THAT Blog Post….

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Peace and pout on graduation day - I graduated with an MBS in Government
Peace and pout on graduation day – I graduated with an MBS in Government

So last week was an absolute world-wind for me for two reasons; I went viral and I graduated – in that order.  The whole story has two starting points really, one is in my childhood, and the other is in a news story that broke early last week about some SNA’s (special needs assistants) being cut from a school on the northside of Cork.


As a child, growing up in 90’s Ireland, special education supports weren’t as well developed as they are now – any supports available to children and teenagers were provided on an ad-hoc basis by schools, so these supports varied greatly between every school.  It was sheer luck and nothing else that the primary school I went to provided a limited support to kids like me, and provided me with learning supports around english and maths mostly.  Classroom supports like SNA’s came into force after the 1998 Education Act was introduced because the Act gave a legislative right to all children to have their special educational needs met in schools.  But it wasn’t until I was in Fourth Class – I was about 10 years old – before I actually had the help of a needs assistant to do the things that I couldn’t: take notes, describe any demonstrations in class, and generally make sure I’m keeping up visually with what is going on in the classroom.


Speaking to The Opinion Line on 96fm shortly before my conferring ceremony


Up until then, I relied purely on sound because of my vision impairment.  I relied on sound to learn how to spell, form words, write and do maths.  I relied on short, inadvertent, descriptions of diagrams or photos from teachers to understand a flow chart or table.  Until I got an SNA, I spent a lot of my time in classrooms hoping a teacher would just happen to describe what was happening on the blackboard so that I might have some hope of learning at the same speed as other kids in my class.  All I ever wanted to do was learn at the same speed as my friends, but I didn’t have that chance and ultimately ended up falling behind educationally at times.


I was nearly eight years old before I really started to grasp how to write sentences properly and spell words with silent letters in them.  My handwriting structure never improved beyond that of a 10 year-olds because of my finer motor skills not being developed at the same rate as others.   To this day, I still struggle massively with basic maths and arithmetic – and I put that down to the fact that I never learned the basics of dividing and multiplying until I was much older than my friends because someone wasn’t there to help me take notes and learn from the blackboard like other the kids.  There’s a reason we teach children these tools from a very young age – because it’s far easier to pick these tools up as a young child than an older child who learned how to do things ‘the wrong way’ first.  Having said that, I definitely do think that having the support of an SNA to help me ‘keep up’ with my peers did improve my educational situation.  It helped me to learn at the same pace as others, and I needed less and less learning support because I was finally getting the chance to learn at the same pace as everyone else.  It stopped the slippery slope I was heading on – up until the point that I got this support, the frustration of not being able to keep up started to negatively affect my self-confidence and made me almost fearful of going to school.


My masters thesis was based on research into the allocation of Special Education resources in Ireland - please contact me for a copy if you would like one
My masters thesis was based on research into the allocation of Special Education resources in Ireland – please contact me for a copy if you would like one


I hadn’t thought about this much since I had left primary school and completed my second and third level education – I suppose I just ‘got on with it’.  It became second nature for me to have an SNA by my side during my second level education – with the exception of my final year when my SNA hours were dramatically cut.  But on the eve of my graduation last week, I heard a news story about how 3 SNA’s had been cut from a school in Cork.  At a very minimum, three children were on the cusp of losing this invaluable resource that I had.  I say ‘at the very minimum’ because in Ireland, it is a rarity for one SNA to be assigned to one child – often times these assistants are split between at least two children, if not more.


