Board of Directors
Denis O'Brien is chairman and co-founder of Front Line Defenders, which he helped establish in 2001 to meet the immediate security and protection needs of human rights defenders at risk around the world. From its start in Ireland, Front Line Defenders now employs 50 staff with offices in Dublin and Brussels, and regionally-based field staff in the Americas, Asia, Africa, Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.
Mr. O'Brien is one of Ireland’s leading entrepreneurs with extensive investments across several sectors, including communications, healthcare and media. Mr. O'Brien has started multiple businesses throughout his career, the first being Communicorp in 1989. In 1991, he started Esat Telecom, a mobile phone company that went on to become Ireland’s second-largest service provider. In 1998, he was voted Ireland’s Entrepreneur of the Year in the inaugural running of the worldwide competition organised and sponsored by Ernst & Young.
In 2001, he launched Digicel Group, a mobile phone network, in Jamaica. Since then, Digicel has expanded to become a Digital Operator with operations in more than 31 markets throughout the Caribbean, Central America and Asia Pacific. He has also made successful exits from multiple ventures, including the sale of Esat to BT Group in 2000 and the 2021 sale of Communicorp. Mr. O’Brien is a director of a number of private companies which hold some of his other business interests, including Quinta do Lago SA.
In addition to co-founding Front Line Defenders, Mr. O’Brien has founded and supports a number of other philanthropic organisations. In 2000, he established The Iris O’Brien Foundation to assist disadvantaged communities in Irelandand internationally. Four years later, he helped create the Digicel Foundation, which supports thousands of projects in the Caribbean and Pacific. The Digicel Foundation, to date, has invested US$156 million into philanthropic initiatives. He also sits on the board of Concern Worldwide, an Irish humanitarian agency.
Mr. O'Brien earned his bachelor’s degree from University College Dublin (UCD) and his MBA from Boston College. He is a benefactor at both schools, having provided the financial support for the O’Brien Centre of Science at UCD and endowed the Denis O’Brien Fellowship for Irish students at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management.
Arnold Tsunga is Africa Director of the International Commission of Jurists. He was Executive Secretary of the Law Society of Zimbabwe and Executive Director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. He was a joint winner of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2006.
Mary Jane N. Real is the Co-Director of the newly established Urgent Action Fund – Asia Pacific, the first rapid response mechanism for women human rights defenders headquartered within the Asia Pacific region. She is a founding member and former Coordinator of the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition. A lawyer, she helped establish the Alternative Law Groups network in the Philippines. She is a long-time advocate of women’s rights having worked with women’s rights and human rights organisations in Asia and internationally including as Regional Coordinator of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development.
Kieran Mulvey is former Director General of the Irish Workplace Relations Commission and Consultant with the International Labour Organisation and the European Union.
Verónica Vidal is the Solidarity Tactic Lead at the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID). She is a long-term feminist activist for women's rights and human rights at the local level and internationally. She has worked as a researcher and advocate in Uruguay and Mexico with a focus on regional integration processes, international cooperation for development, the environment and civil society, as well as in building networks, documentation of attacks and developing protection approaches with Women Human Rights Defenders from a feminist perspective.
Jim Conway is the founder of the Print and Display Group, one of Ireland's largest print companies, where he is now Chairman. Print and Display is one of Europe's market leaders in the screen, digital and litho production of outdoor poster, bus advertising and point-of-purchase materials. He also has a number of other media interests in Ireland and Eastern Europe.
Maria Mulcahy is the CEO of the Iris O’Brien Foundation and the Irish-based Head of Philanthrophy for the Digicel Group. She was involved with "People in Need" from 1988 to 2000. She was responsible for organising the RTE telethons, which raised €28 million. She was Director of Fundraising for the 2003 Special Olympics World Games.
David Sykes acts as an investment advisor to Island Capital Ltd and previously held positions in banking and stockbroking which include Trinity Bank Ltd and Dolmen Stockbrockers Ltd.
Dr. Roja Fazaeli is Associate Professor in Islamic Civilisations and a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin. She is also the Warden of Trinity Hall, a residential learning community of Trinity College Dublin comprising more than 900 students. Roja has published widely on the subjects of Islamic feminisms, women religious authorities, women’s rights in Iran, and the relationship between human rights and religion. She is the recipient of a European Research Council Consolidator grant to lead a five-year project (2023-2028) on Building Conceptual and Methodological Expertise for the Study of Gender, Agency, and Authority in Islam (BILQIS). Roja is also a principal investigator on a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions funded project investigating the nature of hate in society (NETHATE). Roja is currently the chairperson of the board of directors of Immigrant Council of Ireland, and a member of the board of directors of Azadi Andisheh (Association for Freedom of Thought). Roja has also been the Scholars at Risk representative in Trinity College Dublin since 2009, and was previously on the boards of the Irish Refugee Council and Amnesty International Ireland.