Our History

How it all began

The ISDA logo was created by Shaun Lynch, where 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 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. With over a million votes he had the highest ever number of votes of any politician in the history of the Irish election.

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 has been a patron of FirstLight since 2014

Our Ambassador

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, in a cot death. After the death of her daughter Sorcha, Úna became involved with FirstLight.

Úna’s partner is Irish actor, Bryan Murphy and 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 joined the Board of FirstLight in 2013 and became Chairperson in April 2019. He qualified with a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering (BE) in 1998 from UCC and also holds a Master of Business Studies (MBS) from CIT.

He has worked in various technical, project, managerial and director level roles in the telecoms and IT sector. With work, he has travelled extensively to many developing countries including Somalia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Sri Lanka and Iraq. He has also rolled out mobile phone networks in Paraguay and the Federated States of Micronesia, and has been involved in the testing and development of innovative and cutting edge VoIP telephony solutions. In his spare time, Oliver enjoys music and hill-walking and participates on the Board of Management as Treasurer of Togher Boys National School in Cork.  Oliver joined the Board of FirstLight in 2013.

View More Members

Ciara Regan: Secretary

Ciara is a partner in Deloitte Ireland’s Actuarial, Reward & Analytics practice.

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.

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’ experience overseeing project and programme management delivery in the software, telecommunications and financial services industries in the US, Europe and Asia.

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

David Burke

David is a former Senior Partner at Korn Ferry, a world-leading Advisory and Human Capital organisation. Korn Ferry is the largest provider of Executive Search services globally.

David has extensive experience in advising clients recruiting senior executives into Life Sciences, Professional Services, Industrial and Consumer organisations. He has partnered with both public and private equity-backed companies locally and internationally on C-level, EVP, SVP and Director level assignments, bringing exceptional talent to his clients.

Prior to joining Korn Ferry, David worked for over 7 years as Managing Partner at Accreate, a boutique Search firm which, under his stewardship, doubled in size every 2 years. His earlier career saw him lead and manage a division of a global Recruitment Consultancy firm for 9 years.

David previously held senior management roles at Apple Computer in Ireland and Johnson & Johnson in Australia. He is currently based in Dublin. Coupled with his professional career, David owns and runs a Dairy farm in Cork.

David is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin having attained a B.Sc. (Honours) in Management Sciences. He holds a Diploma in Marketing from the Dublin Institute of Technology as well as a Certificate in Agriculture.

He joined the Board of FirstLight in 2017

Rita O’ Reilly: Treasurer

Rita joined the board of FirstLight in September 2020 and serves as treasurer.

Rita served as CEO of ParentLine for 18 years.  Parentline is a national helpline offering support, information and guidance to parents.  As CEO, Rita was responsible for sourcing, managing and reporting on funds, recruiting, training and managing volunteer facilitators, managing fundraising and awareness campaigns and ensuring that the organisation was compliant with governance guidelines and laws.

Rita studied marketing and worked for more than 25 years in communications, marketing and PR. She spent many years as Marketing Manager in AXA Insurance before moving to The FAI also as Marketing Manager.

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

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.

Our Partners

How you can help


National 24-Hour Helpline: 1850 391 391

Head office: +353 (0) 1 873 2711