It made me sit back and think for a minute – where would I be now without my SNA?  What would have happened to my education had I missed out on the chance to have a level playing field to others when it came to learning?  I can tell you exactly where I would be without that:

  • I would not have finished my primary school education
  • I would still struggle to read and write
  • I would have been unable to take part in mainstream education in second level
  • I definitely would not have made it to college
  • I most certainly would not have graduated with my masters last week


The piece from The Irish Sun about my Facebook post
The piece from The Irish Sun about my Facebook post


All these feelings are ultimately what lead me to writing the Facebook post below – which subsequently went viral.  I wrote the post because I wanted to stand up for the kids and parents who were in a situation where my parents and I once were.  I wrote the post because I wanted someone with some power over the situation – a legislator, a Dept of Education official, etc. – to think about this huge difference that having an SNA made to my life.  It completely changed my life course and direction.  Unless you have first hand experience of this, it can be terribly hard to grasp just what a difference a resource like this can make to a child.  These department officials, ministers and legislators are literally holding a childs’ education in their hands – I want to make sure that they realise this.



Tomorrow morning at 10am I will be conferred with a Masters in Government in UCC. This is my second conferring in two…

Posted by Jessica Ní Mhaoláin on Tuesday, February 23, 2016

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Tomorrow morning at 10am I will be conferred with a Masters in Government in UCC. This is my second conferring in two…

Posted by Jessica Ní Mhaoláin on Tuesday, February 23, 2016



Instead of rabbiting on any more than I already have, I’ll leave you with the links below to a few different interviews I did on the back of the viral post – just click on them to open.

 The Opinion Line 

Lunchtime on Newstalk

Irish Examiner font page

Nuacht TG4

The Irish Sun


If I can be of any help to anyone on this topic, please get in touch through Facebook or Twitter – I’m more than happy to help!


And yes, I did really enjoy my graduation!

Imagine making the front of the Irish Examiner on your graduation!!
Imagine making the front of the Irish Examiner on your graduation!!




How To Ball In Style This Spring

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verso pic
My favourite buy from Verso – photo courtesy of Emmet Curtin Photography

So it’s that time of year again in college – ball season! When you buy your ticket, you’ll swear your outfit will be on point and your assignments will be done, but in reality it’ll be a last-minute buy or rent for the ball in question. To help out with this search for an outfit worthy of an Instagram post, here are some ideas we’ve put together on how to look good, and to be unique while doing so! All pieces below are available from Verso, located in Douglas Court SC. The award-winning store is a fusion of a local boutique offering clothes from the casual to dressy, and a gown rental service.



Remember that a dress code is what you make of it – it’s your style and no one else’s. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd and express yourself with an outfit a little different than the rest.There are some great ideas for setting you own style for the next college or society ball. And that assignment you have to finish? … Well, I’ll just leave that to you!



Let’s start with this beautiful rental from Verso, which would be perfect for the more verso4formal balls such as Strauss or a black-tie ball. The best feature about this particular gúna is the lack of jewellery which would be needed with it too – all that beading in the top is more than enough! Also a very flattering fit on you taller ladies who don’t want to wear a dress with one design flowing throughout

verso pic six


The ‘Lily Black’ is a perfect piece for the less formal events, or the afters of a Ball. While the dress itself is a simple LBD, it’s jazzed-up studded arms give it that added WOW! While it is a body con style dress, the detail on the upper part of the dress can be very forgiving. Well worth a look!

verso pic four


Another LBD here a beautiful sequin and bead effect – again, perfect for the less-formal Balls or the afters. For those of you with a keen eye, you’ll spot straight off the mark that this is a trademark Virgos Lounge piece – known as the Veronika. Minimal accessories with this would be best, and its a great fit for those of us who are conscious of our shape in certain dress styles.

verso pic five


Yes – you can wear a jumpsuit to a ball! After all, its YOUR style! The Darcy has a cullote finish to the pants, and is a great alternative to a ballgown. It’s an amazingly comfortable piece to wear all night long, and is perfect for all types of college balls, including the more formal ones. Best paired with some statement jewellery and stilettos that’ll give you a bit of toe cleavage.

verso pic three


*Please note, this is an edited repost of a piece I wrote for the UCC Express as Fashion Editor in December 2015 – see the original here.

The Rest Is Still Unwritten…

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Yes, I realise I have probably titled this piece with the most over-used song lyric at this time of year, but it’s the lesson I’ll be taking into 2016 with me so it seems apt!  It has been such a long long time since my last blog post – because life can really get in the way sometimes.  And it really got in the way for me recently.


