The Board of the Irish Refugee Council is elected by the Annual General Meeting and is responsible for the management of the organisation between AGMs. Board members can be contacted through the Irish Refugee Council at

Berni Smyth (Acting Chair of the Board)

Berni joined the Board in March 2014. She has over 20 years’ experience of supporting disadvantaged children and families in the youth and community sector. She has worked in a wide variety of community based projects, specialising in developing best practice in direct work with minority ethnic young people and families. She set up SPARK in 2005, a support programme for adolescent refugees and asylum seekers (including separated children) in Galway City. She was awarded a Masters in Family Support, NUI Galway in 2007. Her research explored the social support networks of young refugees and asylum seekers. She has also undertaken research into child wellbeing and family support. She currently coordinates a School Completion Project in Tuam, County Galway. She is a guest lecturer with the Child and Family Research Centre, NUI Galway lecturing on a number of undergraduate and Masters’ Programmes delivered by the Centre, including working with vulnerable populations. She has contributed to numerous boards and committees in the community sector, most recently as Chairperson with Macnas Theatre Co, overseeing a complete organizational restructure.

Elizabeth Mitrow BA/LLB (Chair of the Board-on Maternity Leave)

Elizabeth joined the Board in March 2012. She graduated from the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia in 1999. She qualified as a solicitor in Melbourne in 2000, and worked in a busy litigation practice before coming to Ireland in 2005. She worked as Centres Coordinator for the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) at their head office in Dublin for two years before joining Dublin law firm Terence Lyons & Co in 2007. Since that time she has specialised in Refugee and Immigration law. She is a member of the Legal Aid Board’s panel of private practitioners for appeals to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, District Court family law proceedings and the Criminal Law Legal Aid Scheme. Elizabeth is an active member of the Public Interest Law Alliance, (PILA) through which she assists in providing “pro bono” case work and research on behalf of NGO’s. She is a longstanding legal volunteer with FLAC’s specialist immigration law clinic in the North Inner City.

Doireann Breathnach

Doireann joined the Board in June 2016. She is a business strategy consultant based in the Dublin office of the global consulting firm Accenture focusing on the Products industry sector for Irish and international clients. Doireann’s background is in development and foreign policy. She studied Economics and International Relations at Johns Hopkins University, USA where she was a John F. Kennedy Leadership fellow specialising in the Middle East political economy. She completed her traineeship in European Union’s diplomatic corps working on economic and security policy. Doireann is an Arabic speaker and lived and worked in Syria before the current conflict.

Maeve Foreman

Maeve Foreman joined the board in 2017.  She is a qualified social worker and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College, Dublin.  She worked in Trinity from 2003-2017 where she was course director of the Master in Social Work and Bachelor in Social Studies.  She retired in September 2017 but retains some teaching and tutoring responsibilities. Prior to Trinity she accumulated 28 years community work and social work practice experience. She was a senior medical social worker in the HIV/STI clinic in St. James’s Hospital for 15 years, and worked in community work settings in Dublin and London, including homelessness, housing action and community law centres.  She sat on the care and management sub-committee of the National AIDS Strategy Committee, was a board member of HIV Ireland for eight years and chair of their board from 2008 to 2011.  Her research interests include social work and migration, refugees and asylum seekers; HIV care and prevention; sexuality and sexual health. Maeve is a member of the Irish Association of Social Workers and a co-founder of their Social Work and Migration special interest group.

Patrick Devaney (Treasurer)

Patrick joined the Board in December 2013. He is a qualified chartered accountant, tax consultant, QFA and CUA. He has been in practice for 14 years and has experience of working with various charities and preparation of accounts for same.  He is currently treasurer of Toastmasters international district d71 (Ireland & England).

Reuben Hambakachere

Reuben joined the board in March 2018, however he is not a stranger to the organisation. He previously spent two years working as a volunteer with the Irish Refugee Council as a receptionist and a campaign coordinator for the End Institutionalised living campaign. He possesses in-depth understanding of the legal framework and policy issues that surround the Irish asylum process, gained from a lived experience and as a professional in the public sector. Reuben describes himself as a human rights defender and community influencer. Currently, Reuben is a Project officer with Cultur Migrants Centre a position he has held for the past 4 years, working  directly with people seeking asylum and refugees. Reuben has sat on the Board of Cultur, he is also a co-director of Our Table, a community driven non-profit project aiming to highlight the issues faced by people living in direct provision. Reuben has a Diploma in Sociology, Project Management, Human Resources Management and a certificate in Community development. Reuben uses his lived experience to pioneer and lead social change.

Susan Whelan (Secretary) 

Susan joined the Board in March 2015. She holds a Masters in International Human Rights Law, LLB in Law and European Studies and is qualified as an Attorney in New York. She is currently employed as a Research Assistant in the area of asylum and migration policy. Previous professional experience includes conducting legal research on migration, family and commercial law for a legal practice firm and as an Anti-Money Laundering analyst in the financial services industry. She undertook research for the Immigrant Council of Ireland on topics such as accessing European funding and trafficking. Wider experience includes referendum campaign involvement with Democracy Matters (Seanad), Yes for Children (Children’s Rights) and Generation Yes (Lisbon II).