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Changing Ireland: My Big Idea - Meet Hugh Brennan

18 March 2020


Meet Hugh Brennan, Founder and CEO of the Ó Cualann Cohousing Alliance

Permanent tsb is proud to celebrate courage and champion entrepreneurship as a supporter of ‘Changing Ireland: My Big Idea’, a brand new six-part docuseries produced for RTÉ One, in association with our community partner Social Entrepreneurs (SEI). The documentary will follow some of the most successful social entrepreneurs from the SEI Alumni Network, showcasing the positive impact that their work is having across the country and detailing their journey from start-up to scale-up.

Today, we want you to meet Hugh Brennan, Founder and CEO of the Ó Cualann Cohousing Alliance (Ó Cualann) and one of the entrepreneurs featured in the series.

In April 2013, Hugh Brennan met Bill Black by chance in a small bicycle shop in Bray. The two began talking and realised they shared the opinion that Ireland was in need of an initiative to deliver affordable and fully-integrated housing and the idea for Ó Cualann was born.

By October, the idea had been tested and the first meeting of potential members for a new cooperative had been scheduled.

Ó Cualann is building affordable housing and integrating communities through its co-operative model and is committed to ‘building communities, not just houses’.

Their vision is simple, they want to see fully integrated communities where tenant and owner members live side by side, sharing common amenities. The members of the first Ó Cualann project, a 49 unit development in Poppintree, Ballymun, in preparing the common charter expressed a desire to live in a community where:

  • people get to know their neighbours before they move in
  • they all look out for each other
  • mortgages do not cripple them
  • energy bills are low
  • homes are guaranteed to be built to the best international standards
  • people feel safe and secure.

Through their model,  Ó Cualann delivers well-designed, top-quality, energy efficient homes at an affordable price for first time buyers hoping to get on the property ladder. They believe that their model can be replicated and scaled across the country and are committed to working with local authorities and like-minded groups to change the way housing is delivered in Ireland.

To complement the series, SEI launched its own podcast – The Social Entrepreneur Podcast – which will present in-depth interviews with the social entrepreneurs featured in the series. This week, CEO of SEI, Darren Ryan, sat down with Hugh to learn more about the Ó Cualann journey.

The podcast is available to listen to here.

‘Changing Ireland: My Big Idea’ is now showing on Monday evenings, from 8.30-9.00pm on RTÉ One.

To learn more about the Bank’s partnership with SEI and our continued commitment to having a positive and meaningful impact on communities across Ireland, please visit our Responsible Business Website.


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