I found my tribe when I joined Network Cork

There’s a new woman at the helm of Network Cork, Ballincollig-based Gillian Hennessy. EMMA CONNOLLY talks to her about her goals and ambitions for the year ahead
I found my tribe when I joined Network Cork
New President of Network Cork Gillian Hennessy, Triskel Arts Centre at the Network Cork AGM in City HallPic Darragh Kane

GROUPS like Network Cork give women tools to cope with pressures and build resilience as they grapple with age-old issues such as equal pay and childcare.

That’s according to the group’s new president, Ballincollig woman Gillian Hennessy.

PR and marketing manager with the Triskel Arts Centre, Gillian said that she found her ‘tribe’ when joining the women’s business group, part of a national network of 14.

“It was of the best things I’ve done and I’ve grown so much, personally and professionally, because of it and because of the women there,” she said.

The 2018 former vice president says that now being trusted to lead this group is ‘unbelievably flattering’ even if she feels a little anxious at the task ahead.

A UCC graduate, she did Arts (Language & Cultural Studies) studying English and Italian.

“Then I did a Masters in English (Literature & Publishing) in NUI Galway. The day I realised I could work with books and get paid for it was a total lightbulb moment.

“After college, I worked in various office jobs — legal secretary, receptionist in estate agents — until I decided to move to England to take up a three-month work experience placement with Summersdale Publishers in Chichester. It was an unpaid placement so, luckily for me, after about six weeks, they offered me a full-time job. I stayed there for two years.

“Not long after I came home, I got a position with The Collins Press. I learned a lot from working with them. I met some amazing authors and read some really interesting books. Social media was only becoming a ‘thing’ then so I started their platforms and built them up. I also discovered that I really loved the media and marketing side of publishing.

Outgoing President of Network Cork Karen Fleming, Hayfield Manor Hotel and incoming President of Network Cork Gillian Hennessy, Triskel Arts Centre at the Network Cork AGM in City HallPic Darragh Kane
Outgoing President of Network Cork Karen Fleming, Hayfield Manor Hotel and incoming President of Network Cork Gillian Hennessy, Triskel Arts Centre at the Network Cork AGM in City HallPic Darragh Kane

“Then, around this time last year, after 11 and a half years with The Collins Press, I decided I needed a change. I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do next so I got career coaching from Barbara Nugent of Transilient Coaching (a Network Cork member) and realised I wanted to work in communications in the arts, ideally in Cork city centre.

“When the position in Triskel came up, I was really excited. I’ve been here seven months now and I love it. Every day is different and I’m learning the whole time. I’m discovering whole new facets to the cultural scene in Cork and meeting fascinating people.”

She’s encouraging women to join this year and says Network Cork allows you to “get out of your own bubble”, adding: “Our members are very diverse: business owners, start-ups, employees, multi-nationals across the areas of culture, hotels, accounting, marketing and more.

“Everyone is willing to share their knowledge and help each other, whether it’s a bit of tax advice or a business contact.”

Currently, she feels that their members are looking for more guidance on resilience.

“I think everyone — male and female — is under a lot of pressure at work and at home to be the best they can be and it can take its toll. I watched the film Nine to Five as part of the Cork Film Festival recently and, while it was hilarious, it was saddening to see that a lot of the issues then are still relevant now — equal pay, childcare, flexible working, sexism. I think groups like Network Cork help to empower women, to give them tools to cope with pressures and succeed in whatever they want to do.

“Karen Fleming, our President for 2018, found this great quote recently: ‘You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.’

“I think the women of Network Cork — and Network Ireland — are definitely the roll-up-your-sleeves types.”

Gillian’s first speaker for 2019 is Rosemary Smith, Ireland’s first female rally driver.

“She’s such an interesting woman in a tough career and I think she has a lot of things to teach us about being resilient and determined and following your path.

“I hope to run a Business of Books event and, after the success of this year’s Workshop Wednesday, plan to offer those bite-sized workshops to members again.”

Gillian, 42, and currently not in a relationship, is glad to call Ballincollig, where her two sisters also live, home: “I moved away a few times — to New York, Italy, Galway and England — but I always knew I’d come back home. We’re a pretty close family so it’s good, plus I get to spend a lot of time with my three nephews who have me absolutely wrapped around their little fingers.”

For the year ahead she’s surrounded herself with a committee of “strong, fun, challenging women who work so hard in voluntary roles because they believe in what we’re doing.

“My biggest hope is that this time next year, I’ll be able to look back and say I was proud of everything I’d done with and for Network Cork.”

Committee members and members at the Network Cork AGM 2018. Picture Darragh Kane
Committee members and members at the Network Cork AGM 2018. Picture Darragh Kane


Network Ireland is a progressive, dynamic organisation supporting the professional and personal development of women.

Their membership is made up of a very diverse group of women, from budding entrepreneurs, SME owners, professionals and leaders in indigenous and multinational organisations to non profits, charities, arts and the public sector.

Established in 1983, Network Ireland has 1,000 members, with 15 branches across Ireland — including Network Cork.

The Cork branch is one the most successful branches, organises monthly events for members and guests which help inform, educate, motivate and support members, both personally and in their businesses.

There has been an increase of 15% in membership of Network Cork over the past 12 months. There has also been an increase in 177% in non-member attendance at Network Cork events over the past year.



President — Gillian Hennessy, Triskel Arts Centre

Vice President — Marguerite O’Sullivan Deputy Snythes

Ex Officio — Karen Flemming, Hayfield Manor

Secretary — Donna Mannion, Maldron Hotel South Mall

PRO — Megan Pardy, Springboard PR and Marketing

Events Coordinator — Josie O’Kelly Muckrose Park Hotel

Events Admin — Maria Desmond, Enable Ireland

Business Awards — Coordinator Sian Horn Elite Pilates

Treasurer — Karen O’Reilly, Employmum

Social Media — Louise Bunyan, Smart Fox Digital Marketing

Social Media — Niamh Hester, WeddingDates

Newsletter — Kim O’Mahony, This is Ethos

Membership — Elaine Wilson, Arachas

Membership — Aisling Malloy, AIB

Membership — Marion Courtney, Himalaya Yoga Valley.

For more about Network Cork see www.networkireland.ie


You worked in publishing — what’s your favourite book(s)/author?

Can I pick two?! Terry Pratchett for being so wonderfully clever with words and JK Rowling for helping to revolutionise children’s publishing and for having a heroine who loves to read.

In a dream world, who would you like to see perform in The Triskel?

Since it’s a dream world (and since it’s nearly Christmas) — Elvis Presley, because my dad is a big fan. Especially if he sings Christmas songs.

It’s not Christmas in our house until you put on the Elvis Christmas vinyl.

Top of your Christmas wish list this year?

Spending time with family and friends — cheesy but true.

Tell us something about you no one knows?

I’m a procrastinator. But I also like lists, or rather, I like ticking things off lists. I have, on occasion, added something I’ve already done to a list just so I can have the satisfaction of ticking if off. So the lists part helps with the procrastinator part.

Female figure (local, national and/or international) you look up to or aspire to?

Can I pick three?! Ciara Wilson for being a rock of support to me this past year; Mary Robinson because my dad always said I’d be Ireland’s first female president, but I think being President of Network Cork means more; and Michelle Obama for always speaking her mind.

In a sentence, what would you say to someone who feels unsure about joining Network Cork?

Try it out — it’ll be the best gamble you’ll ever make.

Ultimate ambition for the year ahead as President?

To get things done. To continue the wonderful job of my predecessors in making Network Cork the go-to organisation for women in business.

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