Ellie Kisyombe

Ellie Kisyombe

Ellie Kisyombe is a mother, activist, political candidate for the Social Democrats, chef and Co-Founder and Director of Our Table.

Originally from Malawi, Ellie has been seeking asylum in Ireland for the past nine years. Her family were driven to empower marginalised people at home, and she has carried this same passion for social justice and equality with her to Ireland. 

unnamed (2).jpg

In 2015 Ellie established Our Table, a non profit that helps refugees and asylum seekers gain skills and employment. Our Table fights to end the harmful system of Direct Provision through the celebration of food and culture. Our Table has seen a number of successes including winning The Irish Cafe Awards, establishing a cafe in Christchurch Cathedral and launching its own range of Hot Sauces and Hummus. 

 In 2016 Ellie was in an award winning radio drama ‘Flight Risk’ which won the Gold Award for Best Drama Special in New York Radio Awards and was nominated for the Prix Europa Berlin, Irish Radio Awards, and the Prix Italia Milan. 

In 2018 Ellie was featured as part of Dublin City Council Culture Company’s ‘Local Heroes’ and announced her candidacy for Dublin City Councillor for the Social Democrats Dublin Central. She was also featured alongside other Irish activists in Hozier’s video for ‘Nina Cried Power’.

Liberties Legends


The Liberties in Dublin is one of the oldest communities in the city. Many who live there can trace their families back generations. It is an area that has had its problems over the years, like many communities in the city. But the Liberties has never been a community that gives up and that is thanks in part to the amazing women who live there. Like the area they love, they are strong, resilient, have a bit of an attitude but above all else they are proud and they love their community. There are so many wonderful women to choose from, but the four women who have been chosen to represent the Liberties capture the essence of the Liberties and what that community means to those who live there from political revolutionaries to social revolutionaries, these women are formidable. They are Anne Devlin, loyal comrade of Robert Emmet, who sacrificed so much for the freedom of Ireland. Madge and Rita Fagan who have over 80 years of community activism between them, fighting for tenant’s rights, worker’s rights and women’s rights. And Liz O’Connor from Oliver Bond who, for over the last twenty years and more has dedicated herself to improving the lives of the children of the local community. All of these women are heroes. They do not do this work for the recognition, they do it because they love their community and for them to be a part of this festival is just a small way for the community to say ‘Thank You’.

Written by local herstorian Liz Gillis


Madge (Margaret) Fagan was a pioneer of working-class women to become involved in social activism to better the lives of those who lived in her community, the Liberties.

For over fifty years Madge fought for the rights of local authority tenants. She was a founding member of the Marrowbone Lane Tenants Association in 1966, whose work helped lead to the formation of the National Association of Tenants’ Organisations (Nato).

Together with other Nato members, Masge campaigned for differential rents, so that no tenant would have to pay more than 10 per cent of income in rent. In 1972, Nato organised a rent strike over the government’s proposal to put four pence on each local authority room. More than 100,000 tenants took part in the strike, which continued for 18 months. Fagan and other women leaders were prominent at the barricades protesting against evictions.



Following the success of this, she campaigned for a better maintenance service for tenants as well as tackling the scourge of anti-social behaviour in her own neighbourhood.

Madge Fagan was a force of nature who loved her community and would and did everything she possibly could to improve the lives of all of those in the area. Madge died on 11 February 2017 aged 94. She is greatly missed by all who knew her.

Rita Fagan is a proud Liberties woman and is the daughter of Madge Fagan, so community activism runs through her veins. She went to the sewing factory at 14. Through the 14 years there she became active in the Trade Union Movement. She spent 11 years voluntary and 1 fulltime in the Dublin Simon Community. From here she was sponsored by good people to partake in the Community & Youth work course in NUI Maynooth. On a placement from this course, Rita came to St. Michaels Estate. 25 years later she is still in this struggle with this grassroots community and is the director of the Family Resource Centre, Women’s Community Development Project. She has travelled widely and has been involved politically in the issues effecting Central America and Cuba. For 9 years she led a protest outside of the U.S. Embassy challenging U.S. foreign policy in the said region. She is also committed to the struggle of women at grassroots level who are very much on the margins and who’s struggle on a daily basis is to survive structural poverty, last but by no means least she believes, that the struggle for justice and freedom not only embodies pain but also joy through celebrating our lives and the outcome of the struggle. Like her mother Madge, Rita has fought and campaigned to make the lives of those in her community and other working-class areas better.


