Irish Refugee Council director awarded the prestigious Captain Cathal Ryan Scholarship for contribution to enhancing the rights of refugees

Posted On: 31 May 2012

Sue Conlan, Chief Executive of the Irish Refugee Council (IRC), receives the prestigious Captain Cathal Ryan Scholarship Award at a ceremony hosted by the One Foundation in the Bar Council. The award is in recognition of Sue Conlan’s lifetime work in enhancing the rights of refugees and immigrants in both Ireland and the UK.

Presenting the award, Claudia Ryan, daughter of the late Cathal Ryan, says: ““We are delighted to recognise Sue’s achievements in promoting the rights of a vulnerable and often forgotten community.  Sue has shown exceptional leadership in the field of asylum and immigration throughout her career.  We hope that the scholarship will help her to build on this through her PhD research and we wish her every success with her PhD.”

Deirdre Mortell of The One Foundation said “The Scholarship was launched in 2008 to commemorate and celebrate the life of Captain Cathal Ryan and consists of a 10 year fund of up to €25,000 per year to be awarded to exceptional leaders in social entrepreneurship or non-profit leadership in Ireland. The aim of the scholarship is to support further education and personal development to advance the personal and professional goals of the winning applicants”.

Having worked as an asylum and immigration lawyer and political advocate in the UK for more than 20 years, Sue Conlan joined the IRC in order to bring together her legal and political experience to seek structural change in the asylum process.  She plans to use the award to undertake a PhD on the issue of political leadership in the field of immigration and asylum.

Sue Conlan says: “In the course of my career, I have been frustrated that success in individual cases can be undermined by the failure of politicians to bring about change in the system.  For structural and cultural change to occur, for the benefit of all concerned, there needs to be leadership at a political level.”

Speaking at the event are two people who have received support from the IRC and will share what that has meant to them, and Noeline Blackwell, Director General of FLAC and board member of the IRC.   Noeline Blackwell, as well as knowing Sue personally since her early days at the IRC, has previously worked as an asylum and immigration lawyer and has been vocal on the treatment of asylum seekers in Ireland.

Sue Conlan grew up in Birmingham and worked there until she joined the IRC in 2010. Having initially worked for an NGO in the field of anti-racism, she has specialised in immigration and asylum for the last 25 years, both in NGOs and private legal practice. She was recognised in the UK as a leading lawyer in immigration and asylum.  She has also worked as a trainer and consultant, including for Oxford University’s Centre on Migration Policy and Society and the Open University. She has been the CEO of the Irish Refugee Council since February 2010.





Further information

Sharon Waters                  085 8585 510



Notes to the editor

  1. The One Foundation is a private philanthropic fund based in Dublin, Ireland whose aim is to significantly improve the life chances of disadvantaged children and young people in Ireland and Vietnam.  It is a 10 year limited life fund, set up in 2004 and operating until 2013. During this period, the foundation aims to create long term, sustainable social change through the organisations it supports.  To date, One Foundation has invested in mental health, integration of minorities, and social entrepreneurship in Ireland and Vietnam.
  2. The Irish Refugee Council (IRC) is Ireland’s only national non-governmental organisation which specialises in working with and for refugees in Ireland.  The IRC is committed to promoting an asylum system that will be beneficial for refugees, the decision-maker, and the tax payer.