His Excellency Michael D. Higgins
President of Ireland

Members of the Board


Robert G. Kearns, Chair & Founder
Mark Duffy, Treasurer

Board Members

Scott Beckett                    
          Constance O'Brien         Claire Lehan
T. Daniel Burns              Charmaine Lindsay
Diana Conconi                Mary-Margaret McMahon
          Eileen Costello                Mark Purdy
Al Duffy                            Cheryl Shindruk
Kevin Flynn                     Mike Williams

Honorary Directors

His Excellency Eamonn McKee
Ambassador of Ireland to Canada
General (Ret'd) John de Chastelain
Former Head of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, Northern Ireland
Mrs. Norma Smurfit
Chair & Founder, The Famine Commemoration Fund Dublin, Ireland
Jonathan M. Kearns
Partner, Kearns Mancini Architects

Foundation Advisors

Historical Advisor

Jason King, PhD
Head, Irish Famine Archive

Archeological Advisor

Katherine Hull PhD, 
Partner, Archaeology Services Inc. and Director, Cultural Heritage Division


Robert G. Kearns, Chair & Founder

Robert G. Kearns is President and Founder of Kearns Insurance Corporation and Kearns Investment Corporation. Robert is also a founding partner of Kearns Edgewater Financial Services Inc. Originally from Dublin, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Archaeology and Greek and Roman Civilizations from University College Dublin, Ireland, before immigrating to Canada in 1979. Since founding Kearns Insurance Corporation in 1983, Robert is recognized as a creative driving force in the customization of bespoke life and living benefit insurance solutions for successful Canadians.


Since his arrival in Canada, he has been continuously involved in Irish-Canadian business and cultural relations, making significant contributions to a number of Irish-Canadian organizations. These include his position as a member of the Board of the Ireland Fund of Canada from 1980-2004. He was Chairman of the Ireland Fund from 1989-1992, and a Director of the America Ireland Fund. He is also a Founding Director of the Ireland-Canada Chamber of Commerce. In 1997, he began work to establish Canada Ireland Foundation as a volunteer board, which was formally incorporated in May of 2000. He has served as Chairman of the Board of Canada Ireland Foundation since that time.


Between 1998 and 2008, Robert served as Chairman of the Campaign for Celtic Studies at St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto. Between 1996 and 2013, he served as a Director of the former Halifax Aircraft Association, a ten-year project with Canadian veterans to restore a Second World War Halifax bomber to commemorate the ten thousand Canadians who failed to return from their service in Bomber Command. From this project, he published Night Flight to Norway: A Canadian Memorial, on the history and restoration of Halifax Aircraft NA 337, under the banner of his own publishing firm, The Welland Press. Robert also served for nine years as a Member of the Board of Governors of Roy Thomson Hall and Massey Hall. He currently serves as a Member of the Board of the NATO Association of Canada.


In 2008, Robert was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. Also in 2008, Robert and his brother Jonathan M. Kearns, Partner, Kearns Mancini Architects, were named joint Irish Persons of the Year for their role in creating and designing Ireland Park on Toronto's Waterfront. In December of 2016, he was the Canadian recipient of the Irish Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad.


Robert believes passionately in the importance of contributing to all aspects of the vibrant arts community in Toronto and abroad. Much of his personal time is spent pursuing these interests.

A. Scott Beckett, Director

Scott is an insurance marketing specialist and holds an MBA (1997) from the Richard Ivey School of Business and a Bachelor of Science (1984) in Statistic and Actuarial Science from the University of Western Ontario.


He is a member of the Conference for Advanced Life Underwriting (CALU), the Financial Advisors Association of Canada (Advocis), and a past member of the Advocis CLU Education Committee. He is a frequent guest speaker at industry schools, continuous education events and meetings. He is also the president and co-founder of Foresight Health Incorporated, a firm specializing in unique proprietary wellness solutions for Canadian businesses and is co-founder of EESI Benefits, Canada’s first and only preferred provider paramedical group.  He has strong links to the Irish community in Canada.

Thomas Daniel Burns, Director

A long time civil servant, Dan retired from the Ontario Public Service in 2002 from the position of Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. Before holding that post he had been the Deputy Minister in the Ministries of Economic Development and International Trade, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and the Ministry of Housing. During his 10 years with the provincial government he was also a member of the boards of several crown corporations.


A town planner by profession, he started his career at the City of Toronto where he worked in both the Planning and Housing departments. Active in the community he is a board member of a number of organizations including the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the Maytree Foundation. In the past he has been a trustee at Queens University and a board member of the United Way of Greater Toronto and of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada among others.

Diana Conconi, Director

Diana is a senior strategist and writer specializing in marketing communications and media relations. With over 30 years of experience in the United States and Canada, she has held senior positions at large multinational public relations firms and a mid-sized Canadian agency and has counselled clients as the owner of her own agencies for a total of 15 years.


Diana began her career in Washington, D.C. where she founded her first agency, Conconi Communications in 1988. During this time, she also served as deputy director of marketing on the 52nd Presidential Inaugural Committee (for President Bill Clinton). In 1999, Diana moved to Canada and is currently a Senior Vice-President and partner at Kaiser-Lachance Communications. She joined the Board of Directors of Canada Ireland Foundation in 2018 and also serves on the Board of Governors of Centennial College.