Liz O’Connor is from Oliver Bond and works in the Liberties where for the last forty years she has dedicated her life to community activism, especially in relation to the local children. Over the last twenty years Liz has run a Breakfast Club and an after school club and runs a summer camp every year. Liz O’Connor’s generosity knows no bounds. She is truly a remarkable woman who is the first to lend a hand, or help somebody with a problem. She is a force of nature and her dedication to her community is amazing. That dedication has rightly been recognised. In 2016 Liz received the Lord Mayor’s Award for her work with children and in 2017 she was awarded Person of the Year at the Liberties Awards.  Liz best sums up her reasons for doing what she does: “There’s a great sense of community here in the Liberties and I just love working with the kids, I suppose you could say it’s my calling.”



ANNE DEVLIN (1780-1851)

Anne Devlin was Robert Emmet’s assistant as he planned his abortive rising of 1803. Arrested in it’s aftermath, she was held in Dublin Castle and Kilmainham Gaol in an attempt to get her to reveal the identities of Emmet’s co-conspirators and financial backers, to no avail. Despite three years of mental and physical torture, Anne refused to break until eventually released, broken in body but not in spirit.

For the remainder of her life the police followed her. Anyone seen speaking with her was a potential enemy of the State and taken for questioning. This ensured Anne was, in effect, in solitary confinement in an open prison for the 45 years she lived outside jail, as all who had known her now shunned her, fearful of the policeman dogging her steps.

She died in a miserable garret in the Liberties of Dublin on September 18, 1851, starving, ill, and in agony … but unbowed, proud to the last that she had remained faithful to Robert Emmet and his ideals, proud that she had stood alone and successfully against the mightiest empire the world had known.

Patrick Pearse wrote:

“Wherever Emmet is commemorated let Anne Devlin not be forgotten … The fathers and mothers of Ireland should tell their children (the) story of Anne Devlin. When at night you kiss your children and in your hearts call down a benediction, you could wish for … no greater gift from God than such fidelity as Anne Devlin's”.

ANNE DEVLIN (1780-1851)

ANNE DEVLIN (1780-1851)

Riane Eisler and David Loye

Riane Eisler and David Loye

Their story is part of our ‘World of Equals’ series celebrating egalitarian partnerships throughout history and today.

Riane Eisler and David Loye met forty two years ago, fell in love, and have been partners in life and work ever since.

Riane was a child refugee from the Nazis. She and her parents fled her native Vienna at night after Krystal Night, so called because of all the glass shattered in Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues during that deadly pogrom. They were on one of the last ships admitted to Cuba, where Riane grew up in the cockroach-infested industrial slums of Havana and learned first-hand what dire poverty means.

These were traumatic experiences, but they led to the questions that years later would animate her research, writing, speaking, educating, and activism: Why, when we humans have such a great capacity for consciousness, caring, and creativity has there been so much insensitivity, cruelty and destructiveness?

These questions stayed with Riane when she came to the United States, went to university to study sociology and anthropology, married and had two daughters, went back to law school and obtained her Juris Doctor (JD) degree, and later embarked on the decades of multidisciplinary, cross cultural and historical research that eventually led to The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future (now in 57 US printings and 26 foreign editions). She is author of other critically acclaimed books, including Sacred Pleasure: Sex, Myth, and the Politics of the Body, Tomorrow’s Children: A Blueprint for Partnership Education, and The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, as well as hundred of articles, providing evidence that for most of prehistory (until a shift to domination about 5,000 years ago) women and the ‘feminine’ were highly valued, that there has been strong movement towards partnership punctuated by periodic regressions in recent centuries, and that advanced technologies in service of conquest and domination could take us to an evolutionary dead end.

Riane has dedicated her life to empowering women’s voices in the legal system, the social sciences, and the world at large to bring about a better society for everyone, showing how the status of women and children (the majority of humanity) is not “just a women’s or children’s issue,” but key to the construction of all our relations and institutions – from the family, education, and religion to politics and economics – as well as to our guiding system of values.

As Riane’s partner, David Loye shares her commitment to empowering women worldwide. When they attended the 1985 UN Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya, David was a panelist on how men can support women’s struggle against oppression, prejudice, discrimination, and traditions of domination and violence in both family and society at large.

