Mary Davis
Active Irish social entrepreneur and long-term campaigner for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities
Mary Davis
Mary Davis is an Irish social entrepreneur and long-term campaigner for the rights and inclusion of children and adults with intellectual disabilities. She currently serves as the Managing Director of Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia (SOEE) with the responsibility of overseeing the growth and development of Special Olympics across 58 countries in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Davis also serves as Chairperson of Special Olympics Ireland.
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  • 2016
    Age 61
    In May 2016, she was named Chief Executive Officer.
    More Details Hide Details She is the first CEO from outside the U.S. in the organization's nearly 50-year history.
  • 2015
    Age 60
    Davis was named acting CEO of Special Olympics International in October 2015 and then appointed full-time, permanent CEO in May 2016.
    More Details Hide Details Prior to this role, she served as Regional President and Managing Director of Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia (SOEE), responsible for overseeing the growth and development of Special Olympics across 58 countries. The primary purpose for SOEE is to empower and enable these national programmes to make sports training and competitions opportunities available for people with intellectual disabilities as well as change attitudes, foster community building, provide healthcare and influence policy. In 2009, Davis secured €6 million in funding from the European Parliament. A further €447,000 was secured for SOEE's Youth Unified Sports programme.
  • 2011
    Age 56
    On 21 July 2011, she had received the support of six county councils (Kerry, Limerick, Louth, Mayo, Monaghan and Tipperary North) and was thus guaranteed a place on the ballot.
    More Details Hide Details She announced on The Late Late Show that she expected her campaign for the presidency could cost €350,000 and confirmed on the same programme that businessman Denis O'Brien had provided money for her campaign subject to the law and the regulations of the Standards in Public Office (SIPO) which means that any one person or corporate entity can only donate a maximum of €2,539. After reports surfaced in the media that Davis was paid almost €190,000 by State quangos after being appointed to them by Fianna Fáil government ministers, she denied that she lacked the political independence she was claiming to have. On 4 October Mary Davis released details of her earnings from her position as managing director of Special Olympics Europe Eurasia, as well as income from her membership of three State and three commercial boards. She also posted her P60 on her website and called on other candidates to follow her lead. Mary Davis earned more than €60,000 in director fees in 2010 in addition to her salary of more than €150,000, according to figures on her income published on her website.
    Davis subsequently decided to run as an independent, seeking nominations from four local authorities. She began the process by addressing Galway County Council, Louth County Council and Clare County Council in June 2011.
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    Davis had announced on 26 May 2011 that she would be seeking nomination for the 2011 Irish presidential election.
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  • 2010
    Age 55
    She originally stated in August 2010 that she would consider standing for the presidency if approached by a political party.
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  • 2008
    Age 53
    She was invited to represent the Irish government on a climb of Mont Blanc on 1 July 2008 to celebrate the start of the EU Presidency in France.
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  • 2006
    Age 51
    In April 2006 Davis was appointed Chair of the Taskforce on Active Citizenship, due to her track record in "generating such a tremendous response from ordinary citizens to an extraordinary experience that was Special Olympics 2003.
    More Details Hide Details This is one example of the type of voluntary effort and community participation which sustains a healthy and vibrant society". More recently she was appointed Chair of the Steering Group on Active Citizenship to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of the Taskforce. Davis is also a co-chair of the North South Consultative Conference on behalf of the Irish government. The conference seeks to explore social, cultural and economic issues that have a North/South and cross-border dimension. The focus is on identifying potential for improved co-operation for mutual benefit. Davis is one of the founder of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. Previously Davis served on a number of boards including the Irish Sports Council, Broadcast Commission of Ireland, Dublin Airport Authority, UCD Foundation, The One Foundation, Boardmatch and chaired the St. Patrick's Festival for a four-year period. She was a member of the Advisory Group for the Ireland Funds. She also served on the co-ordinating committee of the 2003 European Year of People with Disabilities and is an Ambassador for the 2011 European Year of Volunteering. Davis serves on many voluntary committees and is a member of the Irish Times Trust, the National Institute for Intellectual Disability, National Sports Campus Development Authority, and City of Science 2012 and acted as a judge for the O2 Ability Awards and the 'Your Country, Your Call' competition.
  • 2004
    Age 49
    Davis moved into the mainstream of Irish politics when she was appointed to the Irish Council of State by President Mary McAleese for her second term as President of Ireland, starting in 2004.
    More Details Hide Details Davis was one of seven personal appointees to the body established by the Constitution of Ireland to advise the President of Ireland in the exercise of her discretionary, reserve powers.
    In November 2004 Davis was appointed by President Mary McAleese to serve on the Irish Council of State. In 2006 Davis was made chairperson of the newly created Taskforce on Active Citizenship. She also co-chairs the North South Consultative Conference for the Irish government. Davis was a candidate in the 2011 Irish presidential election having received the required nominations from thirteen county councils.
    More Details Hide Details In a number of media columns and speeches, Davis expressed how as President of Ireland she could represent Ireland on an international stage, promote communities and community development, and support the values of fairness, equality and respect. She came last in the election receiving 48,657 (2.7%) first preference votes. Mary Rooney grew up in Kinaffe, Swinford, County Mayo, and attended St Louis Convent School, Kiltimagh. She claimed that the seeds of her success were sown in her upbringing in East Mayo saying "there was always a prevailing attitude of looking after your neighbour, of taking care of each other". After finishing secondary school, Davis trained as a Physical Education teacher from Leeds Trinity University, United Kingdom, a women's teacher training college affiliated to the University of Leeds. From there she won a scholarship to the University of Alberta where she completed her academic studies. After returning to Ireland, she became PE co-ordinator with St Michael's House in Ballymun, Dublin, an organisation catering for people with intellectual disabilities. It was then that she first volunteered for Special Olympics Ireland.
  • 2003
    Age 48
    Davis served as CEO of the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games Organising Committee.
    More Details Hide Details This was the first time in 35 years that the World Summer Games were ever held outside of North America. The event involved participation by 165 countries, 32,000 volunteers and 10,000 athletes and coaches.
    She was one of the main driving forces behind Ireland's bid to host the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games and her track record on national and international bodies was a major factor in bringing the Games to Ireland.
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  • 1989
    Age 34
    By 1989, she was appointed National Director of Special Olympics Ireland.
    More Details Hide Details She served as member of the SO International Sports Rules Committee (1986–1989), Chairperson, SO European Development Committee (1982–1986) and Chairperson, SO International Advisory Council (1993–1997).
  • 1985
    Age 30
    In 1985, Davis worked as Events Director when the 1985 Special Olympics European Games were hosted in Dublin, Ireland.
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  • 1954
    Born on August 6, 1954.
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