Rita Connell, President
Rita Connell joined Blayney Ramblers in 1993 and has been their Club Secretary for many years. She has built up years of experience helping to run the club and also a wide knowledge of hillwalking. A regular walker, she has visited many of the mountain areas in Ireland and Britain. Rita is a seasoned hiker, enjoys camping, and has completed many independent multi-day hikes, ranging from ones in the Alps and Pyrenees to others further afield in New Zealand, Peru, Iceland and Greenland. She is a former teacher and school principal.
Rita is a strong supporter of Mountaineering Ireland. She was Secretary from 2001-2006 and has been active with Women With Altitude since its inception. She was elected to the role of President in 2023.
David Pollard, Chairperson
David Pollard joined the Board of Mountaineering Ireland in summer 2020 and took on the role of Chairperson in April 2022. He is a member of the Access and Conservation Committee and is passionate about protecting our mountain environment.
David has been a regular hillwalker all his adult life, having first got involved at university. He is currently an active member of both Wicklow-based Club Cualann and the Dingle Hillwalking Club in Kerry. He has walked extensively in Ireland as well as in Wales, Scotland, France, Austria, Italy, Slovakia and Iceland. In addition to being a hillwalker, David is a keen cyclist and, over the years, has dabbled in various water-based outdoor sports.
He is a scientist by training and has spent most of his professional career working in the public sector.
Noel Caffrey, Vice-Chairperson
Noel Caffrey started as a very young scout, with friends, repeating and leading easy new routes in the Burren, Co Clare. He has now been involved in rock-climbing, hillwalking and mountaineering for over fifty years and is looking forward to many more years participating in the sport. Noel has enjoyed trips to the mountains of Africa, South America, Canada and Europe. Being in the mountains is a central part of his life and one he hopes to continue.
Noel says that he is now trying to retire after forty plus years in industry, so that he can spend more time on all things mountain.
Alistair Wilson joined the Board of Mountaineering Ireland in early 2022 and comes from a legal background. He has been a keen rock climber for over twenty- five years and enjoys traditional climbing, bouldering and sport climbing. He has climbed extensively in the Mournes and at Fair Head. Outside of climbing, he enjoys hillwalking, canoeing and swimming.
Joan Mulloy grew up in the west of Ireland, where the sea and mountains shaped who she is. She started hillwalking and rock- climbing at the age of twelve and has maintained a connection with the sport ever since.
The past ten years have seen Joan pursuing a career in professional sailing, with the ambition to race solo around the world in the Vendée Globe race. She has experience of high performance sport, as well as managing her own sailing campaign.
Living in the hills of Connemara, Joan appreciates the value of the mountains and wants to ensure they are protected and enjoyed.
lan Lawler is a marine zoologist, whose primary adventure sport over the past forty years has been scuba diving. However, that changed when his daughter threw herself into climbing with the Dublin Cliffhangers Youth Climbing Club in 2017 and he had little choice but to follow. lan is now the outgoing Chair of the Cliffhangers, having taken up the position in 2018, the same year he completed the Irish Mountaineering Club new members' INTRO2TRAD programme and started leading trad.
He now leads at VS/HVS and he qualified as a rock climbing instructor in 2021. He has put his professional experience to good use in securing funding for Cliffhangers, who have been supporting high performance climbing for talented young climbers.
Brian Kennan is a family man with four children in their twenties. He loves the outdoors and enjoys walking, running. cycling and motorcycling. He is a very active member of the Irish Ramblers Club and is the coordinator for their Thursday Grade 2 hikes. Brian has recently retired from a career in the technology sector and happily swapped his briefcase for a backpack. He has considerable experience in team building and in transforming organisations. He is excited to have the chance to put his organisational and leadership skills to work in support of Mountaineering Ireland's hillwalking ambitions. Brian is the Chairperson of Mountaineering Ireland's Hillwalking Committee.
Dave Ayton and his wife Caroline live on a hill in Wicklow with their three active kids. Dave has been obsessed with climbing from an early age and he quickly got consumed with exploring traditional climbing at crags around Ireland, the UK and Europe.
He is now equally happy hillwalking, mountaineering, bouldering, sports climbing or winter climbing Dave has been a member of Mountaineering Ireland for over twenty years, gaining experience and qualifications as a climbing instructor, coach and mountain leader.
Professionally, Dave has a background as an aerospace test and development engineer and as a maths and physics teacher, and he now owns and manages indoor climbing centres.
Mary Lally has had extensive experience in the governance of commercial companies, non-commercial State agencies, sporting agencies and charities during her career. She is a chartered director with a range of leadership and interpersonal skills. Mary currently also sits on the board of Badminton Ireland. She feels that her professional expertise and her experience serving on boards, particularly on the board of Special Olympics Ireland, where she chaired the Governance Committee, gives her a full understanding of the necessity for the highest standards of governance, regulatory compliance and accountability. Mary is well-travelled and has a keen interest in healthy lifestyles and sport.