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Barretstown Coffee morning Wed. 20th Feb: In conversation with Shay, our Mount Everest Climber2019 February 11

Shay Lawless, team member of ‘Ireland on Everest’, is aiming to climb to the summit of Mount Everest in May 2019. Shay and teammate Jenny will be ably guided by Noel Hanna, an Irish adventurer who has climbed Everest eight times and became the first Irish person to successfully climb and safely descend K2 in 2018. 

To offer our support to Shay and mark this wonderful display of courage, strength, determination and good will, the School of Computer Science and Statistics will hold a coffee morning on Wednesday 20th February, running from 10.30 a.m. to the O’Reilly Institute, Trinity College Dublin with all proceeds going to Barretstown. 

Barretstown provides respite and recreational care for seriously and terminally ill children. They have a wonderful campus where the children and their families can go to spend some time together and enjoy life away from the anxieties and challenges of their day to day life, all while supported behind the scenes by 24-hour on site medical and nursing care. All of the children and families go to Barretstown free of charge. Everything, including accommodation, food and medical assistance are provided at no cost to the family 

In conversation…

We asked Shay to tell us more about the climb and what drew him to Barretsown?

“I had been aware of Barretstown for a number of years, as friends and I had taken part in their Dublin Mountains Challenge on a few occasions - In the last year close friends lost their four year old daughter to cancer, and it really brought home just how traumatic and devastating childhood illness can be, and just how important it is that these young people get to enjoy their lives and have fun at every opportunity. We have partnered with Barretstown from the outset and it is serendipitous that this is their 25th anniversary, and last year was the 25th anniversary of the first Irish summit of Mount Everest. So the stars are aligning.”

How are you raising funds for the climb?

“We are raising funds for the expedition through corporate sponsorship, philanthropic funding and crowdfunding ( Anything we raise above and beyond our expedition costs through these three routes will go directly to Barretstown. In parallel we are also running fundraising events where 100% of the money raised goes to Barretstown, like this coffee morning (Barretstown Fundraising -

What exactly is the challenge? 

“I am a member of ‘Ireland on Everest’ (, an Irish mountaineering team aiming to climb to the summit of Mount Everest in May this year.  Two of our team are climbing this year - Jenny Copeland and I.  Jenny is a physiotherapist and is mother of four, from Drumree, Co Meath.  We will be guided on Everest by Noel Hanna, an Irish adventurer who has climbed Everest eight times and became the first Irish person to successfully climb and safely descend K2 in 2018. 

When will you set out on the journey?

“We depart on the 10th of April and are likely to be in the Himalayas until the end of May. The first month is spent acclimatising: walking up the Khumbu valley into Basecamp and then on a number of climbs up Everest and on surrounding mountains.”

Why are you doing this?

“This is the question you get asked most, and it is the most difficult to answer. The simple answer is that I have always been drawn to the mountains. One of my early memories is being given a pull-out from National Geographic by my dad which showed the route up the south face of Everest, I had that on my wall for years.”

 What is your biggest driver in this project?

“One of the aims of our expedition is to inspire the next generation to get out, get active and to experience the beauty of the Irish landscape. We want to show that anything is possible if you want it enough and work hard enough. We have given a series of talks in Schools and to Scout Groups.”

What is the training schedule like?

“We have been preparing over the past four years. We train on an ongoing basis here in Ireland, both out in the hills and in the gym. In addition, we complete winter skills training in Scotland every year. We have also had a series of preparatory expeditions - we have climbed two 6500m peaks (Mera and Island Peak) in the Himalayas in 2016, and last summer we climbed Denali in Alaska (the tallest mountain in North America and the tallest in the world if measured base to summit).”

Tell us about the ‘Day Shay’ and the ‘Out of Office’ Shay!

The ‘Day Shay’

“I'm an Assistant Professor in the Artificial Intelligence discipline in Trinity College Dublin’s School of Computer Science and Statistics and also the Director of the MSc in Computer Science.  In the SFI (Science Foundation Ireland) ADAPT Centre ( I am Associate Director, with responsibility for Non-Exchequer research funding. All of my research has a strong user focus, and aims to improve the experiences of users when interacting with and consuming content. I work primarily in the areas of Personalisation and Information Retrieval. I also work on a number of Digital Humanities projects, investigating how people search for and consume information, particularly in Cultural Heritage contexts. Currently, I am Co-PI on Beyond 2022 an IRC project which aims to digitally recreate the Public Record Office of Ireland, destroyed in 1922.” ("

The ‘Out of Office’ Shay

I was born and raised in Bray, Co. Wicklow - close to the hills! I love sport, particularly football, rugby and GAA, and support Everton, Leinster, Ireland (in everything!), Wicklow... the list goes on :) I have a young daughter Emma, who demands a lot of my time for her hectic social life, with GAA, dancing, gymnastics etc. The rest of the time I try to spend out in the mountains!


We wish Shay every good luck on this most challenging adventure and look forward to the follow up interview on his return.

Please spread the word about the coffee morning to your colleagues, friends and acquaintances and through your social media channels.  

Date for the diary

Wednesday 20th February 10.30 a.m. to 12 p.m.



Posted by:  Catherine O’Connor, Head of External Relations, School of Computer Science and Statistics, Trinity College Dublin 2.

  catherine.oconnor at