Cootehill man Ruairí McKiernan has been named by global social entrepreneurs organisation Ashoka as one of the top ten changemakers in Ireland. The acknowledgement comes following a comprehensive nationwide study of social entrepreneurship throughout Ireland.
Others listed include Fr Peter McVerry, Senator Lynne Ruane and a range of leading lights who are working to make Ireland a better place. Those selected were each profiled in a recent special supplement in the Sunday Times newspaper.
Mr McKiernan, who was appointed to the Council of State by President Michael D Higgins, is well known for his youth, community and campaign work. A business graduate, he worked for various multinational companies before changing course to work for the health service in the North West. He got involved in youth work and health promotion before founding the SpunOut.ie youth organisation at the age of twenty-six.
In recent years he co-founded the Uplift campaign group and more recently he helped lead the establishment of the Gaelic Voices For Change, a movement of intercounty GAA football, hurling, and camogie stars. McKiernan also hosts a popular podcast called Love and Courage which features interviews with leading innovators and activists from around the world.
The social entrepreneur says it was the community volunteering of his parents, Ann and Sean, that initially inspired him to follow his chosen path: “My mother volunteered at Cootehill Credit Union and my dad was involved with the GAA, Cavan Rugby Club, the Scouts, and Foróige. Growing up, volunteering and community activism was something that was normal and I think that’s the case for many people in Cavan and around the country.”
“I think the many unsung heroes that are involved with community associations, youth groups, and sports clubs deserve huge credit for their efforts. They are the fabric of Irish society and this is where I get my inspiration. For me, I want to dedicate myself to championing this community spirit and doing what I can to challenge injustice and help create a better country and world for our children and grandchildren to come.”
Mr McKiernan’s latest focus has seen him turn his attention to the music industry. His wife, Susan Quirke, otherwise known as the musician Susie Q, has just released the first song of her soon to be released debut album and Ruairi has been involved in helping produce the video for it.
The video for the song ‘Home’, which has been attracting national and international attention, explores the refugee crisis and the concept of all humans belonging to a common home on planet earth. It is a subject matter close to Ruairi’s heart.
“Growing up I was fortunate to learn about Irish history by the amazing historian Hugh Barney O’Brien in Cootehill. I learned about the colonisation of Ireland, the great hunger, and the injustices inflicted on this island. As I travelled around the world I could see that there were common themes to these injustices and that the exploitation of people continues today in different forms," he said.
Ruairi is very specific about the root cause of the issues he has channelled his energies into addressing: “In many ways, it is greed and injustice that has created the refugee crisis and for a nation that has always relied on emigration, I think it’s important for us to have a special awareness when it comes to others fleeing poverty, oppression, and war. I’m not saying that we all have to go out and become campaigners but I do think we need more compassion. I think there is always something everyone can do to help leave the world in a better place than they found it. It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”