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In Conversation With MIC's Deirdre O'Riordan

Deirdre O'Riordan

For the tens of thousands of MIC students who have come through the College in the past three decades, Deirdre O’Riordan has been behind the counter of Student Academic Administration (SAA) to handle their query—be it relating to timetables, examinations, transcripts or any of the many essential pieces of information that a student might need along their way. From Orientation to Graduation, the beginning of the student journey to the culmination of the hard work, Deirdre is one of the key support staff who is with them along the way. 

For 32 years now, Deirdre has worked for MIC and all but three months of that time was working in SAA. She was recently promoted to Examinations and Academic Events Manager in that division. In the third of our quarterly profile pieces on MIC Staff members, we spoke to Deirdre about her memories of MIC down through the years including how she has seen things change, the support she felt from MIC during her hardest days and, of course, her love of hurling.

“I did a computerised accounts course with FÁS in Raheen”, she recalled, “and you got a list of places you could pick to go and you then had to be interviewed. So I picked MIC, was interviewed and I was taken on in July 1993—on my first wedding anniversary—and I started in the Curriculum Development Unit.”

“I can remember my first day. Ena O’Rourke was on the switchboard in Reception and she wouldn’t let me past without an escort. I must have looked a bit dodgy! I had to stand there until she got somebody down to interview me. I was successful in that interview and haven’t looked back since that day. 

“I was in the CDU from July to October 1993 and made the move to what is now called Student Academic Administration, working with Carrie Ryan for Graduation then. It was a fast friendship with Carrie because there was only two of us and we were in a small office on the first floor and we were literally sitting on top of one another it was so small in there. Finally, Tony Bromell got the go-ahead to do up the room where SAA is now based. We took on more staff when we had the additional space and it was fast and furious changes from there on.

“It has changed hugely over the 30 years. We started Graduations in the old gym down where the TARA building is now. It was literally like a hay barn and we’d transform it for Graduation. I saw a lot of ceremonies there and when they’d be making the speeches the rain would be hitting off the galvanised roof and almost drowning them out. We didn’t have the numbers that we do now have graduating of course, but we were still caught for space. It started out as a one-day graduation ceremony and moved to two-days with three ceremonies and then we got the new fabulous Tailteann building. 

“Graduation brings on its own challenges every year but there was one year we discovered a cohort of students missing out of the booklet a day before the ceremony. We got the cohort added by the designer but it was a company in Kerry who had won the tender to print the booklets. Thankfully, my husband, PJ, happened to be working nearby at the time and so collected the additional edited copies—enough to give the students from that cohort—and drove them up to Limerick. They arrived an hour before the ceremony started! That’s probably the stand-out one for me but every year brings a challenge.”

The COVID pandemic brought with it the disruption to the manner of working, teaching and learning at MIC. For Deirdre, though, this huge global event was overshadowed by the treatment her husband, PJ, was receiving for bowel cancer. 

“Going into COVID, we were in our own bubble and we almost didn’t realise how bad COVID was at the time. PJ had gone through the various operations and had moved to Milford Hospice. They were very good and we were able to take him out for a few hours every day. But it did go over our heads in a way.”

PJ sadly passed away on 21 May 2020.

“It was horrific and because it was so early into COVID, we really couldn’t have a proper funeral for him and we were only allowed to have 10 people inside the church. For my kids, there was no closure because there was no communal funeral. PJ wouldn’t have wanted the limelight but it would have been important for the kids to have had that closure. 

“I was working throughout it all and Carrie Ryan was excellent; she was very considerate and I was able to dip in and out of the Hospice and work from there when needed. The help and support I got from all of the staff here was so important.

“I came back to work very quickly after PJ died. I was probably onsite from June when we had the examinations going on online. Maybe I came back too quickly; I don’t know, but I came back in full time as soon as we were allowed to do so. We were only allowed to have one person in the office at the time and they allowed me in because it was a distraction. To date, I still hate going home and not having PJ there so it was a much-needed distraction at the time. There were a few staff members around, such as from the President’s Office, and they were very good to check in on me in those first few months when I came back.”

Outside of work, Deirdre can be found going up and down the nation’s roads in support of the Limerick hurlers, a passion she has held since she was a child. 

“My late father wouldn’t miss a match and I’m an only child so I had no choice growing up and was at all the games, so I’ve always had that love for it. It was a bonus then when there was six or seven of that dominant Limerick team coming into the office and of course, Declan is from Adare. It’s always funny going to matches and you might remember a story or two of their time here.

“My eldest child Louise takes after my love for hurling but the other two, Aoife and Brian, don’t. I go to every match with Louise, we love it."

But as fierce a Limerick supporter Deirdre is, she says that Adare always comes first. Indeed, she’s secretary of the St Patrick’s Day parade in the village who reignited the Adare parade in 2021 after 23 years without one. “Next year will be even bigger and better than ever,” she promised. 

“Community is very important to me. Especially when the lads were growing up with the Community Games and everything and then we would get involved in other things in the village. I’m Adare born and bred and have lived there all my life so I like to give back to the village what I got from it all those years ago.”

Deirdre is looking forward to her new role, which is "a step up" but a challenge she’s ready to meet head on, saying: “It means I’m busier but I’m looking forward to making the job my own, putting my own twist on it and making it better for everyone.”

You can read previous In Conversation With profiles by clicking below:

Dr Hannagh McGinley, Associate Professor in Education

Dr Brian Desmond, Teaching Fellow in Drama & Theatre Studies