Freedom of the City of Dublin Conferred on Three Inspirational Women

13th June 2022

Posted In: Newsflash

Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alison Gilliland, conferred the Honorary Freedom of the City of Dublin on Ailbhe Smyth, Professor Mary Aiken and Kellie Harrington on Saturday (11th June 2022). The ceremony took place in the Round Room at the Mansion House in Dublin.

The Lord Mayor and Dublin City Council paid tribute to Ailbhe for her work in the areas of human rights, social justice and academia, Professor Mary Aiken for her work in the areas of cyberpsychology, online safety and security, and Kellie Harrington for her unstinting work in the community, her caring exemplar and role modelling for young people and for her sporting achievements.

Lord Mayor of Dublin Alison Gilliland said;

“The Freedom of the City is the highest Civic honour Dublin City can bestow. It is a privilege for me to confer the Freedom on these three most deserving recipients, Ailbhe Smyth, Professor Mary Aiken and Kellie Harrington.

Ailbhe Smyth said, ‘I am deeply honoured and absolutely delighted to receive the Freedom of the City I love and have lived in all my life.

As an activist, it’s wonderful to see our collective struggles for equality, justice and human rights being recognised and valued and so encouraging for younger generations of campaigners.

A very special ‘thank you’ to Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland for tackling a historical injustice in naming not just one but three women to receive the honour, and highlighting the brilliant and varied contribution women make to civic life.”

Professor Mary Aiken said

“It is an honour to be considered in the same roll call as JFK, Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa, I am equally honoured to be in the company of strong, pioneering female representatives of Irelands recent past, present and future.

However, I don’t view this as an award for personal endeavour – I am delighted that it highlights the science and work focused on creating a safer and more secure cyberspace.”

Kellie Harrington said “It’s such an honour to receive the freedom of the City and I am so grateful. It give me and my family a huge sense of pride and I would like to thank the Lord Mayor and Dublin City Council   on behalf of my family, my community an all who has supported me on my journey.

There are not too many women on this role of honour and I am delighted to be one of three incredible women to receive this award now.”

The Freedom has previously been conferred on 83 persons ranging from Presidents to Prisoners of Conscience to people in Sports and Entertainment. The first recipient of the Freedom of the City was Isaac Butt in 1876. The most recent recipients were Jim Gavin on 18th January 2020 and Dr Tony Holohan on 19th June 2021.

Pictured at the Mansion House before this evening’s ceremony are Mary Aiken, Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland, Kellie Harrington and Ailbhe Smyth (pic: Fennell Photography 2022).


Biographies of the recipients

Ailbhe Smyth

Ailbhe Smyth was born in Rathmines, Co. Dublin, in 1946, where she still lives today. In her adolescent years, she attended Our Lady’s School Templeogue, which was in the unique position of being run by English nuns. Here, with the benefits of the nuns’ external perspective, Ailbhe learned the value of questioning the world around her.

Ailbhe was the first woman in her large extended family to go to university. She pursued a bachelor’s degree in English and French at University College Dublin (UCD), later achieving an M.A. in French, eventually taking up a position as a lecturer in the Department of French. During this time she began reading extensively about the Women’s Movement. She would go on to set up the Women’s Study Forum and would later co-found the Women’s Education, Research and Resource Centre at UCD in the 1990s. She was head of Women’s Studies at the university from 1990 to 2006.

Ailbhe’s activist roots can be traced back to the many obstacles she came up against as a woman in mid-twentieth century Ireland. She became involved in social movement politics as a means of removing these obstacles. She felt very strongly that she could not overcome these hurdles on her own; she had to join together with other people. From this, she became deeply embedded in the efforts of both the Irish Women’s Movement, and the Lesbian and Gay movement.

Ailbhe’s decades-long campaigning career has seen resounding victories as well as crushing defeats. One of the most difficult losses came with the result of the 1986 divorce referendum. More recently, Ailbhe has had cause to celebrate; her work on the marriage equality and repeal the 8th referenda campaigns contributed to landmark triumphs for human rights in this country.

Over the years, Ailbhe has held positions on many significant boards and committees. She chaired the National Lesbian and Gay Federation (now NXF) for 12 years and was a founding member of Marriage Equality. She co-founded and led the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment and was a co-director of Together for Yes. She won the GALAS ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award in 2015, and was included in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list in 2019. She is chair of Women’s Aid and also of Ballyfermot STAR Addiction Services, and on the board of Age Action. She has also been nominated to the board of the Higher Education Authority twice, and has been named as a trustee of the National Library of Ireland. In 2022, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Laws by NUIG.

The Freedom of the City is a particularly special honour for Ailbhe. She is humbled to be affectionately embraced by her home town. She thinks the nomination of three women, from different fields, and of different generations, is marvellous, and has no doubt it will inspire many others. While Ailbhe has accomplished much, she has no intention of slowing down. “You don’t retire from change,” she says. She will keep campaigning in the hope of building a better world.

Professor Mary Aiken

“The Internet was built on the premise that all users are equal, this is not true, some are more vulnerable than others, and children are particularly vulnerable online”

Irishwoman Professor Mary Aiken is one of the world’s leading experts in cyberpsychology, the study of the impact of technology on human behaviour. She was born in Cork but moved to Dublin at a young age and has lived here ever since.

She has advised at Irish, European and International levels in policy debates at the intersection of technology and human behaviour. She is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Cyberpsychology at Capitol Technology University, Washington D.C.’s premier STEM University which has just launched the first online PhD in cyberpsychology. She is a Professor of Forensic Cyberpsychology in the Department of Law and Criminology at the University of East London, and is an Adjunct Professor at the Geary Institute for Public Policy, University College Dublin, Ireland.

