Irish Uplands Forum


The Irish Uplands Forum [IUF] was founded in 1995 after a conference in Galway seeking a partnership towards managing Ireland’s uplands. The purpose of the Forum was, and remains, to improve mutual understanding among users of the uplands, from farmers to recreationalists to commercial users to state bodies.

Our main focus is the bring together all established partnerships around the country, and create new partnerships in areas where they are needed. The IUF and all its partners are dedicated to the sustainable development of Ireland’s uplands for the communities who live, work and recreate in them.

Our Beginnings

Under the leadership of Prof Adrian Phillips of Trinity College Dublin it flourished for a few years, but became quiescent through lack of funding. It came to life again after the Mountaineering Council of Ireland’s Sligo Conference The Creation of Partnership in Ireland’s Upland Regions in 2002, and has been active ever since.

We define the uplands as all land above 300m, plus those areas, such as the Burren and other areas along the western seaboard where upland conditions descend to sea level.

In 2008 the Forum became a Limited Company, governed by a Board of Directors who are elected at the AGM which is held in Spring each year. To view our board member details click here.


Our mountains have been with us for millions of years. We believe that everyone has a role in making sure that they are managed sustainably. So whether you can give use some of your time, or a donation IUF will be grateful.


Upland biodiversity is unique as it features plants and animals which can tolerate exposure to wind, cold and lots of rain. Farming over thousands of years has played a significant role in shaping this biodiversity



Rural development challenges are greater in upland areas due to isolation, limited emploment opportunities and threats to traditional farming enterprises.

Become A Member and be part of something special


Let us introduce you to the board of the Irish Uplands Forum

Frank Nugent


Frank Nugent is a Mountaineer, explorer and author. He was Chairman of the Mountaineering Council of Ireland (1997–2000), Deputy Leader of the first successful Irish Everest Expedition (1993). He has followed in the footsteps of Shackleton across South Georgia (1997), and sailed the Northwest Passage in Northabout, a shallow-draft boat in 2001.

Frank has had a lifelong interest in the sustainable management of the Irish Uplands and was one of the organisers of a conference in 1996 in Galway called: Towards the Sustainable Management of the Irish Uplands. Arising out of this conference the Irish Uplands Forum non-governmental organisation was established. Frank was its first Chairman a role he was elected to in 2009.

Dr. Deirdre Lewis

Company Secretary
Deirdre Lewis is a professional geologist, working in environmental consultancy. She is passionate about the need to actively manage and conserve our uplands and to support the communities who live there. Deirdre advises communities, state agencies and Leader companies countrywide on sustainable resource management, outdoor recreational development and community engagement.

She was the principal author of the national Pilot Study for Mountain Access Scheme in the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, and has worked on feasibility studies for recreational development in the Galtees, Knockmealdowns, Cooleys, Nephins and other upland areas of Ireland.

Tom Byrne

Treasurer, WUC
Tom first became an IFA representative on Wicklow Uplands Council (WUC) and when the Irish Uplands Forum needed a farmer on their committee, Tom was sent forward from the WUC. He is also Vice-Chair of Wicklow Executive IFA, Vice Chair of Wicklow uplands council, Commissioner on Sustainable Agricultural Commission in Euro Parks, Germany. “I am involved because I believe the people in the uplands, be they farmers or simply residents, are very poorly represented. I could see that the WUC and the IUF have a lot to offer and that my influence and experience could shape the future for these people, for the better, through the IUF.” “People in the Irish Uplands Forum are very open-minded and influential and can see where change is needed to achieve a sustainable future for our uplands.”

Dr. Mary Tubridy

Environmental/Ecological consultant with a particular interest in community based initiatives to support sustainable development. Over a research/consultancy career spanning four decades, Mary has been involved in projects concerned with tourism, forestry, farming and spatial planning in the uplands.

She was project director of the Wicklow Uplands Study in the 90’s a multi disciplinary study which produced a blueprint for sustainable development in the Wicklow Uplands which was based on a comprehensive analysis of its resources and widespread community consultation. Mary cares about the uplands because of their great ecological interest and because the people who live, work and recreate in them are exceptional.

Patrick O’Shea

Based in Aughacasla Castlegregory County Kerry. Patrick O’Shea farms on the uplands in the Dingle peninsula – a place that is often cited as being among the most beautiful places on Earth . Patrick’s family was farming on this upland in 1812 and how long before that he is not sure but his family has been there ever since. So it is no wonder that he developed a passion and love for the hills whilst growing up in such a place. Patrick is also a big supporter of the GAA and has held many positions in his club including chairman and secretary. He is a prominent member of IFA, and as county officer, he represents his county at national level and is currently completing a four year term in National Council (the governing body of the association).

Patrick fears for the future of farming on uplands; “The return is so small that there is no longer a living to be made from the Irish Uplands. This is evident when we look at the average age of hill farmers. It is unthinkable to accept that we are heading towards the day that upland farming could be a thing of the past.”

Micheal McDonnell

Mícheál McDonnell


Mícheál McDonnell farms in the Erriff valley which nestles halfway between Westport and Leenane in the Partry Mountains in County Mayo. Mícheál runs a hill sheep farm enterprise with his wife Mary and 4 children. He also works off-farm in his own computer company that he founded after completing an Honours degree in Computers as a mature student.

