Public Lecture - 'Reopening Ireland after COVID-19 - Vaccines, Variants, Lifestyle Behaviours and Communities'

Wednesday 21 April 2021

This was a free public event hosted by the Irish Gerontological Society, registered charity no. 18858.  Will you support our work with a contribution? If you would like to make a donation, please click here now.

The impact of COVID-19 on the physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing of older people has been devastating and will be long-lasting. 

Sponsored by Educate4health




The impact of COVID-19 on the physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing of people has been devastating and will be long-lasting.

In this lecture, speakers Prof Rose Anne Kenny and Prof Cliona O'Farrelly will give an update on the vaccine roll-out, new variants, and discuss activities, social engagement and travel.

Panellists: Marie Louise O’Donnell, Broadcaster; Nora Owen former Minister for Justice and board member of Safeguarding IrelandCatherine McGuigan, Chief Officer of Age Friendly IrelandProf Luke O'Neill, Professor of Biochemistry in the School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute at Trinity College Dublin.

This lecture will be co-chaired by Prof Pete Lunn, founder and head of the ESRI’s Behavioural Research Unit and Dr Diarmuid O'Shea, Consultant Geriatrician.

The panel will contribute towards addressing issues raised and questions posed by the audience.   However, it may not be possible to answer all questions we receive.

The contents of this online IGS public lecture - such as text, graphics, images, and other material contained in the webinar lecture and panel discussion - are for your information only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis,  interpretation or treatment.

You should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you hear in this IGS webinar.

The IGS recommends that you refer to, and follow the guidelines of, official sources of COVID_19 information in Ireland such as these:

Due to priorities dictated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the programme, speakers and panel may be subject to change at any time before the event.  This page will be updated at the earliest opportunity in the event of any such changes


Rose Anne Kenny is Professor of Medical Gerontology and Head of the academic department of Medical Gerontology at Trinity College Dublin. She is the present President of the IGS. She is also director of the recently established Mercer’s Institute for Successful Ageing (MISA) at St. James’s Hospital Dublin, which is a state of the art facility hosting ambulatory care, inpatients, education and research facilities for older adults. She is the founding Principal Investigator of Ireland’s largest adult population study on the experience of ageing– for The Irish LongituDinal study on Ageing  (TILDA). She has a high international standing for her research on ageing ranked in the top 5% of geriatric medicine publications.

Cliona O’Farrelly Professor of Comparative Immunology : with a background in comparative, liver and cancer immunology, her research focus is on the innate immune response to viruses and how it might mediate resistance to viral infection. With a primary degree in microbiology (1977) from TCD, Prof O'Farrelly was the first woman to be awarded a PhD in Immunology in Ireland (in 1982) and the first woman to serve as President of the Irish Society of Immunology (1999-2007). After years of researching immunology in Europe and the US - in TCD, the University of Sussex, Harvard University, UCD and St.Vincent’s University Hospital, she is now Professor of Comparative Immunology at TCD.  Recently, Cliona served as Co-Chair of the Dept of Health’s CoVID19 Research Subgroup of the Expert Advisory Group (March-Sept 2020);  Prof O'Farrelly is a co-applicant on the TCD SFI CoVID19 Research Hub and a recipient of  SFI CoVID19 Rapid Response Funding ‘DIRECTS: Detecting Innate pRotECTion against SARSCoV2’.


Prof Pete Lunn is the founder and head of the ESRI’s Behavioural Research Unit. A behavioural economist, he holds degrees in Philosophy & Psychology, Neuroscience and Economics. Pete’s primary research interest is economic decision-making and, in particular, how people negotiate trade-offs. Pete has built a team of behavioural scientists at the ESRI that specialises in designing and conducting laboratory and field experiments to inform policy. Recent work also involves pre-testing specific policy interventions designed to help people to make better decisions. He is part of an international network of researchers who have begun to apply behavioural science directly to policy development. Pete’s most recent work has investigated public comprehension and behaviour in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.


Diarmuid O’Shea is a Consultant Physician in Geriatric Medicine in St Vincent’s University Hospital and Registrar of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI).  He is a UCD medical graduate.  He was Clinical Lead for the National Clinical Programme for Older People with the HSE until 2019 and Chair of the Irish Committee on Higher Medical Training from 2017 to 2019.  He has held the position of Vice-President of Education and Professional Development in the RCPI and acted as the Masterclass Series Convenor in the RCPI since its inception in 2007.  He is immediate past president of the Irish Gerontological Society.


Nora Owen was a member of Dail Eireann from 1981-1987 and 1989-2002.  She was Deputy Leader of Fine Gael 1993 - 2000 and was Minister for Justice from 1994-1997. She is currently a board member of Safeguarding Ireland.

Nora has spent time in Rwanda as a Volunteer with Concern in 1994 and has taken part in Parliamentary training in Africa Asia and Europe with NDI (USA) and AWEPA. She served on the Board as Vice-Chair of CONCERN WORLDWIDE .

Nora is Chair of the Justice and Home Affairs committee of the Institute of International and European Affairs.  For 5 years, she was Chair of the Expert Advisory Group on Development Aid.  She is Chair of the Oversight Group on Women Peace and Security in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Nora has been a TV presenter and is well known as a guest commentator on several radio and TV programs.


Marie Louise O'Donnell is a broadcaster, writer and former Senator.  She served as a Senator from 2011 to 2020. Marie-Louise played a key role in the arts at Dublin City University over a 23-year period, including in the launch of the Helix cultural centre. in addition to her work with national broadcaster RTÉ, and presence in the Seanad, she has appeared as a panellist on TV3 current affairs programmes, often featuring in the section of the programme that reviews the following morning's newspapers.


Catherine McGuigan leads the National Age Friendly Ireland Programme hosted by Meath County Council. This municipality led National programme is based on the World Health Organisations (WHO) Global Age Friendly Programme and is operational across all 31 local authority areas in Ireland.  The programme is focused on ensuring Ireland is responsive to the increasing needs of older people and adopting effective local policy approaches to respond to demographic ageing. This process is based on multi-stakeholder engagement and over the last 9 years significant progress has been made through this programme in implementing innovative practices that have been responsive to the needs of older people.

Catherine’s is a principal advisor at strategic level engaging with key leaders across public, private and NGO sectors and consulting democratically with people to reshape the way in which services are delivered.  Her expertise lies in strategic planning and promoting collaborative approaches to effective service reform.

Spanning a 25-year career, Catherine's previous backgrounds involved working in the field of TeleCare, TeleHealth and the provision of remote clinical and nonclinical care services to older people who wished to live independently. Catherine is a champion of community & home-based care services with a vision of promoting independent living and building sustainable environments.  She has worked across the public, NGO and private sector with a variety of organisations in which she garnered extensive knowledge of the issues affecting older people and how we plan for demographic change. 

Luke O’Neill is Professor of Biochemistry in the School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. He is a world expert on innate immunity and inflammation. He is listed by Thompson Reuters/ Clarivates in the top 1% of immunologists in the world and is a popular science communicator. A company he co-founded, Inflazome was recently acquired by Roche. His latest book, published by Gill is called ‘Never Mind the B#ll*cks Here’s the Science’.

Due to priorities dictated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the programme, speakers and panel may be subject to change at any time before the event.  This page will be updated at the earliest opportunity in the event of any such changes.

Sponsored by Educate4health

Recording of this lecture