How can we innovate and connect to help make our island economies more sustainable in a post-Covid World? That’s the key question being asked at a free Irish webinar on Wednesday 2nd September from 10am to 12pm.

The webinar is Ireland’s Virtual Hub event for the 2nd global Virtual Island Summit (VIS), which runs from 7-13 September online, involving over 100 island communities across the world.

Sustainable Island Economies: Connecting Locally and Globally

“Ireland is an island economy with over a dozen populated offshore islands,” says Dr Noirín Burke, of the National Aquarium of Ireland and Irish Ocean Literacy Network, who’s a VIS Ambassador to Ireland. “Islanders work hard to maintain their economies, stay connected and create a sustainable future, something that has been extra challenging this year with Covid-19” says Dr Burke.

Her fellow VIS Ambassador, ex BBC and Irish Times journalist, Trish Hegarty of Inis Communications, says this free online event will explore how islands connect “to each other, to the mainland and to other islands across Europe and the world.”

The event is being run by the two VIS Ambassadors in collaboration with Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann, which represents offshore islanders.

Trish says the participants will get to hear from islanders working in enterprise, economic and community development and other experts working with island communities in areas like energy, sustainability, technology and connectivity.  “We’ll also have Q&A’s and breakout sessions, so everyone gets a chance to discuss how we can connect better in the future, both locally and globally.”

Rhoda Twombly of Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann says her members are more than used to connecting online because of their physical distance and separation from the mainland. “But in this time of social distancing and such an uncertain future, it’s more important than ever to strengthen our national and global connections to learn from each other’s experiences.”

Virtual Island Summit Hub Speakers and Contributors

Contributors to the event include Forbes Top 30 under 30 innovator, James Ellsmoor, the founder of VIS; offshore islanders Rhoda Twombly and John Walsh of Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann (Irish Islands Federation) and the European Small Islands Federation ESIN; Cathy Ní Ghóill, Manager of Comharchumann Forbartha Arann, Máirtín Ó Méalóid, manager of Cape Clear Island Cooperative, Vice Chair of Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann; UCC researcher Dr. Sarah Robinson, who’s working with island communities on Bere, Sherkin and Cape Clear as they establish community radio; Simon Cocking, Chief Editor of Irish Tech News; Brendan Smith, Education and Public Engagement Officer at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics; and Aine Ryan, an award-winning journalist based in Westport, County Mayo, interested in rural issues & peripheral communities.

Attendance is free but registration is essential to take part. Click here to register.

Details of Irish Hub Event for Virtual Island Summit

The webinar will explore sustainability in island economies in Ireland.  It aims to create connections which can promote exchanges of ideas and experience between Irish islands, the Irish mainland, European islands & the global island network, particularly through the global Virtual Island Summit (VIS)  event and network.


10am Introduction – An Outline of the Themes and Format:

  • VIS ambassadors to Ireland, Trish Hegarty & Dr Nóirín Burke
  • Rhoda Twombly, Secretary of Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann (Irish Islands Federation) and ESIN, the European Small Islands Federation
  • James Ellsmoor, founder Virtual Island Summit

10.15 am Technology and Connectivity: Using innovation and technology to connect

Chair: Simon Cocking, Chief Editor, Irish Tech News


  • Dr Sarah Robinson, Post-doctoral researcher with Grassroots Wavelengths Community Radio innovations projects, UCC.
  • Brendan Smith, Insight Centre for Data Analytics, NUI Galway

Followed by short Q&A

 Flash Presentation – What it means to be an Islander – Rhoda Twombly, Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann

 10.45 am Sustainable Island Economies: Enterprise, marine economy, sustainability and environment

Chair: John Walsh, chair of ESIN (European Small Island Federation).


  • Gerard Sullivan, owner of Bere Island Boatyard, who’s working to revive seawright skills in Ireland and our islands.
  • Cathy Ní Ghóill from Inis Mór – Manager of Comharchumann Forbartha Arann, will talk about their waste and recycling project in context of the island economy.
  • Máirtín Ó Méalóid, manager of Cape Clear Island Cooperative, Vice Chair of Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann

Followed by short Q&A

Flash Presentation – Being an Islander in your Mind – Aine Ryan, Journalist.

11.15 am Group Breakout Sessions of 15 minutes will focus on what it means to be an islander and what we want to gain from linking with other islanders around the globe.

11.30: Report backs from breakout sessions, followed by an open discussion on a practical collective way forward for the island of Ireland and our offshore islands to promote and benefit from global links.

11.55. Short wrap up by Trish Hegarty and Nóirín Burke and close by 12pm

Register to attend at:  

Speakers and Chairs:

Dr Nóirín Burke is Director of Education at the National Aquarium of Ireland. She works in both formal and informal education, outreach, ocean literacy and stakeholder engagement. She’s on the secretariat of the Irish Ocean Literacy Network and a board member of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group.

Trish Hegarty is a former BBC and Irish Times journalist and director of Inis Communications PR agency. She has worked on a range of marine, tourism and regional economy projects for clients such as Fáilte Ireland and Foyle Port and ran the award-winning #LoveDonegal Day campaign last year.

Rhoda Twombly lives on Inishlyre, Mayo is Secretary of Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann (Irish Islands Federation) and ESIN, the European Small Islands Federation. Comhdháil was founded in 1984 by 16 islands to examine the difficulties facing islanders, which they felt weren’t being addressed at regional or national level.

Dr. Sarah Robinson is a UCC postdoctoral researcher on the grassroots radio project since January 2019, working with island communities on Bere, Sherkin and Cape Clear. Based at the School of Applied Psychology, her background is in social, cultural and community psychology as well participatory action research.

Máirtín Ó Méalóid is manager of Cape Clear Island Cooperative,Vice Chair of Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann (Irish Islands Federation) with wide experience of island development at local, regional, national and European level. He’s currently developing several Sustainable Energy Strategies including an Energy Transition Agenda.

Gerard Sullivan is owner of Bere Island Boatyard, a boat repair and maintenance business. He’s working with national and local agencies on provision of training to revive sea wright skills in Ireland and our islands.

Cathy Ní Ghóill is a 9th generation islander of Inismór, in the Aran Islands, and has over 30 years’ experience working for island communities. She is the General Manager of Comharchumann Forbartha Arann (CFA), a community development organisation, Chairperson of the island federation of Gaeltacht co-operative organisations and Chair of Comhar na n-Oileáin.

Simon Cocking moved to Ireland 20 years ago and lives on Cape Clear Island. He is an entrepreneur, Chief Editor of Irish Tech News, & Editor in Chief at Crypto Commonwealth. He also writes for the Sunday Business Post and The Irish Times.

John Walsh lives on Bere Island and is projects coordinator for the Bere Island Projects Group. He is also a Board member of Comhar na n-Oileáin and Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann as well as Chair of ESIN (European Small Island Federation).   Ireland is a founder member of ESIN, created in 2001 by island federations from six European countries to tackle challenges faced by small islands on a local, national and European level.

Brendan Smith is the Education and Public Engagement Officer at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics. He is also a lead mentor in Africa Code Week, an exciting progressive technology and social initiative that aims to empower youth across Africa by providing them with the skills necessary to transform their societies.

Aine Ryan is an award-winning journalist, feature and opinion writer based in Westport, County Mayo. She is particularly interested in politics, rural issues, peripheral communities, literature and philosophy. Aine writes part-time for The Mayo News and also contributes to national newspapers including the Irish Times, Sunday Times.