Mícheál is currently National Treasurer of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association. The INHFA was formed to represent farmers farming the uplands and marginal lands. It works tirelessly to push the agenda of farmers in the uplands and has written submissions on its core objective for the next round of CAP.  Mícheál is passionate about farm families in the uplands and the huge benefits that they bring to their local economies. He believes that the farmers in the uplands are delivering production of high quality food, as well as being the custodians of our rich biodiversity.  He is an active campaigner for the recognition of the ecosystems services (biodiversity; carbon sequestration; water supply and storage etc) provided by Ireland’s hill-farming families for the benefits of society at large and the need for those to be compensated in the next round of CAP to ensure survival.

Judith Annett

Judith has provided consultancy services on countryside access, recreation, rural development and tourism development and management for the past 27 years following an early career in outdoor recreation provision and policy. She lives and works in the Mourne Mountains in County Down.

She has worked as a consultant to establish landscape partnership schemes for the Mournes, Dublin Mountains and the Antrim Coast and Glens and is an advocate of full involvement for upland communities in their futures. She has chaired two ministerial committees, the Northern Ireland Biodiversity Group, and the Irish Deer Management Forum, setting strategic directions with Government and stakeholders and coordinating programmes of action. She is a member of the RSPB’s Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland and chair of the Search and Rescue Dogs Association Ireland, North, she has had a close involvement in the voluntary sector and understands the financial challenges and the need to stay relevant and prepared for change. 

She has post-graduate research interests in environmental economics and has published two papers on the costs and benefits of reducing phosphorus inputs to fresh water.

Judith is a keen participant in walking, climbing, sailing and kayaking in the outdoors and is an active observer of wildlife. She has long been an advocate for sustainable agriculture, effective landscape partnerships and the retention of vibrant rural communities She enjoys ceol agus craic with friends in Rostrevor, plays traditional flute and tin whistle, and began to learn Irish three years ago. Judith was at the founding conference of the Irish Uplands Forum in Galway and has remained a supporter of its values since.

Dr. John O’Callaghan

(Mountaineering Ireland)

John is an active walk leader with Clare Outdoor Club. He has hillwalked extensively at home and abroad and has previously served on the Board of Mountaineering Ireland (MI). John regularly contributes articles to Irish Mountain Log, the quarterly journal of MI. With a background in Industrial Chemistry, John holds a PhD in Organic Chemistry from NUIG and an MBA from UL.  In 2016, John completed an M.A. in Irish Studies at NUIG, with a thesis entitled Rewilding Ireland? The Wild Nephin Wilderness Project, Co. Mayo. Originally from Westport, John spends as much time as possible walking in the West Mayo uplands. He enjoys reading about mountains almost as much as walking them and is very passionate about all upland areas.

Dr. Breandán Ó Caoimh

Dr. Breandán Ó Caoimh

Breandán is a native of Sliabh Luachra – the Kerry-Cork uplands steeped in traditional music and dance. Breandán is an independent consultant working in the fields of social research, local development, community planning, evaluation, project management and organisational change. A human geographer, he was a senior lecturer and director of quality in Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick. He is a research affiliate of the International Centre for Local and Regional Development (ICLRD), and a member of the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation, the Political Studies Association of Ireland, the Geography Society of Ireland and the European Society for Rural Sociology.

Breandán’s current work mainly involves the use of action-research methodologies, and he is working with a number of local authorities and civil society organisations. He is also engaged in a number of academic endeavours, and has compiled research reports on several social and economic issues. Breandán has considerable practitioner experience in rural and community development, having worked with LEADER organisations and those delivering various area-based and social inclusion programmes. Breandán has also worked, in an advisory capacity, with public and civil society organisations in several countries. He has considerable national and international experience in academic, policy and practitioner settings. He is an active volunteer with a number of community and cultural organisations.

Prof. Jim Walsh

Jim Walsh is an Emeritus Professor of Geography at Maynooth University where he is also a member of the Maynooth Institute for Social Sciences (MUSSI). His research interests are in rural and regional development, demographic change and spatial planning. He has published extensively on these topics. In addition to his research he has extensive experience in leadership and project management in higher education as Vice-President of Maynooth University for twelve years, and in providing strategic advice on a wide range of policies over many years to government departments and other agencies that include the National Economic and Social Council; Dept of Environment on the National Spatial Strategy and the National Planning Framework; Dept. of Agriculture on the White Paper for Rural Development; and in more recent years the Dept of Community and Rural Affairs through membership of the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas.  

Nuala Madigan

Nuala Madigan is the current Chief Executive Officer of the Irish Peatland Conservation Council (IPCC).  She is a graduate of Agricultural and Environmental Science with a Masters of Education.  Working with the IPCC, her previous role as Environmental Education Officer has allowed her to work across all generations exploring and promoting the many values Irish peatlands offer our communities.  Nuala is a Heritage in Schools Specialist with the Heritage Council and a regional facilitator for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

People today and in the future should have the opportunity to discover the many values of Irish peatland habitats from their traditional uses through to their values as carbon stores, for water regulation and unique biodiversity’.