Mary Quinn 

Amnesty International Ireland 

Board Member, 2012 – 2018

I was elected to the Board of Amnesty International Ireland in March 2012 when I was 23 years old.

I joined Amnesty International as a second year Social Science student in NUI Maynooth looking to get involved in student activity and join a worthwhile cause. I quickly became an enthusiastic and dedicated supporter of the organisation’s campaigns and pursued opportunities to become more actively involved.

Prior to my election to the Board, I had been the Chair of the NUI Maynooth Amnesty Society and later the Chair of the organisation’s National Youth Action Team. So, when the opportunity arose to run for the Board, I was confident that I had relevant experience needed.

I was aware that the Board welcomed youth representation and knew that the existing youth director was stepping down. If the organisation hadn’t placed a value on youth representation, it’s unlikely that I would have had the same confidence in putting myself forward for election.

My experience as a young board director has been hugely positive. Joining a new Board, particularly as the youngest member, can be intimidating. However, my colleagues on the Amnesty Board as well as the Executive Director have always been very supportive and have mentored me in this position.

I have always been treated as an equal and not as a token or junior board director. Throughout my 6 years as a Board director, I have not been afraid to ask questions, recognising that all Board directors, regardless of age, have something to learn.

During the 6 years I spent on the Amnesty International Ireland Board I was fortunate to represent the Irish Section at two of the organisation’s global meetings. In 2013, I joined the Irish delegation to the International Council Meeting as its youth delegate. This meant that along with participating in the main conference, I also attended additional youth-specific workshops and events. I wrote a blog at the time about my experiences there which you can read here:

In 2017, I had the opportunity to travel again as part of the Irish delegation to the International Council Meeting. However, on this occasion I attended not as a youth delegate but in my role as Vice-Chair and Secretary of the Board.

My advice to any young person interested in getting involved in a non-profit Board is to remember that a healthy Board brings together a diverse range of experiences, skills and backgrounds. I was not an expert in HR or finance but I had a strong understanding of the organisation’s mission and values, its volunteer structure and membership model.

No Board director, regardless of age, will be an expert on everything. It’s important to ask questions and learn as much as you can. Don’t be afraid to ask for support or seek mentorship in another board director.

I was fortunate to join a Board that encouraged youth engagement and recognised the important role that young people play in its organisation. I would encourage all non-profit Boards to make an active attempt to engage young people in their governance structures.