standards. The officer is also responsible for monitoring compliance with quality while supporting all staff to achieve consistently high standards. 

Ronan O’Halloran - Quality, Compliance and Information Officer

Ronan joined Caranua in October 2014 as a Call Line Operator. He progressed into the role of Application Advisor in January 2015 and worked in this role for a year. Since January 2016, Ronan has worked as Caranua’s Quality Compliance and Information Officer.

Prior to joining Caranua Ronan worked as a Secondary School English and Geography teacher in both Ireland and the UK. Ronan has also worked in various managerial and supervisory roles, in the hospitality industry.

Ronan has a Master’s Degree in Environment, Society and Development Studies, obtained from University College Galway which included an international civic engagement project working on the ground with the UN in Bosnia. He is interested in the areas of geopolitics, development and social and environmental justice.

Fiachra Barrett - Application Advisor

Fiachra joined Caranua as an application advisor in October 2016. Before this, he spent 13 years working with marginalised and disadvantaged young people and their families in a youth justice setting.

Areas of responsibility would have included assessments, care planning and delivery, key-working, outreach and aftercare, client based research as well as developing local policies, procedures and protocols.

Fiachra has a Social Care Degree as well as a Post-graduate qualification in Social Research Skills and an M.A. in Social Justice and Public Policy. 

Patrick Cleary – Application Advisor

Patrick joined the Caranua team in January 2014. His initial role was as an Information Officer, before taking up the position of Application Advisor. Patrick previously worked for several years with the Citizens Information Service as an Information Officer. In this role, he informed members of the public of their social and civil rights, and advocated on behalf of clients. Patrick represented clients at Social Welfare Appeals hearings, and was successful at each appeal hearing. Patrick also advocated on behalf of his clients on consumer issues (Small Claims Court) and tenant/landlord issues (Private Rental Tenancy Board). Patrick also spent time in the Department of Social Protection (Respite Care Grant Section), and with Crosscare (Housing and Welfare Section).

Patrick has completed the Information Provider Programme through the Citizens Information Board and the National College of Ireland, and also completed training in Employment Law through the Ballymun Law Society.

Meadhbh Devilly - Application Advisor

Meadhbh joined Caranua in June 2015. She originally started as a Call Line Operator and then progressed to an Applications Advisor. From working as a Call Line Operator, Meadhbh gained a greater experience of the whole application process, from the time the application comes into Caranua, up until it reaches the Application Advisor.

She holds an Honours Bachelor degree in Business Management and has eight years customer service experience.

Meadhbh strives to ensure that the best quality service is offered at all times and is passionate about assisting the clients with their applications.

Helena Doyle - Application Advisor

Helena joined Caranua as an Application Advisor in February 2017.

Prior to this, she has spent the past eight years working in homeless services with voluntary providers.

She is passionate about helping people achieve the most out of their lives and providing a high quality service to those most in need.

Helena has a BA in Social Care and a Masters in Child, Family and Community Studies.

Sinéad Dwyer - Application Advisor

Sinead Dwyer has over ten years’ experience as a qualified Social Worker working predominantly in Acute Adult Forensic and Psychiatric Settings. Sinead holds a Bachelor of Social Science and a Bachelor of Social Work (Hons).

Sinead joined Caranua in April 2015 as an Application Advisor and adopts a strength based and solution focused approach to her role as Application Advisor with survivors of institutional Abuse.  

Her professional aims are to seek to promote responsiveness of organizations, communities, and other social institutions to survivors ’ needs, with the hope of enhancing survivors well-being, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of survivors who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty.

Pádraig Hegarty - Application Advisor

Padraig has over 13 years’ experience working in the field of Social Services in United States, Mexico and Ireland. Padraig has worked for many organizations that provide services for those most disadvantaged in society.

For the past four years he worked for one of New York City’s leading organizations for people with special needs as a Case Manager. During his time in New York City his main role was to coordinate a multidisciplinary team to support the transition of people with special needs from state-supported institutions to independent or group homes. He also promoted and supported the client group with health awareness and education. He also worked with clients on living skills, social interaction, travel safety and goals that would support the client with volunteer work or paid employment opportunities. 

