Citizens’ Assembly To Consider How The State Can Make Ireland A Leader In Tackling Climate Change




Friday 29th September 2017: The Citizens’ Assembly (the Assembly) will meet this weekend the 30th of September to the 1st of October to consider how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change. This weekend Members will hear from a range of national and international academics, practitioners and experts on climate change and hear how nations are affected by it and respond to it.

Referencing the mandate laid down by the Oireachtas the Chair of the Assembly, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy said “implicit in the wording of the Oireachtas resolution is an acknowledgement that climate change is real and climate change is happening. That wording leaves no room for doubt as to how this Assembly should proceed in its deliberations- our starting point must be that climate change is here and that it must be tackled.”

 The Assembly Members will also have an opportunity to hear first-hand how individuals and organisations in Ireland have shown leadership in climate change.  This is first of two weekends dedicated to the topic and in the second weekend Members will make recommendations on what they believe the State needs to do to make Ireland a leader in this area.

On Saturday Chair of the Assembly Ms Justice Mary Laffoy and 99 Citizen members will hear presentations from:

  • Conor Murphy, Lecturer Department of Geography, Maynooth University - ‘The Science of Climate Change’ 
  • Laura Burke, Director General of the Environmental Protection Agency- Climate Change in a Broader Environmental Context 
  •  Joseph Curtin, Senior Research Fellow with responsibility for Climate Change Policy, IIEA, Tackling climate change- Current efforts in Ireland and Internationally
  • Dr. Peter Stott, Scientific Strategic Head for the Climate Monitoring and Attribution Team, UK Met Office-  Climate Change: Present and Future Impacts
  • Dr. Saji Varghese, Head of Research, Environment and Applications Division, Met Éireann - Status of Climate in Ireland
  • Brian Carroll, Assistant Secretary General leading the Climate Action and Environment function at the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment- National Mitigation Plan
  • Pat Gilroy, Chair of the National Dialogue - National Dialogue on Climate Change


 On Sunday Chair of the Assembly Ms Justice Mary Laffoy and 99 Citizen members will hear presentations from:

  • Marie Donnelly, Former Director Renewables, Research & Innovation and Energy Efficiency and DG Energy of the European Commission- How do I heat, power and service my home and place of work?
  • Brian Motherway, Head of Energy Efficiency at International Energy Agency - How would I heat, power and service my home and place of work if Ireland was a world leader?


The second session on the Sunday - Energy Generation and Efficiency Examples - will provide Members of the Assembly with first hand experiences of individuals and organisations who have shown leadership in climate change:


  • Paul Kenny, Chief Executive Officer of Tipperary Energy Agency (TEA). The TEA enables local authorities, communities and businesses to become more sustainable in their energy use
  • Neil McCabe, Kilbarrack Fire Station.  Neil McCabe enabled Kilbarrack Fire Station to become the first carbon neutral fire station in the country and his work is now being replicated across the country
  •  Donna Garland, Codema. Codema is Dublin’s not for profit Energy Agency set up by Dublin City Council om 1997. The organisations recently won a major European award for their Homes Energy Saving Kits which help the public identify problem areas in their home and understand the energy they consume daily.


Over 1,200 submissions were received by the Assembly from members of the public and representative groups and these submissions are available for the public to view on the Assembly website. Further to this the Secretariat has prepared a summary of the submissions for the members and this will also be made available on the website.

Chair of the Assembly Justice Mary Laffoy said “The Citizens’ Assembly meets this weekend after a very short hiatus for what I expect will be a thought provoking and robust discussion on how the State can make a leader in tackling climate change. I think that anyone looking at international and national news events over the past few months cannot but be struck by the very visible impact of climate change and the potential vastness of the  subject itself. However, our task  is quite specific and I am confident that we have put together a work programme that will provide the Members of the Assembly with the opportunity to consider where Ireland currently is and how it may lead.

“I want to thank those who made a submission to the Assembly on this topic.  We received over 1,200 on the topic and these submissions played and continue to play a vital role in the development of our work programme and provide a fascinating snapshot of the range of views on this topic.”

“I am looking forward to seeing the Members gather again in Malahide. This is the eighth weekend that they have come together in the service of the Assembly and we are inordinately grateful for their ongoing dedication to deliberative democracy.”