The thesis.  Those dreaded words that every postgrad treats as a bittersweet symphony of work and research.  As some of you may know, my research was focused on special education legislation in Ireland.  And from May until November I spent each and every day pouring over books, interviews and fact sheets on my thesis subject.

Pre-submission thesis selfie
Pre-submission thesis selfie

Unfortunately for me, my health got in the way of the writing too – namely a broken wrist bone in July, followed by a complex appendectomy just a short few weeks ago.  Yikes!

The view from my hospital bed during recovery - the chocolate had to wait until I was allowed return home
The view from my hospital bed during recovery – the chocolate had to wait until I was allowed return home

I will detail just exactly how tough 2015 was in another blog post… But this one is just to let people know I’m back on the up. And also, a chance to remind myself that 2016 is a new year.  With 365 new pages for me to decorate with stories, photos, smilies, quotes… There are going to be times when the pages will be blotted with ink, and other times when these pages will be tear-soaked.  The most important thing I learned in 2015 is that you can only ever live in the here and now; the past is behind you, the future in front.


You are the author, you are the story teller.  Your story must continue, so use a semicolon if you have to.


Why I’m Glad to be Part of the Cork Rose Family

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Let me preface this piece by saying that what I am about to write is entirely my opinion, borne from my own experience of the Cork Rose Selection 2015 – it does not represent or purport to represent the views of anyone involved in the Rose Selection process, it is just my free opinion, my two cents if you will.  I have decided to write this in response to some of the negativity I have been experiencing online since taking part in the Cork Rose Selection earlier this year.

me and art


The Rose Selection, I’m sure many participants will agree, is not the typical beauty pageant which many online warriors paint it as.  It does not display itself as such either.  For me, the Rose selection was so many different things.  It was a chance for me to step out of my comfort zone, it was an opportunity to foster links and network with other young women who have similar interests to me. it was a chance for me to represent the fantastic charity Suicide Aware and get their message out there, it was a chance for me to be celebrated by others for overcoming obstacles that I don’t always admit are there.  And of course, it was fun opportunity to experience a lot of cool things I would have never had the chance to had I not entered – including the Rose Tour around Cork and the Mallow Races too!  It also gave me a number of opportunities after the process had ended that may not have been open to me had I not participated.


It does what it says on the tin.  It celebrates young, inspirational, educated, independent women in a modern Ireland.  What is wrong with that?  I remember the words of one of the organisers on the Friday night before we went on stage, “There is no winner, there is a representative of Cork.  By having the courage to walk in the door tonight, you are all winners regardless”.  It sounds cheesy but its true.  And that was the message we got continuously throughout the selection process.


Each county/State Rose is seen as a representative of other women in her locality. What I personally found about being a Rose is that you can be someone who can act as a role model for others, that taking part in the process is a challenge in itself and that anyone who has put themselves forward for it should be proud and is always considered a Rose – it takes a lot of guts to believe in yourself in a country where begrudgery is a common pass-time for many.


I have been personally offended by the number of friends of mine who have referred to it as a “misogynistic barn dance by a bunch of lovely girls on a stage in Tralee”.  Having taken part in the Cork Rose selection this year, I actually find it massively insulting that it’s compared to the “lovely girls competition”. It is far from misogynistic. We celebrate strong, inspiring, independent young women who can be a role model for others.


Others have launched attacks on what they perceive to be complete financial support by RTE for the festival, and that any charity work carried out is only undertaken by the woman who is crowned Rose of Tralee.  In my estimations, both of these accusations are inaccurate.  The Festival and its accompanying air time are mostly supported by the sponsors and advertisers.  Some may forget that the Festival is a fantastic opportunity for Irish companies to export their brand across the globe for a week in early August.  If I may say so, it is a great example of guerrilla advertising by Newbridge Silverware!!


