Jonathan Irwin, Founder & CEO, Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation

Jonathan Irwin has lived in Ireland for over 50 years, mainly working in the horse industry, as a stud hand, a blood-stock agent and an auctioneer and locating GOFFS in Kildare, whilst also creating Europe’s first €1 million sports event in the Cartier Million at Phoenix Park.  Over the years, he has also supported his wife Mary Ann in creating Lily O’Brien’s in Newbridge, another great Irish success story employing 150 people.

However, it is his fundraising and advocacy track record in the Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation, established by Jonathan and Mary Ann in 1997 based on their experience caring for their son Jack Irwin until he passed away at home aged 22 months, that Jonathan is best known for.  Since then, Jack & Jill has supported almost 2,000 children nationally from birth to 4 years old with severe to profound developmental delay, including end of life home nursing care for all children under 4 years of age.  During that time, Jonathan and his team have raised over €60 million while receiving just €6 million from the HSE.

The way it works is that the Foundation provides funding for up to 64 hours of home nursing care per month at a cost of up to €1024 per family and up to 80 hours per month for end of life care.  It operates 365 days a year, mobilising an army of 1,000 nurses and carers nationwide, and has no waiting list.  Families refer to the service as ‘the gift of time’, that is time to do the ‘normal’ things that everyone takes for granted like sleeping, working, shopping and looking after the healthy siblings.

Jonathan recently confirmed that he is running for the Seanad, having been nominated by eminent independents Dr. Harty, Fidelma Healy Eames, Mattie McGrath and Katherine Zappone.  His is a healthcare manifesto that focuses specifically on the money following the patient into the home, and supporting the carers in the process, and the location of the children’s hospital also high on his agenda.  In setting out his stall for running for the Seanad, Jonathan Irwin says that:

  • “It’s not just about the economy, as the last government had to learn the hard way.  It is about how that economy fuels a society, at the heart of which is a healthcare system, for young and for old, that we can be proud of one day very soon.
  • “If elected I would continue to shine a light on the flawed location that is St. James’ for the National Children’s Hospital and why locating the hospital in Blanchardstown makes much more sense in terms of access, expansions, cost and speed of build.  The St. James’ site buried in the middle of Dublin in a very congested city is to my mind another slap in the face for Rural Ireland and all those citizens living outside the M50.
  • “Let’s face it, the tsunami that is the number of citizens over 65 years old like myself and how we will care for them, is here already and we can’t just run away, or ignore what’s happening.
  • “I would make it my business to stand up for sick children particularly in relation to granting them their medical card in their own right in their own name, with no need to means test their parents.  All medical card should be granted on the basis on medical needs, not financial needs.  And that is a small battle we can win over the coming years.
  • “I’ve always believed that charity begins at home, and the Seanad is the ideal chamber to challenge and debate why Ireland spends millions on overseas aid, money that we have to borrow and pay interest on, when our own healthcare system is failing people, relying on charities like Jack & Jill to prop it up.
  • “With our succession plan in motion for Jack & Jill, with Hugo Jellett now in place as incoming CEO, I feel safe in the knowledge that I’m leaving Jack & Jill in good hands, although I will remain actively involved as Executive Chairman from January 2017, 20 years after we established this wonderful charity.”

Jonathan Irwin has been awarded Fundraiser of the Year (2011), Global Fundraiser of the Year (2011), Fellow of the Faculty of Paediatrics (2014), Knighthood of St Lazarus (2014).

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