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Mary Houlihan 

Mary Houlihan has been a member of the management team in Fáilte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority for a number of years. Mary is involved in the strategic planning and implementation of the Ireland’s Ancient East Brand, which seeks to attract international visitors by building on the wealth of historical and cultural assets in the east & south of Ireland. Mary is currently working with stakeholders, tourism interests and community groups on the development of a suite of Visitor Experience Development Plans to support and encourage the development of internationally compelling visitor experiences, which will support the regional spread of visitors, increase revenue and employment as well as extending the tourism season.

Prior to this Mary worked with Waterford City & County Council for 20 years in the role of Tourism Officer. Her focus here included destination development, brand development and marketing. She led the team that developed and managed a number of visitor experiences and festivals including the West Waterford Festival of Food, the Immrama Festival of Travel Writing, and the Comeragh’s Wild Festival.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”1492″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]Helen Cooke

Helen Cooke is an events and festival organiser based in Dublin.
Most recently Helen was Show Director of the newly launched Thrive Festival, held in the Convention Centre Dublin in March.

Next up is Taste of Dublin, Ireland’s premier food festival which welcomes 35,000 visitors to the Iveagh Gardens in Dublin city centre each June. Helen is also currently creating Taste Festive, a new Christmas food and drink event which will launch in November 2019.

Through her work with Taste of Dublin Helen has established strong connections and
relationships with the hospitality industry in Ireland and having travelled extensively including living in Asia for 4 years she has a keen interest and passion for tourism. Helen was specially commended by President McAleese in 2012 for services in promoting Ireland and Irish culture abroad.


To ground herself in the food and hospitality sector Helen completed a degree in Culinary

Entrepreneurship in 2016.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”1495″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]Anna Marie McHugh 

I grew up on a farm close to Ballylinan, Co.Laois, and I have one brother who is a farmer. I am married to a Blackwater, Wexford farmer Declan Buttle and we share living between Laois and Wexford with my mother, husband and young son.

I spent my summers as a teenager working in the NPA office with my mother free gratis but it was great experience. I was quite active as a young person in Macra na Feirme where I held various officerships in my teens at club,

county and then on National Council which was really a great start for me.

I studied Business and Marketing in Carlow IT. During college I spent a summer as a waitress in Isle of Man, another summer as a temp. in a pharmaceutical plant in Clarecastle, Co. Clare.

My first real job was in the Marketing Department of Bord Na Mona where I worked for about 4 months in a temporary position.

I then changed direction completely and became a fulltime professional youth worker with the National Youth Organization Foroige where I worked for 3 years covering the midland region of the country.

There I gained huge experience in people management, mediation, preparing and implementing training programmes, preparing strategies, forward planning and much more – also very importantly self-motivation as I was in an office on my own.

I left that job in 1994 which was really a heart wrenching thing to do but it was time, I joined the National Ploughing Association for a 2 year contract as Co-ordinator of the 1996 World Ploughing Contest which was being hosted in Ireland.

A great experience whereby I had to put together a comprehensive 10 day programme for 400 international visitors to Ireland, I had to package and promote the event and I had to deal with all the finances from sponsorship to costing it out. I had to build an team for implementing the programme and completely co-ordinate every facet of programme.

After that I went as all young people do on my world tour – something that I think every young person really should do whether the economy is good or bad – just make the break and expose yourself to different cultures and experiences, it broadens the mind.

When I came back the NPA offered me a permanent position as Public Relations Officer and Competitor Liaison Officer and I remember being told by the then Chairman that if I earned my salary in sponsorship over the first couple of years there would be a permanent job for me. So I started full time with the NPA in 1997.

Shortly after I decided to take my media studies further so I did a Diploma in PR through the Public Relations Institute of Dublin in the College of Surgeons which was 2 nights a week for 2 years and this was all alongside my work in the NPA. Tough going but an absolute necessity to keep up to date and develop your skills.

As the job developed I became more involved in PR and Marketing in the NPA and then in more recent years my role has expanded to include a great deal of Event Management and that is really about the evolution of the event and the demands that go along with it.

I would be dealing a lot with Emergency Services, Contractors, Stakeholders and pretty much every aspect of the site build and the running of the ploughing site during the 3 days of the Championships.

The NPA is also affiliated to the World Ploughing Organization which has 33 affiliate countries spanning 4 continents.

Seven years ago the position of General Secretary of the World Ploughing became vacant and I applied together with 5 other countries for the job.

Fortunately or unfortunately I often think I got the job which means that the Secretariat of the WPO is now in Ireland for the first time and I am the first female secretary in the 67 year history of the World Organization.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]