Professor Aiken is a Member of the INTERPOL Global Cybercrime Expert Group and is an Academic Advisor to Europol’s European Cyber Crime Centre (EC3). She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, member of Medico-Legal Society of Ireland, International Affiliate Member of the American Psychological Association (APA), Fellow of the Irish Computer Society of Chartered I.T. Professionals, and International Global Fellow at the Washington DC Wilson Centre, chartered by Congress it is the key US policy forum for tackling global issues through independent research. She is the former Director of the Cyberpsychology Research Centre at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland, one of the first dedicated research centres in this area worldwide.

In 2013, Professor Aiken co-led a White House research team as part of the Obama Administration’s initiative ‘Tech. v’s Human Trafficking’ and was inaugurated into ‘SameShield’ an organisation that honours women’s leadership in traditionally closed professions. In 2014 she was listed in Irelands top 100 women in the STEM knowledge economy, in 2016 listed in the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe. In 2017 she was inducted into the Infosecurity Europe Hall of Fame in recognition of her contribution to the information and cybersecurity sector. In 2019 and 2021 she was named in the top 50 women in GovTech in the Asia Pacific region, that is, women who are in technology roles and have influence over government’s use of technology. She has contributed to projects, events and forums organised by global organisations such as the United Nations, EU, NATO, G7, Europol, INTERPOL and the White House.

Professor Aiken is co-lead on one of the largest EU cybercrime research projects investigating human and technical drivers of juvenile cybercrime. She is an expert advisor on online harms and online safety technologies to the UK Government, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and a longstanding contributor to EU policy making and practice protocols regarding youth protection online.

A published, peer-reviewed author, Professor Aiken’s work as a cyberpsychologist inspired the CBS primetime television series ‘CSI:Cyber’ which has aired in over 170 countries worldwide. Her book ‘The Cyber Effect’ has been published worldwide including Chinese and Russian editions, it was selected by the Times as a 2016 ‘book of the year’ in the ‘Thought Category.’

Notwithstanding her global impact, Mary is committed to her citizenship of Dublin, she has made a significant contribution over the past decade to Irish policy and legislative process in the area of online safety, security and protection, from co-leading the Irish Digital Age of Consent campaign in 2017, to advising on the current Irish Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill. She is dedicated to the creation of a safer and more secure online environment for the people of Dublin, the people of Ireland, and worldwide.

Kellie Harrington

Kellie Anne Harrington was born in 1989. She grew up in Dublin’s North Inner City in Portland Row, Dublin 1. She lived there with her brothers Christopher, Aaron and Joel and her parents, Yvonne and Christie Harrington.

As a young teenager Kellie hated school and was, in her words, “heading down the wrong pathway”. She left school aged 14 and completed her Junior Certificate with Youthreach. Then she ended up going to Coláiste Íde in Finglas, where she did a course in sport and leisure management. She joined the army aged 18, but left shortly afterwards after deciding it wasn’t the right path for her.

However, everything changed for Kellie when she discovered Boxing and the Corinthians Boxing Club in Summerhill. Initially her local boxing club was all male and wouldn’t let her join, but she persisted, putting in a lot of hard work and training. She credits the sport for giving her the goals and discipline that she needed to become the elite sportswoman and positive role model that she is today.

Kellie Harrington is now an amateur Irish boxer representing Ireland in the women’s lightweight division and she trains at St. Mary’s Boxing Club in Tallaght. The boxer has had a stellar career in the boxing arena. Some of her career highlights to date include winning a Gold medal at the Olympics in Tokyo 2021, becoming the second Irish female boxer ever to win an Olympic gold medal. Kellie has also won a gold medal at the 2018 Women’s World Boxing Championships, a silver medal at the 2017 Women’s European Union Boxing Championships and a silver medal at the 2016 Women’s World Boxing Championships.

In February this year, the boxer won another gold medal at the Strandja International Tournament. Kellie is now focussed on her bid to recreate her gold medal success at next Olympic Games in Paris, in 2024.

When the Olympic Champion is not in the boxing ring or training, she works as a cleaner at weekends in St. Vincent’s Psychiatric Hospital in Fairview. The sportswoman also lends her support and social media platforms to promote a number of social causes and charities.

She has been involved in organising and coaching open training days to raise money for The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. She has also promoted the Irish Youth Foundation.

The Olympic Champion is also a Dare To Believe ambassador, encouraging children to pursue their sporting goals and Kellie is also an ambassador for Permanent TSB Bank, SPAR, as well as Gym + Coffee, Linder, Sport Ireland and Dublin City Council.

At the end of May, Kellie was unveiled as a new sports ambassador for Dublin City Council. As part of the Ambassador Programme, she will be working with the City Council to encourage people across the city to get involved in sport and physical activity, and to make use of the fantastic sporting facilities on offer in the city.

Kellie is also very proud of her roots and where she grew up. She is an ambassador for her community in the North Inner City of Dublin. Recently the Dubliner married her partner of 13 years, Mandy Loughlin and they bought a house a few doors down from her parents in Portland Row. When the renovations are finished, they plan to live there with their three dogs: French Bulldogs Nidge and Gus and a Staffy called Maisie.

In October this year, Kellie’s autobiography will be published. Kellie has worked with Booker Prize-winning author Roddy Doyle, to tell her life story of her unlikely rise to greatness, and her continuing commitment to living a normal life.