Joined Caranua in November 2015 as an Application Advisor who leads the disability outreach project. Padraig has an Honours Degree in Social Studies and is to start his Masters in Leadership and Management this coming September. 

Pádraig is currently studing a Masters in Social Studies.

Sorrena Megan - Application Advisor

Sorrena has worked in the Social Care field for almost 17 years. She holds a BSC in Social Science with Social Policy and a Post Graduate Diploma in Child and Adolescent Mental Health. Her experience is predominately working with young people, adults and families at risk.

Sorrena has over 10 years management experience and has supervised teams in a Foster care and Advocacy environment.

Sorrena has a robust knowledge of the social work and care system in Ireland and has had the opportunity to build strong networks with social work teams, community and external services. She is aware of the need to stay abreast of changes in services, legislation and policy and is committed to continuous professional development.  Sorrena is a strong Advocate for those whom she represents and has a genuine desire to ensure the best possible outcomes for her client group.

Sorrena has significant experience of working with children in care and known to child protection services. She is therefore very aware of the impact of institutional abuse on the individual. Sorrena’s role in Caranua is to support individuals through their application process. She strives to do so by using a holistic approach and ensuring each person is treated as an individual using a needs led approach. 

Caroline McClure - Application Advisor

Since 1994 Caroline has been working and volunteering in the non-profit sector across a range of social issues in Dublin, Belfast and Derry. Her motivation has always been to create positive change, in people’s lives and in society, especially with those who are the most disadvantaged.

To date Caroline has worked on peace and reconciliation cross-border programmes; developed services for the LGBT community in the north-west of Ireland; campaigned to make childcare more affordable; promoted volunteering and civic participation; and delivered a community safety programme to reduce anti-social behaviour. Before joining Caranua in August 2016, she was supporting young people who have a learning disability to plan and live the lives they want and to do so as independently as possible.

Caroline is committed to making real improvements to the lives of survivors of institutional abuse. 

Orlagh McHugh - Application Advisor

Orlagh joined the Caranua team in December 2016. She holds an honours degree in Social Science with Social Policy from UCD. She has over 10 years’ experience in the community and voluntary sector.

Orlagh recently returned from Australia where she was working with the Irish Australian Support Association of Queensland, a charity funded by the Irish Government under the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Emigrant Support Program, where she supported the Irish in Queensland in times of need or distress. Prior to that she spent a number of years working in State Government Departments.

Having spent much time supporting Irish Citizens’ from an international setting, Orlagh has a particular interest in Ireland’s Global Diaspora, supporting Survivors who are not resident in Ireland and providing advocacy on their behalf, ensuring they have a fair opportunity to access the fund and other supports where necessary. 

Geraldine O’Connor - Application Advisor

Ger joined Caranua in June 2014.

With a background in administration, including the Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups, Ger has over 20 years’ experience working within the not-for-profit sector and private sector.

She originally started as a Call Line Operator and then progressed to an Applications Advisor.

From working as a Call Line Operator, Ger gained a greater experience of the whole application process, from the time the application comes into Caranua, up until it reaches the Application Advisor.

Ger is committed to making real improvements to the lives of survivors of institutional abuse. 

Natalya Vyshnevska – Application Advisor

Natalya has nine years’ experience working as a senior Information/Advocacy Officer in Irelands busiest Citizens Information Centre in Dublin city centre, where she advocated on behalf of thousands of clients by negotiating with governmental and non-governmental agencies, financial institutions and other agencies, and supported clients in achieving their rights and entitlements.

Natalya worked with people on issues around social welfare, employment, immigration, consumer and family law. She represented clients at Employment Appeals Tribunals and Social Welfare Appeals. Her extensive knowledge of the system has helped her to develop further professionally while assisting applicants in Caranua.

Natalya joined Caranua as an Application Advisor in May 2014. Her primary degree is in Languages and Psychology. Natalya has also completed the Advocacy and Law course at the Institute of Technology, Sligo, and has a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development Diploma in Human Resource Management from the National College of Ireland. She is currently studying law in the Kings Inns. 



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