The national, independent charity working to prevent and reduce alcohol misuse noted that following an extensive and competitive recruitment process, O’Brien emerged as the outstanding candidate.
She replaces outgoing CEO Sheena Horgan and will officially take up the role from 4 September 2023.
Announcing O’Brien’s appointment, Sean Quigley, chairperson of the Board of Drinkaware, said, “The board of Drinkaware is delighted to welcome Dearbhla O’Brien as our new CEO.
"We believe she is the ideal candidate to lead Drinkaware into the future.
"We are convinced that Dearbhla’s [O’Brien] combination of qualifications, experience and enthusiasm will continue to drive positive behaviour change and public health impacts around alcohol consumption in Ireland.
"We would also like to thank our outgoing CEO Sheena Horgan for her tireless work over the last five years in growing Drinkaware and wish her every success for the future.”
O’Brien is an experienced CEO with a strong track record over 20 years leading organisations such as USIT Ireland where she served as CEO and commercial director.
She is a founding director of travel start-up Workandtravel.ie, in addition to previous roles such as CEO of semi-state body Rasaíocht Con Éireann and head of Marketing for Ryanair.
O’Brien has also served as non-executive director of the not for profit ‘Bray Women’s Refuge’.
She holds a degree in International Business from DCU and is also a chartered director of the Institute of Directors.
Commenting on her appointment, O’Brien, said, that it is an honour to be part of a movement that can contribute to positive, lasting change when it comes to Ireland’s relationship to alcohol.
"With a wonderful team already in place, I look forward to leading this organisation with initiatives that continue to reach more and more people, especially our youth, whose long-term health and wellbeing would be so well served by (at the very least) delaying the age at which they take their first drink," she said.
"I also look forward to working with the board in developing a new strategic plan from 2024 onwards that will add to the national discourse, build on key stakeholder relationships including government bodies and our licence holders, contribute to policy and ensure the organisation continues to hold its rightful place as ‘the go to destination’ for the facts around alcohol misuse and harm.
"I look forward to placing a strong emphasis on the need to continually develop and invest in research and information that enables people to make informed choices and to demonstrate the life changing benefits that moderation, mindful drinking and a sober curious approach can bring.”
Established, Experienced Team
Drinkaware noted that O’Brien will lead an established, experienced team at Drinkaware with a multitude of skillsets across research, education, public engagement, outreach, communications and digital media.
She will join her colleagues to continue to develop campaigns and create opportunities to inform and empower the public and drive positive behaviour change in relation to alcohol consumption in Ireland, it added.