Our History

How it all began

The ISIDA logo was created by Shaun Lynch. The daisy-type flower with one petal falling represented to Shaun and his wife Liz what the death of their son Richard meant to their family. They had been a happy family and suddenly a petal had fallen.
Eimear Berry, Founder of the Irish Sudden Infant Death Association


On November 27th, 1975, Eimear Berry discovered her fourteen-week-old son Brendan dead in his cot, the death was silent, sudden unpredictable and of unknown cause – classic Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In search of answers, Berry saw a TV documentary about SIDS which referenced the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) in England, whom Berry contacted in the hope of establishing a similar group in Ireland. On February 3rd 1977 the Irish Sudden Infant Death Association (ISIDA) was formally established, cited its’ general aims were to increase public awareness of the problem of SIDS and bring pressure to bear on the appropriate authorities to supply the necessary funds and facilities for further research into SIDS in Ireland. From an initial membership of just fifteen bereaved parents, ISIDA grew into a national organisation establishing a national office (which operates from the Carmichael Centre, Dublin), set up a 24/7 emergency support helpline, assembled a national register of qualified professional counsellors to provide a range of services to suddenly bereaved families,

On July 16th, 1987, the then Minister for Health, Dr. Rory O’Hanlon TD, Fianna Fáil (FF), announced the formal establishment of the National Sudden Infant Death Register (NSIDR), which was established to promote and support research into SIDS and support the delivery of educational initiatives to help reduce the incidence of SIDS.

In 2012, further to demand for support by families bereaved suddenly in circumstances other than SIDS, the organisation changed its name to FirstLight and expanded its remit to provide support to families suddenly bereaved of a child up to 18 years. Thousands of families have been supported by ISIDA/FirstLight and 44 years on, we remain the only organisation providing such professional services to suddenly bereaved families, either within or outside of the State’s services.

The Team

Our Patron

Sabina Higgins

Sabina Higgins is the wife of the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, who was inaugurated President on the 11th November 2011 for a seven-year term, and again on 11 November 2018.

Sabin Coyne, now Higgins, was born in Cloonrane on the Galway-Mayo border and went to school in Ballindine and Claremorris, Co. Mayo.

At 18 years of age, Sabina moved to Dublin to work in the office of the Land Commission. She began to study acting using the Stanislavsky method after Deirdre O Connel’s wedding to singer Luke Kelly (The Dubliners) and became, with Deirdre, one of the founding members of the Focus Theatre where she worked with Tom Hickey, Timmy McDonald, Mary Elizabeth Burke Kennedy, Joan Bergin,  and many others.

Sabina met Michael D. Higgins at a party in Dublin and in 1974 they were married in Dublin’s Haddington Road Church. Sabina moved to Galway, where in addition to working as a partner with Michael D. in every campaign and in public life for over thirty years, she maintained her involvement with Theatre and community arts, working with the world-renowned Druid Theatre, An Taibhearc, and other groups.

Sabina Higgins has been a patron of FirstLight since 2014

Our Ambassadors

Gerard Heneghan is 22-years of age from Clonberne, County Galway. Gerard is a final-year student at Dublin City University, studying primary school teaching while working part-time at his local service station. He lives in Clonberne with his parents, Paddy and Bernie and his 20-year-old brother, Seán. Gerard’s second brother Noel, born prematurely at 32 weeks on Christmas Eve, 2000, died at home of SIDS on January 27th, 2001. Following contact from University Hospital Galway, Gerard’s family received support from the Irish Sudden Infant Death Association (now FirstLight). Gerard has been supporting FirstLight since he was 13 years old, and has raised over €50,000 in donations via various fundraisers including the Baby Noel Heneghan Barn Dance. In 2021, after losing a good friend at the tender age of 18, Gerard himself was also made aware of the vital services that FirstLight provide. In 2021, he was appointed a FirstLight Ambassador alongside Irish actress Una Crawford O’Brien.


Úna Crawford O’Brien is an Irish actor, best known for her role as Renee Phelan in the long-running soap opera, Fair City which has been broadcasting since 1997. Additionally, she has done a lot of stage work, including Menopause the Musical and Grumpy Old Women.

She was previously married to Brian O’Brien, and they have two sons, Tim, and Fionn. They also had a baby daughter Sorcha, who sadly passed away at 17 weeks, from  SIDS (Cot Death). After the death of her daughter Sorcha, Úna became involved with FirstLight.

Úna’s partner is Irish actor, Bryan Murphy. She supports FirstLight as an Ambassador in many ways, specifically around FirstLight’s Mile in Memory Walks.



Board Members and the Chairman are volunteers and donate their time without payment. FirstLight is committed to complying with and implementing The Governance Code for Community, Voluntary and Charitable Organisations of Ireland.


Oliver Blackwell: Chairperson

Oliver was appointed as Secretary of the Board of FirstLight in 2013 and later became the Chairperson in 2019. He has personally experienced the positive impact of crisis intervention support provided by FirstLight following the sudden death of his first son, David, at 14 months old in 2009.

Oliver has a diverse professional background, having worked in various technical, project management, and directorial roles in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector. He has extensive experience working in a global environment and is well-versed in different cultures, having travelled extensively to developing countries.

Oliver holds a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering (BE) from UCC and a Master of Business Studies (MBS) from MTU. He has also participated on the Board of Management of Togher Boys National School in Cork since 2017 and is the current Chairperson.

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Ciara Regan: Secretary


Ciara is an Equity Partner at Deloitte LLP.