In terms of charity work, there is constant charitable work being undertaken both during and after the selection process by those who continue to stay involved in the group.  During my time in the Cork Rose selection, we fundraised for Breaking the Silence and Pieta House.  And even after the Cork Rose selection was finished, we continued our charitable efforts for the Dessie Fitzgerald Injury Fund.  Furthermore, in Tralee, my fellow participants took part in the Friends of A 10K, to raise funds for cranial aneurism research.  Not to mention the numerous charities who have benefited from air time or stage time with a Rose wearing a sash bearing their name – anther form of guerrilla advertising.


As I said in the outset of this piece, it is just my take on the Cork Rose selection.  It may be different to the experience of others, it may not be.  But I thought it important enough to write about today, considering the Anti-Rose brigade seem intent on bashing any goodness out of the process, with accusations of misogyny and participants being labeled as “perfect breeding examples”.  There is a saying that goes “History is written by the winners”…. Well, this piece of history was written by one of the participants who did not make it to the Dome, and she’s still happy and supportive of the process.  So why can’t you be?

A Power Worth Harnessing

*This post is a repost of a piece I wrote for the Ógra Fianna Fáil website – click here to see the original piece.  I like to keep my politics and my blog work separate, which is why I’ve made one or two changes to the piece below.

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It’s fair to say that LGBT Pride marches haven’t been as traditional in Ireland as they have been in other cities and countries around the world for the last number of decades.  Those Pride festivals most prominent in my memory were the ones I would see covered in newspapers, like San Francisco and London.  As a child, I remembered thinking how pretty all the colours were and how everyone taking part looked like they were having a great time.  Of course, it did not dawn on a child to think such a colourful and populated march would be intertwined with a community’s fight for their equal rights as citizens. It just looked fun!

Fast forward to Dublin Pride 2015.  My third or fourth Pride march in so many years. I can see a definite shift in the mood of 2014 and 2015 from both onlookers and those marching. During the 2014 Pride marches I took part in, there was a mixed feeling of, well, pride obviously, for our friends, co-workers, neighbours, parents etc.  But there was a definite underlying feeling of foreboding as well, a feeling I would attribute to the knowledge that a referendum on equal marriage rights was coming down the line.  Even in twenty-first century Ireland, a society that was largely (though not entirely) accepting of all lifestyles and communities, there was a distinct feeling of fear at the fact that those who stand both with them and against them in society were to vote on extending civil marriage rights to same sex couples.  A fear that those born with civil marriage rights by virtue of their heterosexuality, those who are somewhat oblivious to the difficulties and discrimination faced by LGBT people and their families, would soon be deciding on the rights of one group in society.  That would make anyone nervous – right?

My dear friend Arthur Griffin and I showing our support at Dublin Pride 2015
My dear friend Arthur Griffin and I showing our support at Dublin Pride 2015

There was a difference in Pride 2015, and the world in which we live could not be more different. Different yet exactly the same in many respects.  Different, because Ireland had voted to extend civil marriage rights to all her citizens, different because both our LGBT friends and their allies alike had come together to ask Irelands public to treat them all as one, and to help bring an end to discrimination and hateful attitudes towards LGBT people, families and couples.  And Ireland delivered on this call for equality – with a 62.07% vote to allow all her citizens equal marriage rights.  I like to think that even the United States delivered on Ireland’s vote for equality – that weekend, a little over five weeks since the Marriage Equality referendum, was marked by the United States Supreme Court declaring that marriage equality was a right befitting each and every citizen of the States. I like to consider our little nation a bit of a trail blazer in that respect, don’t you?

But in some respects things are the same: the same because our LGBT friends’ relationships are just as valued to us and them as they always were, things are the same because, well, hell hasn’t frozen over Ireland because of a Yes vote. And things are the same because a vote to extend civil marriage rights to same sex couples hasn’t led to the loss of legitimacy of heterosexual marriages as was warned by some – my parents happy marriage of 27 years wasn’t instantly invalidated just because my friend and her girlfriend now have the explicit right by law to become wife and wife!  We have a lot to celebrate as a nation during this Pride Month and beyond.

