The Special Recognition Award

As one of five children raised in a home shaped by her parents’ heroin addiction, Katriona O’Sullivan’s journey to becoming a notable Irish author and psychologist was anything but certain. As a small child, her home was frequented by other addicts, one of whom raped her, and her mother. At 15, she left school. Pregnant and homeless she subsequently struggled with her own addiction. Then, after moving to Ireland, she learned of an access problem to Trinity College. She passed the entry course, did a degree in psychology and got a first, and a PhD, focusing on addiction. This year, her first book, Poor, depicting her journey from extreme poverty to education and opportunity, debuted at number 1 on the Irish Non-Fiction bestseller list.
She is now a senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Maynooth University, and in turn has become a strong advocate for equality and access to education, as well as working to break down prejudice against victims of societal and systematic poverty. She has worked with Irish policymakers to develop policies around education and inclusion and has published research on equality, gender, education, inclusion and STEM, and for this, she is our Special Recognition recipient for 2023.

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