The Assembly will be live streamed and all presentations made to the Assembly will be available to read and download on the Assembly website

Notes to Editor:


The Assembly is a body comprising the Chairperson and 99 citizens, randomly selected to be broadly representative of the Irish electorate, established to consider some of the most important issues facing Ireland’s future. The Assembly members will deliberate the topics as outlined in the Resolution approving its establishment, and any other matters that may be referred to it. Their conclusions on each topic will form the basis of individual reports and recommendations that will be submitted to the Houses of the Oireachtas for further debate by our elected representatives.

Speaker Biographies


Dr Conor Murphy, Maynooth University

Conor is a Lecturer in the Department of Geography at Maynooth University, having graduated with his PhD in 2007. Since its inception in 2008 Conor has been course director for the MSc Climate Change at Maynooth University.  His research interests are broad ranging with a particular focus on Modelling impacts of climate change, quantifying uncertainty and exploring how uncertainty in future impacts can be integrated into decision making, the detection and attribution of climate change signals from observations and the reconstruction and analysis of long term records of key climate variables and understanding the social dynamics of adaptation to climate change. Conor sits on the National Adaptation Committee and has acted as expert reviewer for reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Laura Burke, Environmental Protection Agency

Laura Burke is the Director General of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ireland. In 2017 Laura was elected Chair of the European Environment Agency (EEA) Management Board.  Laura is also the Chair to the Societal Challenge 5 Advisory Group for Horizon 2020.  Prior to joining the EPA, she worked in the private sector.

Laura is a graduate chemical engineer of University College Dublin (UCD), holds an MSc from Trinity College, Dublin and is a Chartered Director.  In 2016 Laura was awarded the UCD Engineering Graduates Association Distinguished Graduate Award.

Joseph Curtin, IIEA

Joseph Curtin is Senior Fellow for climate policy at the Institute of International and European Affairs and a Research Fellow at the Environmental Research Institute, UCC. He is also a member of the Government’s climate change advisory council. He has researched and written extensively on topics including international climate negotiations, EU climate policy, Irish climate policy, and how to engage citizens with low carbon transition. He is a graduate of London School of Economics and Trinity College Dublin. 

Saji Varghese

Saji Varghese studied B.Sc. (Physics) and M.Sc. (Meteorology) in India.  He obtained his Ph.D. in longwave radiation modelling from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, also from India in 2003.  He worked at NUI, Galway from 2004 on regional climate modelling, air-quality modelling and development of a volcanic ash forecasting system for Ireland until he joined Met Éireann in 2011.  Since 2016, he has been the Head of Research, Environment and Applications Division in Met Éireann.  His research interests include near-surface thermal environment, radiative transfer theory and modelling, climate/ air-quality modelling, volcanic-ash forecasting, meteorological instrumentation and post-processing of forecast data.

Dr. Peter Stott, Climate Monitoring and Attribution Team, UK Met Office

Peter is the Acting Director of the Met Office Hadley Centre (MOHC) and Professor of Detection and Attribution at the University of Exeter. As well as overseeing the scientific direction of the MOHC, Peter represents the MOHC to UK Government Sponsors, particular BEIS and Defra, who fund the core science programme on behalf of UK Government. Peter is also Lead on scientific co-ordination of the Climate Science for Services Partnership China (CSSP China), a research programme that is bringing together the best of UK and Chinese climate research for climate services.

Peter is an expert in the attribution of climate change to anthropogenic and natural causes and his previous role was the Scientific Strategic Head for the Climate Monitoring and Attribution areas within the MOHC. Peter was involved in the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a Contributing Author and was heavily involved in the production of the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC as a Lead Author for both the Working Group 1 report on the Physical Science Basis and the Synthesis Report, which in addition covers impacts, adaptation and mitigation. He was Coordinating Lead Author for Chapter 10 (Detection and attribution of climate change: from global to regional) of the Working Group 1 of IPCC AR5.