We assisted in mobilising a majority to help in the fight for rights of a minority, and no matter what the cause was behind it, we should take pride in ourselves for that too.  I hope that this fight can take place in other parts of society where there are still major inequalities to be dealt with; education, disability rights, children’s rights, parental rights… the list goes on.  If Ireland could mobilise itself again to fight these societal inequalities and to help put an end to them, well, that would be  a power worth harnessing.

Pale Skin Beauty by Guest Blogger Holly Barry

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Holly Barry is a fashion, lifestyle and beauty blogger and columnist with Hi Magazine, someone i would definitely describe as a style expert.  We met recently, through the Cork Rose Selection process.  I even remember her first style tip to me – “You’re hair is perfect, if you want to keep it for tomorrow then sleep with a scarf tied around it”.  Sure enough, she was right!  I’ve asked Holly to do a guest piece on pale skin beauty, as it is a question I get again and again!  So have a read below – and visit the Along Came Holly website and Facebook page for more!

Holly & I at a Cork Rose event
Holly & I at a Cork Rose event

When it comes to pale skin there is always the fear that makeup will either look too dark or completely wash you out. I am a believer that your makeup routine should change according to the season. In winter I always find that my makeup tends to be a little heavier but in the summer I always go back to a light, natural look. This is especially important for us pale skinned girls (when we are not covered in tan!), so embrace your skin tone and give this makeup look a go.

It all starts with the base, firstly start with a strong SPF. Year round I always wear an SPF on my face. Although this is important for everyone I would recommend a strong SPF for us pale girls. Vichy has a great range of these and even has an SPF 60. Although this may seem high, at a minimum I would wear 50 during the summer. We have to keep our skin looking young and those dreaded wrinkles as far down the line as possible! On top of that I would start with a base. For the summer I always switch to a BB Cream. It is much lighter and gives you that dewy, sun kissed look. I have tried many and find the best for pale skin is the Garnier BB Cream. Thankfully they understand that pale skin requires extremely pale makeup! This one offers great coverage without looking cakey. Then to set that put a layer of Rimmel Stay Matte powder, to make sure it stays put for the day.

The Naked Flushed palette will be your best friend! This can be used for so many things which makes it a great product to invest in. Here you have your contour powder which can be used to extenuate your cheek bones, a blush and a highlighting powder to give you that summer glow. Not only this but you can use the contour powder in the crease of your eyelid and the highlighter under your brow bone, on your eyelid, on the inside corner of your eye at the tear duct and on your cupids bow. Naked Flushed is a no brainer!

With the summer heat, okay maybe not always in Ireland but maybe on your holidays, waterproof mascara is a necessity. There are so many great ones available; one that I always go back to is Maybelline Waterproof Great Lash.

Then onto the finishing touches. To keep those brows in place Maybelline Brow Drama ensures that there are no fly aways. And lastly, a small layer of Vaseline rose on your lips to give them a hint of colour with a glossy finish.

Holly's recommendations for pale skin beauty
Holly’s recommendations for pale skin beauty

Make sure to give this look a go and if you do tag me on Instagram or Twitter @Along_CameHolly.

I would love to see your finished makeup look!

Holly x

Take a look at Along Came Holly for more info
Take a look at Along Came Holly for more info

Finding A Rebel Rose

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Cork Rose Selection 2015
Cork Rose Selection 2015
Some of you may remember reading about my experience of entering the Cork Rose Selection in a blog post a few weeks ago, how I was nervous but excited, and very busy!  Just this weekend passed, Cork found their Rose in Aoife Murphy, and the Rose Class of 2015 have been clamouring to book tickets to the dome since!  Aoife is such a fantastic representative for the Rebel County and we are so lucky to have her.