Indeed, David has been a strong supporter of Riane’s research and writing, and she has been a strong supporter of his work, which, like hers, stems from a passion to help build a more equitable and caring world. David wrote the national award-winner The Healing of a Nation on race relations in the United States, three books on predicting and shaping the future, and a pioneering series of books uncovering Charles Darwin’s long-ignored writings about moral evolution rather than “survival of the fittest” as the prime driver for our cultural evolution, most recently Rediscovering Darwin: The Rest of Darwin's Theory and Why We Need it Today.

His book 3,000 Years of Love is a more personal work that tells the story of his life- partnership with Riane. Sometimes humorous, always inspiring, this is the love story of two unusual people whose lives span almost a century of history and social action, a story that helps us see how each of us can make a difference in the world.

Before David turned to applying scholarship to human and planetary advancement, he was an early television newsman, a test developer, and the director of a project at the UCLA School of Medicine showing the effect of television on adult behavior. He is also the only man who can play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on a one-inch harmonica, which was part of how he wooed Riane when they first met.

Riane is now in her eighties and David in his nineties, but they are both still writing up a storm.  Riane still travels and speaks worldwide, teaches online, and as editor-in-chief of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies and president of the Center for Partnership Studies, continues working to accelerate the shift from domination to partnership in all aspects of our lives and our world. Her new book, Nurturing Our Humanity: How Domination and Partnership Shape Our Brains, Lives, and Future, is coming out in 2019 with Oxford University Press. David is putting final touches on his illustrated Grandfather’s Garden, a book for children of all ages that came out of whimsical tales he would tell Riane at bedtime to help her fall asleep.

 Riane and David are both grateful every day for having found each other, for their years of partnership, and for the love and support they give each other in helping make ours a better world.  

Dr Katherine Zappone and Dr Ann Louise Gilligan

Dr Katherine Zappone and Dr Ann Louise Gilligan

Their story is part of our ‘World of Equals’ series celebrating egalitarian partnerships throughout history and today.

 Katherine and Ann Louise’s story is a love story. One which crossed continents, oceans and ultimately to the highest courts in the land in a fight for equality.

They met in Boston College in 1981 when both began a PhD programme, Ann Louise came from Dublin and Katherine from New York City, though originally from Seattle.

It was love at first sight and a year after meeting they gathered a small group of friends to celebrate a life-partnership ceremony where they promised to share dreams, fears, financial resources, accomplishments and failures.

 In 1983 Katherine and Ann Louise moved to Ireland, an Ireland almost unrecognisable today.

 It would be a decade later after a long legal battle by Senator David Norris before the laws changed to decriminalise homosexual behaviour.

 During this period Katherine and Ann Louise were active within the civic sphere in relation to many human rights issues.

E2_Ann Louise & Katherine.jpg

 Beginning as The Shanty in September 1986, they established a community-based project as a platform for active citizenship and transformational education.

Since September 1999, An Cosán has been located in Jobstown, at the base of the beautiful Dublin mountains, nestled in a three story building.

Today it is Ireland’s largest such community education organisation – supporting people in communities across the country.

 The personal origins of a legal case for equality began late in 2001—after 19 years of life-partnership—when an impending visit to Chile prompted an updating of wills.

 Deciding to ‘get affairs in order’ just in case anything might happen while abroad they discovered that unlike married couples who jointly co-own property, they could not will half of their property to the other upon death, without major capital acquisition taxation implications.

 One of the primary reasons to take a case was to break the public silence about partnership recognition between same-sex couples.

 With the support of a small network of family, friends and supporters – including a small legal team - in July 2003 the decision was taken to take a constitutional case.

 Such was their love that eight weeks later they married in British Colombia, Canada – the only place in the world this could happen.

 What followed was a case against the Irish State, the Minister for Justice and the Attorney General.

It was November 2004 that in full glare of the world’s media permission of the High Court was sought to proceed with the case.

A packed courtroom heard Judge McKechnie conclude his ruling by saying

“A number of deeply held values, and so on, are up for consideration. The issue of marriage itself is up for debate. The ramifications of the case will not stop here.”

 Leave for a judicial review was granted. 

Ireland’s debate had begun.

A March 2006 appearance the Late Late Show brought the love story to the attention of the nation.

