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2017 OMEP Ireland Conference, University College Cork, Saturday 20 May 2017




OMEP Ireland held its annual Research Conference at UCC on Saturday 20 May 2017. Keynote speakers were Dr Sheila Garrity, (UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, NUIG), Sheila Dillon, (AIM Better Start National Service Co-ordinator) who spoke on The Better Start Access and Inclusion Model and Dr Mary O'Kane, who gave a presentation on the transition from preschool to primary school.


An enthusiastic audience, including a group of early childhood educators from Iceland, heard speakers on a variety of other topics, including a though-provoking presentation on Social media in early childhood settings by Heino Schonfeld (Barnardos), and a report on the very successful Zoom Ahead with Books initiative by Emma Wheatley.


Click here for the full conference programme, and Contact us if you would like more information on any of the presentations. Dr Sheila Garrity's report (published in June 2016) may be accessed here


The Better Start Access and Inclusion Model website is at


Photos from the conference are on our Facebook page Click here


Keynote Speakers:

Inclusion and diversity

  • Dr Sheila Garrity, (UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, NUIG)
  • Sheila Dillon, National Service Co-ordinator, The Better Start Access and Inclusion Model



  • Dr Mary O'Kane


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Keynote Speakers 2017


Dr Sheila Garrity

Photo of Sheila GarrityDr Sheila Garrity is the Academic Coordinator of the BA Honours Degree in Early Childhood Studies & Practice and the MA in Early Childhood Studies, delivered through the Adult & Continuing Education department of NUI Galway. Prior to her role at NUI Galway, Sheila was employed by the HSE as an advisor to early years services in the Galway City and County areas. Through this role, Sheila contributed to national policy documents, most notably, the National Guidelines for Childminders (OMCYA, 2006). Sheila trained as an early years practitioner in Canada, and has worked in a range of practice settings through her career.


As part of her role with the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUIG, Sheila contributes to the MA in Family Support Studies (FSS) and supervises MA/FSS students in first year and for the Year 2 thesis. She also supervises Doctoral students based in the U-CFRC and contributes to a number of Graduate Research Committees across the University. Sheila completed the MA in FSS through the U-CFRC and the Structured PhD in Child & Youth Studies and was awarded her doctoral degree in 2014. The focus of her doctoral research was an ethnographic study of relationships between mothers and their childcare providers within the Irish Early Years context. Sheila was part of the team at the UNESCO Child & Family Research Centre that completed a process study evaluation of 2 early years settings in Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo, that support a very diverse community of immigrants, refugees, Travellers and settled Irish. The full report (published in June 2016) may be accessed at


Dr Mary O'Kane

Photo of Mary O'Kane Dr Mary O'Kane originally studied Psychology in the UK, then specialised in the area of Early Childhood while undertaking her Masters and Doctorate at Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) in Ireland. Mary is currently a Lecturer in Early Childhood Education with Maynooth University, teaching in the areas of Children's Learning and Development, Children's Wellbeing, and Educational Transitions. She is also an Associate Lecturer in Psychology with the Open University. She conducts a monthly Parenting Slot on the Anton Savage show on Today FM, answering parenting queries from listeners. She is also a regular contributor to Ireland AM on both parenting and early childhood education issues.


AIM Logo Sheila Dillon is the National Service Coordinator for the Better Start AIM (Access and Inclusion Model).


The Better Start Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) is a model of supports designed to ensure that children with disabilities can access the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme. Its goal is to empower service providers to deliver an inclusive pre-school experience, ensuring that every eligible child can fully participate in the ECCE programme and reap the benefits of quality early years care and education.


For more on the Access and Inclusion Model, see



69th OMEP World Assembly and International Conference, Croatia 2017
Early Childhood Relationships: The Foundation for a Sustainable Future
19 - 24 June 2017, Opatija, Croatia
Details at