Pat Gilroy, Chair of the National Dialogue

Pat joined Designer Group as Managing Director in 2016, having previously held the position of CEO Dalkia Ireland and UK with Dalkia / Veolia Environment. Pat was Secretary of the Energy Institute and a Board Member of Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). He holds a BA BAI (Mech) Honours Degree from Trinity College, Dublin and was a Member of the IBEC National Council. Pat is Ex-President of the Irish French Chamber of Commerce and was appointed a Chevalier of the Order du Merite by the French Government in 2015. Pat successfully managed the Dublin Senior Gaelic Football Team to All Ireland victory in 2011. He is currently Chair of the National Dialogue on Climate Action.


Marie Donnelly, Former Director Renewables, Research & Innovation and Energy Efficiency at DG Energy of the European Commission

Throughout her thirty year career in the European Commission, Marie has been a leading advocate of future oriented policies and strategies – most recently to accelerate the energy transition. As the Director for Renewables, Energy Efficiency and Innovation, at DG Energy in the European Commission, she formulated key elements of the ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’ package designed to put energy efficiency first, achieve global leadership in renewable energies and provide a fair deal for consumers.

Marie is currently a member of the Governance Committee of MaREI, the marine and renewable energy research, development and innovation Centre supported by Science Foundation Ireland and coordinated by the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) at University College Cork. She is also serving on the Steering Committee of the  International Energy Research Centre (IERC), a state of the art facility established to implement new science in the energy space and hosted at the Tyndall Institute.

Brian Motherway, International  Energy Agency

Dr Brian Motherway is Head of the Energy Efficiency Division at the International Energy Agency, overseeing a range of analytical and outreach programmes supporting energy efficiency globally. Prior to joining the IEA Brian was Chief Executive of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. Brian holds Bachelors and Masters degrees in engineering and a PhD in sociology.


Paul Kenny, Tipperary Energy Agency

Paul Kenny is the Chief Executive of the Tipperary Energy Agency, a non profit public good energy consultancy. Paul has worked in the sustainable energy field for 11 years and has worked on large retrofit programs, community wind farms, energy efficiency in the public sector and has been the driving force of the success of the national deep retrofit program Superhomes. Paul is a Chartered mechanical engineer with a 1st class honours degree from UCD and is currently finalising an MSc in energy from Heriot Watt in Edinborough. Paul is vice president of the Federation of European local and regional energy agencies and was recently named in the Irish Independent as one of Ireland’s top 20 people who would lead our response to climate change.

Neil McCabe, Kilbarrack Fire Station

Neil has spent the last nine years guiding and developing the public and private sectors to take actual steps to mitigate climate change using his new system – The GreenPlan. This has including high level round table talks with the European Union and International Governments; including the writing of two European Union Directives for Air Quality and Water use. In 2012, Kilbarrack Fire Station, Dublin, became the world’s first carbon neutral Fire Station by using Neil’s System. This reduced Dublin Fire Brigades energy demand by 44% way ahead of the 2020 targets.  As an Ashoka Fellow and Social Entrepreneur, Neil has developed deep scaling strategies and techniques to embed genuine sustainable development using actual actions to mitigate Climate Change. Recently, Neil has converted his work to a free online training course that gives communities globally, the toolkit, to create real impact, lower their carbon footprint and save money. Neil is still a full time Fireman and Paramedic with Dublin Fire Brigade.

Donna Garland, Codema

Donna has worked at Codema-Dublin’s Energy Agency since 2013. She is a qualified electrician with a BEng in Energy and Environmental Engineering, and a MSc in Sustainable Energy Planning and Management from Aalborg University, Denmark. She is currently completing a PhD in Energy Engineering with the Energy Policy and Modelling Group in University College Cork. As Codema’s Strategic Sustainable Energy Planner, Donna has worked on monitoring and reporting the progress of the Sustainable Energy Action Plan for Dublin City in line with the EU’s Covenant of Mayors Initiative. Donna developed the first Spatial Energy Demand Analyses (SEDA) in Ireland for all four Dublin local authorities in order to integrate energy and spatial planning at a local level. Donna is also working on implementing the first large scale District Heating systems in Dublin with Dublin City and South Dublin County Councils, and is Technical Advisor on the EU Interreg North-West Europe project ‘HeatNet’. She is the lead author of the first national level ‘Guide to District Heating in Ireland’ report, funded by the SEAI. Donna is responsible for strategic, action-orientated, local level energy planning and development of energy policy.