Our newest Cork Rose, Aoife
Our newest Cork Rose, Aoife
The experience itself was a world wind tour of Cork such as I’ve never seen before, and I’m writing about it for two reasons – to create a record of the fantastic time I had, and also to tell people a little about it too.  I want to let people know what a confidence building experience it is, and encourage other girls to take part in future.  In The Rose Tour and The 5.30 News, I told you about my links with the mental health charity Suicide Aware.  I have become somewhat of an ambassador with this charity, and represented them throughout the Rose selection process.

So lets have a look at our last weekend before the selection nights.  It started out in Curraheen Greyhound Stadium on Friday June 6th.  We gathered there for the evening to mingle, chat, and maybe put a few Euro on a dog or two!  At every Rose event, we had the chance to chat with each other, which can be really nerve wracking – especially for me as I won’t always recognise faces.  Once I get chatting to new people and get to know them, I’m instantly comfortable and can carry a conversation myself, but my lack of sight does make me inherently uncomfortable with starting conversations with new people.  But, as with every group, there are always girls who are chatty and able to guide you into a conversation, and I was lucky that these girls surrounded me!  I feel that confidence can be a learned behaviour and can definitely be picked up from others, and often in these new situations I do find myself drawn to chattier people.

Dress ~ Verso Hair ~ Aisling Kelleher Makeup ~ Claudia @ Seasons Beauty
Dress ~ Verso
Hair ~ Aisling Kelleher
Makeup ~ Claudia @ Seasons Beauty
It was an early start the following morning, as Saturday was our day out on a non-stop Cork Rose Tour.  We started with photos in the Clayton Silversprings Hotel, and traveled to the Jameson Distillery in Middleton first.  As my null point is on my left, I did my best to stick to the left of photos so I would not have dancing eyes in every photo taken that day – though I wasn’t always successful in that!  We had a tour of the old distillery, whiskey tasting, and finally a complementary cocktail at the end of our tour.  I’d never been there before so it was really enjoyable – and the whiskey tasting wasn’t half bad either!

Dress ~ Verso Hair ~ Aisling Kelleher Makeup ~ Claudia @ Seasons Beauty
Dress ~ Verso
Hair ~ Aisling Kelleher
Makeup ~ Claudia @ Seasons Beauty
Next on our tour was the Titanic Experience in Cobh.  I confess I’m a massive Titanic fan and I’ll take any chance I can to learn more about it, and this visit lived up to every expectation I had – I’m going to go back over the summer.  While it is a very visual tour, my Rose girls couldn’t have been more helpful in describing different things they thought I might miss – like reading out the information on my ticket so I could figure out if my passenger lived or died in the tragedy.

After a yummy lunch in the Commodore, we traveled to Fota Wildlife Park – and the child in me got really excited when I saw the meerkats!!  Again, this was a really visual tour but my Rose girls were my eyes and described some of the funny things different animals did as we stared at them.  One thing I was happy I couldn’t see was the boa constrictor they had in the reptile house – I’ll avoid that part of Fota next time!  We finished our tour in Reardens Bar, but I admit I threw in the towel a little while after this – the tiredness was getting the better of my nystagmus so I knew it was best to head home and rest up the little dancing eyes.  Probably a good idea since our individual interviews were the following morning, and no way did I want to have shakey eyes for that!

Both selection nights have been well documented on social media, including on my page and the Cork Rose Selection page itself.  Again, late nights having fun with my Rose girls was a killer with the nystagmus, but I was having so much fun I didn’t let it bother me too much!  And it gave me my confidence back, it really did.  I had the confidence to walk out on a trip to somewhere I’d never been before without the backup of my friends that would be “used to me” as i say.  It gave me the confidence and helped me realise that when others see me, its just me; they don’t see my cane, they don’t see the things I can’t do, and they don’t just see me as “that vision impaired girl who needs lots of help”.  Finding that kind of confidence is invaluable, and I can’t thank the Cork Rose Centre enough for giving that to me.

Holly Barry & I having a little down time and some tasty fudge during Selection night rehearsals
Holly Barry & I enjoying a little down time and some tasty fudge during Selection night rehearsals