Kevin Flynn, Director

Kevin Flynn was first elected to the Ontario legislature in 2003 as MPP for Oakville. He was re-elected in 2007, 2011 and 2014, making him the longest serving MPP in the Oakville riding.Flynn was the Minister of Labour and a member of Treasury Board. He has served as Parliamentary Assistant to the Ministers of Infrastructure; Transportation; Training, Colleges and Universities; Education; Environment; Energy; Democratic Renewal; and Labour. He was also Chair of the Standing Committee on Mental Health and Addictions.


As a result of his environmental work, Flynn was awarded the 2007 Halton Conservation Award of Excellence. His advocacy in the field of mental health led to numerous awards from a variety of organizations including the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Ontario Psychological Association.Prior to his election in 2003, Flynn owned a successful Oakville-based business,. He has always been active in the community as a president of the Halton Children’s Aid Society, a mentor in the Big Brothers program and a coach of minor sports.With an MBA from Athabasca University, Flynn also understands bottom lines, the impact of high taxes on small business and the difficulties of operating a business in a changing economic climate. He joined the board of the Canada Ireland Foundation in 2019.

Claire Lehan, Director

Claire Lehan is an Associate corporate and securities lawyer at McCarthy-Tétrault LLP. Prior to McCarthy-Tétrault, she practiced at Bennet Jones LLP. Claire joined the board of the Canada Ireland Foundation in 2018.

Charmaine Lindsay, Director

Charmaine Lindsay is a librarian/archivist with over 30 years experience in research, public programming, community partnerships and administration of public institutions. She has a Master's Degree in Library Science from the University of Toronto and a Certificate in Archival Studies from George Brown College. Through her roles as Department Head of the former Canadiana Department of the Toronto Public Library and Supervisor of Reference and Outreach at the City of Toronto Archives, she has gained a particular expertise in Toronto and Ontario local history and genealogy. While at the Toronto Public Library, she partnered with the Ontario Genealogical Society to create a conference on the history of the Irish in Ontario with an attendance of 180. At the City of Toronto Archives she organized a series of panel discussions on the history of public health, which included discussion of the health crisis, precipitated by the arrival to the city of the Irish famine immigrants in 1847. Both programs included the participation of Robert Kearns, Chair of Canada Ireland Foundation.


As CEO of the Cobourg Public Library, Charmaine continued to increase awareness and appreciation of Ontario history by working with other community groups to create hugely popular public programs to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Cobourg’s iconic Victoria Hall and the anniversary of the founding of the town.


Charmaine volunteered for six years with the Rotary Club of Cobourg, serving on various committees related to literacy and support of youth here in Canada and abroad. She has provided research on a volunteer basis with Heritage Toronto in their Heritage Plaque program and will be providing walking tours on the history of Toronto through the Royal Ontario Museum’s ROMWalks program.

Mary-Margaret McMahon, Director

A natural born leader, Mary-Margaret McMahon was a strong City Builder long before she was elected to Toronto City Council. She worked tirelessly as a passionate volunteer on numerous projects and for varied organizations in her community ranging from streetscaping beautification projects to environmental education and awareness raising to food security initiatives. In 2010, with an unprecedented landslide victory unseating an entrenched incumbent, it was evident that Mary-Margaret's community believed in her ability to represent them effectively at the municipal level of government.


Over the past eight years, Mary-Margaret has held a variety of critical roles and served on several important boards at City Hall. Mary-Margaret's proudest achievements include leading and implementing the City's first climate change adaptation plan (Transform TO) and spearheading the Laneway Suites planning policy – a game changing housing initiative adding to the city’s rental stock and allowing residents to age in place, and helping to create the Vision Zero road safety plan ensuring safety for all road users.


A strong believer in democratic reform, Mary-Margaret ran on a platform that included Term Limits. Mary-Margaret has a knack for bringing people together and inspiring them. Whether it is working across party lines on the floor of Council to achieve a unanimous vote or empowering residents to form advocacy groups to implement change in their neighbourhoods, she ensures everyone's voices are heard and ideas valued. Mary- Margaret is a true collaborator. With her endless energy, creativity, and charisma, Mary-Margaret has been able to make Toronto a more livable city. She is action-oriented and prides herself in getting things done! Currently, she is the Director of Community at Sidewalk Labs. She joined the Board of Directors of Canada Ireland Foundation in 2018.

Mark Purdy, Director

Mr. Purdy serves as Chair of the Investment Committee at Arrow Capital Management Inc. and has over 15 years experience in the investment industry. Mr. Purdy shares responsibility for the hedge fund manager selection and asset allocation process and has served on the Investment Committee at Arrow Capital Management since inception. Mr. Purdy held senior roles at BPI Financial Corporation and IBM Canada Ltd. Mr. Purdy graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Commerce and Economics degree. He holds the CFA designation. Mr. Purdy is also actively involved in the Varsity Blues alumni fundraising projects at the University of Toronto.