Meet the judges


Lord Mayor Kieran McCarthy, a Cork City native, nurtures a deep love for his hometown. He studied Archaeology and Geography at University College Cork, pursuing further education with a PhD on Cork’s River Lee Valley. Since 1999, Kieran has contributed a weekly column, “Our City, Our Town,” to the Cork Independent, and has authored 30 books on Cork and Irish history. He founded the ‘Discover Cork: Schools’ Heritage Project’ in 2003. Kieran has led walking tours across Cork’s historic areas and has been recognized for his heritage work, receiving awards such as Cork Person of the Month in 2017. As an Independent City Councillor, he has served on various committees and was appointed to the European Committee of the Regions in 2015 and 2020. Kieran currently holds positions in the CoR’s SEDEC and COTER commissions and serves as CoR Rapporteur on several opinion documents. Previously to becoming Lord Mayor of Cork City, Kieran served as President of the European Alliance grouping in the CoR and was a delegate member on the Conference on the Future of Europe, 2021-22. For more on his political work, visit


Aaron, a seasoned leader in the hospitality industry, serves as the Managing Director of Trigon Hotels in Cork and oversees their strategic direction. Aaron has established a reputation for driving operational excellence, fostering innovation, and delivering exceptional guest experiences. He is known for implementing forward-thinking strategies that enhance overall business performance and brings that expertise to the CBA board . Aaron sits on the board of Visit Cork, the Everyman Theatre and Cobh Heritage Centre and he also sits on the National Management and Council of the Irish Hotels Federation.


Dr Niall O’Keeffe is Head of Enterprise, Local Enterprise Office, Cork City Council. Niall has over 12 years of CEO experience across a range of sectors including four years as the Chief Executive for Economic Development on the island of St Helena. He has developed award winning organisations and led significant change management programmes. With a Doctorate in Business Administration (Business Economics) and an MBA from University College Cork, Niall continues to seek out best practice in organisational development. His interests include entrepreneurship, music, film and sport.


Martin O’Brien is a Director of JCD Group, one of Ireland’s leading commercial property development companies. Headquartered in Cork, JCD have completed over 1.6 million sq.ft of Grade A Office, Industrial/Logistics, Healthcare, Retail and Data Centre property where over 4,500 people are employed by both national and multinational companies. As one of the most active property developers in Cork over recent years, JCD have completed a number of city centre projects in Cork including the development of One Albert Quay, The Capitol, 85 South Mall and most recently Penrose Dock. They have also completed the Citygate Developments in Mahon and Northpoint Business Park and are currently developing Blarney Business Park on the northside of Cork.


Niamh is Marketing Manager for Centra, leading a dynamic team responsible for marketing Ireland’s number one convenience brand with over 480 stores nationwide. Today, Centra continues to enjoy commercial and brand success by consistently outperforming the convenience market whilst evolving to meet the changing needs of the Irish shopper. Niamh brings extensive experience to the table, having worked for 20 years on world class, international and domestic brands in Musgrave, Pernod Ricard and Amex.


Karac Kennedy is a Regional Sales Manager for Peninsula Ireland covering the Republic of Ireland with 10 agents supporting all business across Leinster & Munster. Peninsula support over 7,000 businesses across Ireland. Karac’s career prior to Peninsula was based in the telco markets supporting Irish SMB up to International Enterprise / Government level accounts with Eir and VMware. HR and health & safety consultant Peninsula is delighted to be a partner of the CBA Cork Business of the Year Awards 2024.


Deirdre is Fáilte Ireland’s representative, working on the Ireland’s Ancient Team, in Cork City. Deirdre has gained a wealth of experience, working in Ireland and abroad in business development, destination development and stakeholder engagement. Her focus is now centred on Cork City, working with stakeholders and businesses to deliver the five-year destination and experience development plan for Cork City and East Cork. Deirdre has a keen interest in sustainability and often opts for the two-wheeled commute.


Alan Healy has worked as a journalist for almost 20 years with a range of news media outlets including the Western People and The Kingdom regional titles before becoming a senior reporter and deputy News Editor of The Echo. He joined the Irish Examiner in January 2020 as the editor of the newly formed Munster Business Hub which covers property, home, farming and Munster business content.


Evelyn’s experience in the conference, meetings and incentive industry spans from 1999 to present. Her career has progressed in a very fluid way from Operations, Project Management and Client Relations to Destination Marketing. In 2010, when Evelyn returned to Cork, she secured the role of General Manager of Cork Convention Bureau (CCB). CCB is a public-private, stakeholder driven, Destination Management Organisation (DMO), tasked with promoting the Cork region as an international meetings and events destination.