She leads the life and pensions sector propositions and has more than 20 years of experience across the direct, reinsurance and consulting sectors. She provides advisory support to numerous clients within the Irish market. Such advisory support has included support on regulatory changes such as Solvency II (including capital optimisation) and more recently PRIIPs, along with considering the operational changes required as a consequence of such regulation. It has also included AFH independent peer reviews; market consistent embedded value and IFRS reserve reviews; stochastic models; Section 13 transfers of business; target operating model reviews; and risk governance appropriateness from appetite through to framework and culture embedding. Deloitte’s actuarial practice is one of the largest in the Irish market with c.25 people with skills across life, non-life and pensions. Ciara is also a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries. She joined the Board in 2019.

Lisa O’ Hara

Lisa has specialised as a Couple Counsellor for almost twenty years and trained with The Irish Institute of Couple Counselling (IICC). She holds a Diploma in Psychotherapy & Counselling with PCI College, a diploma in Couple Counselling with the Irish Institute of Couple Counselling/MRCS, a diploma in Supervision from Dublin Gestalt Centre and has also graduated with an MSc in Bereavement Studies/Grief & Loss from RCSI’s Institute of Leadership. She is a trained Complicated Grief Therapist and is an accredited member of the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP).A regular media contributor, Lisa is the author of ‘When A Relationship Ends – Surviving the Emotional Rollercoaster of Separation’ (Orpen Press) which addresses the fallout of separation and provides a useful guide for picking up the pieces and moving on.

Lisa currently works in private practice in Dublin and is particularly interested in the development and delivery of training programmes that will support people who are struggling to come to terms with the loss. She is an experienced trainer, having facilitated workshops for Relationships Ireland (formerly MRCS) and more recently for Psychotherapy professionals. She practises as a Clinical Supervisor supporting therapists (supervisees) who are working with clients who are trying to come to terms with the loss.

She has previously held roles in Training & Development, HR, Finance and Marketing.

Crona Barrett

Crona joined the Board of FirstLight in November 2020.

Crona qualified from Dublin City University with a BA in International Marketing and Languages in 1992. She has more than 20 years of experience overseeing project and programme management delivery in the software, telecommunications and financial services industries in the US, Europe and Asia. She is qualified as a PRINCE2 practitioner and a Six Sigma practitioner.

Most recently, Crona spent 11 years on the senior leadership team at AIB Merchant Services with responsibility for Operations. She is currently in her second year of studying for a Higher Diploma in Counseling and Psychotherapy in DBS. She enjoys long-distance running and travelling in her spare time.

Rachel McCarthy

Rachel joined the Board of FirstLight in November 2022.
Rachel qualified from Techincal University Dublin in 2006 with BA in Social Care. She has over 16 years of experience as a Social and Project Care worker with such organisations as Barnardos, Focus Ireland, and the HSE Crisis Intervention Service. Rachel also has training in therapeutic play skills, non-violent resistance, therapeutic crisis intervention and communications skills and risk assessment. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, meditation and walking.

Steven Kerr Treasurer

Steven graduated from Heriot-Watt University with a Masters in Economics (MA). He has over 15-year experience in Financial Services, primarily as a Credit Risk professional in model development and analytics. Steven has worked in Ireland and Canada across various companies, including multinationals, banks, credit unions and in the fintech start-up space. Steven coaches youth soccer in his spare time and enjoys hiking and running.

Mark Fagan

Mark joined the board of FirstLight in January 2023.

Mark is Head of Datacentre  & Security Services (ROI & NI) for BT Ireland. He has over 20  years of customer-facing experience in ICT Managed Services Companies with a wide variety of client bases (SME – Multi-National & across all sectors). Mark has extensive experience in IT Management & Consulting, Project Management, Operations Management, People Management, financial modelling and legal negotiation.


Brian Rowntree, CBE

Brian Rowntree CBE joined the board of FirstLight in March 2023. Brian’s son and granddaughter died of SIDS, his son Darren in 1983 and his granddaughter Neila in 2007.Brian has extensive senior public and private sector executive experience in, Construction, Training and Development, Housing, Corporate Governance, Financial Management, and Strategic Planning. He has private and public sector experience in annual budget expenditure responsibility up to £1.46bn. Previous chairperson positions include; The Civil Service Commissioners Northern Ireland (2012 to June 2018), The NI Housing Executive (Largest Public Housing Authority in Europe 2004 to 2012), NI Policing Board ( Audit Vice Chair and Board Member 2011 to 2014), The Probation Board NI  (Chairperson 1998 to  2004), NI Criminal Justice Review Implementation Group NI (1999 to 2004), and was an Expert Independent Advisor and Member of the NAMA NI Advisory Committee from its foundation to completion (2010 to 2014).

Brian was awarded a CBE in 2004 for services to Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland, awarded Honorary Member of The Chartered Institute of Housing in 2010 and in 2014 recognised by CIPFA for Outstanding Contribution to Public Services in Northern Ireland.

Brian Rowntree is a Chartered Manager and Companion of The Chartered Management Institute (Highest UK Management Award). He is currently the Principal of Business Improvement Services (A Specialist Housing, Improvement and Governance Consultancy)

Annual Reports

FirstLight embraces the work of the Charities Regulator and is fully compliant with the Regulator’s Governance Code. FirstLight has adopted best practices in implementing the SORP incorporating FRS 102 and the requirements of the 2014 Companies Act.


National Helpline: 1800 391 391

Head office: +353 (0) 1 873 2711