Then host Pat Kenny noted that then Taoiseach,Bertie Ahern did not believe a referendum would pass. After inviting a show of hands from the audience Pat finished by saying ‘Bertie, you were wrong!’

 A case across the autumn and winter October 3rd produced a written judgement 138 pages long.

As the Court saw it Katherine and Ann Louise did not have the right to marry here under the constitution because that right is confined to the union of a man and a woman.

That dark moment led to a new national movement.

 In February 2008 friends, feminists and supporters gathered around the kitchen table in Ann Louise and Katherine’s home. The organisation ‘Marriage Equality’ was born.

 Katherine and Ann Louise were very clear – the mission was for full equality not second class marriage.

Civil Partnership did become a reality but it was not enough.

 Political changes brought new hope. In June 2011 the establishment of a Citizen’s Assembly reignited the campaign.

Ann Louise, Katherine and fellow campaigners were able to re-assure nervous politicians that the support was there for a referendum – and a referendum which would pass.

Stories were shared – stories which struck a chord with fellow citizens. 

As campaigners and activists the community recognised the need to work together, one voice, agreed messaging.

These efforts culminated in that fantastic day at Dublin Castle in May 2015, when Ireland became the first country in the world to say yes to Marriage Equality by popular vote.

In January 2016 at Dublin City Hall the President, Members of Government and many other friends, and their families,  joined Katherine and Ann Louise for a very moving ceremony. They not only renewed their vows – they brought their marriage home!

 After a short illness Ann Louise Gilligan passed away on 15th June 2017. Katherine is the only Independent Woman serving in the Irish Cabinet, after being elected a TD in May 2016 and subsequently appointed as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, where the fight for equality and social justice continues.

Mary Harney / Academic and Activist


House Painter, Academic and Activist

Mary, in her own words: "Some may think my life has been hard, but I like to think of it as being full of wonder, beauty and passion. I think a great deal about the times when someone had faith in me: in my abilities, my intelligence and in the promise of my future."

Mary Harney was born in a Mother and Baby Institution in Bessboro, Cork. Born out of wedlock, considered to be an ‘illegitimate’ child by the State, Mary was removed from her mother at age two and a half years. Mary was illegally “fostered” and at age five she was taken under Ward of Court and incarcerated in the Good Shepherd Industrial School. Like many children, Mary suffered beatings and daily labour at this school. Education consisted of religion, reading, writing, and arithmetic. One day, a teacher, Miss O’Donnell – ‘Miss’— noticing bruises on Mary’s arms, advised her to use stories and her imagination during the beatings to lessen the feelings of pain. Miss also told her to keep reading as you can teach yourself anything if you can read.

At 16 ½, Mary was released from the Good Shepherd. She discovered libraries and delved into History, Literature, and Geography. At 17, Mary went to London, to look for her Mother. She wandered for a period, homeless. She eventually traced her Mother and they were reunited in Cardiff Wales, where Mary discovered she had two sisters. Craving adventure, she signed-up to be a soldier, and without formal education, passed the entrance exam. When Mary finished her Army service, she joined the London Fire Brigade as an emergency dispatcher for twenty years.

In her 40s, Mary applied to third-level education only to find she was not eligible. She decided to travel. On her travels in America, she came upon College of the Atlantic in Maine, USA. She applied to study there and despite her lack of education she was accepted. Mary was an activist at college. She helped form peer education groups that went into high schools and taught HIV/AIDS prevention through the medium of art and theatre. The team was also part of the first state-wide ‘Growing up Gay’ conference in Maine. In 1996, Mary graduated with a BA in Human Ecology. The proudest moment was seeing her Mother there cheering for her. 

In 2012, Mary returned to Ireland - the place that had denied both her mother and a formal education - to pursue a Master’s Degree in Irish Studies. Mary graduated in 2013 from the National University of Ireland Galway with first class honours. In 2014, the student body of College Of Atlantic unanimously voted for Mary Harney to be guest speaker at Commencement. At this ceremony, she was surprised with a honourary Masters of Philosophy. Since then Mary has lectured College undergraduates and other groups in Irish history, She is currently taking part in the Collaborative Forum for transitional justice for mothers and children that were institutionalized in Irelands’ notorious mother and baby units. And she “ain’t done yet”— at age 70, Mary is applying to study for an LLM in Human Rights in autumn 2019.