Who We Are


Relationships in Practice is a new collaboration between the Ag Eisteacht Foundation and the Social and Health Education Project (SHEP).

Based in Cork, with a national outreach, the work comprises four strands: evidence-informed ABLE training, advocacy, collaboration and evaluation.

This collaboration merges the work of two organisations with a shared commitment to increasing knowledge and understanding of the importance of quality relationships in practice.

Relationships in Practice supports frontline practitioners’ relational and reflective capabilities because evidence shows that empowering frontline practitioners to relate with empathy and sensitivity leads to better health and wellbeing outcomes for them and for the people they work with.

By providing training, reflective spaces, tools, insight and understanding of the importance of relational capability, this programme makes an important and valuable contribution to the fields of health, education, social care and justice.

Our History

The story of Relationships in Practice started in 2001 when Dr Maeve Hurley established Ag Eisteacht with Kathy Jones. Maeve is a mother, wife and former GP, so these dynamic and live relational experiences have informed much of her passion and drive for the work. With a nursing background and a passion for a relationship-centred approach, Kathy shared Maeve’s vision and supported the work from the outset.

Ag Eisteacht, which is the Irish word for listening – a key competency in building relationships in practice – became an Irish registered charity in 2013. 

In 2017, the charity developed and launched ABLE (Adopt a relational approach, Build & Boundary, Listen and Empower & End). This brief intervention model has formed the foundation of all its evidence-based training programmes since then.

Ag Eisteacht adopted the tagline, ‘Relationships in Practice’ in 2020 to reflect the broader scope of its work: Training, Advocacy, Collaboration and Evaluation.

In December 2021, Ag Eisteacht voluntarily deregistered as a charity and in January 2022, Relationships in Practice came under the Social and Health Education Project (SHEP) in collaboration with the Ag Eisteacht Foundation.

In 2017, the charity developed and launched ABLE (Adopt a relational approach, Build & Boundary, Listen and Empower & End). This brief intervention model has formed the foundation of all its evidence-based training programmes since then.

Ag Eisteacht adopted the tagline, ‘Relationships in Practice’ in 2020 to reflect the broader scope of its work: Training, Advocacy, Collaboration and Evaluation.

In December 2021, Ag Eisteacht voluntarily deregistered as a charity and in January 2022, Relationships in Practice came under the Social and Health Education Project (SHEP) in collaboration with the Ag Eisteacht Foundation.


Our Vision, Mission and Values

Our vision

We aspire to an Ireland where all practitioners are empowered with the skills and resources to respond in a sensitive and focused way when someone turns to them for help, particularly during times of change or relational distress.

Our mission

Our mission is to enhance practitioners’ capacity to be present and attuned through training so that they have the skills to empower and support their clients and look after themselves.

Our values

Time, attention and respect stand at the heart of our work.

“What continues to inspire me is the feedback and case studies we receive from practitioners illustrating how our training has enhanced their ability to relate, communicate and understand others – the gift that is to both client and practitioner.”
Dr. Maeve Hurley
Relationships in Practice Trainer and Founder of Ag Eisteacht

Our Relationships in Practice Work

Relationships in Practice supports quality relationships in frontline practice using evidence informed ABLE training programmes, advocacy, collaboration and evaluation.

The four strands of our Relationships in Practice programme are:

Our evidence-informed programmes are all based on ABLE (Adopt a relational approach, Build and Boundary, Listen and Empower & End), a brief intervention model we have developed to support quality relationships in practice.

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Our advocacy work supports our vision and mission in raising awareness of the transformative impact that quality relationships in practice have on health and wellbeing outcomes.

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Practitioners value relationships. The Relationships in Practice programme recognises that practitioners have the capacity to place relationship-based practice at the centre of their work. This programme is invested in enabling multi-agency and multi-disciplinary holistic relationship-based responses. We warmly welcome opportunities to collaborate with like-minded organisations and individuals.

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Knowledge and research about relationships is ever-changing, so we constantly evaluate our Relationships in Practice programme. We
consider the impact of providing training in this area and we continue to reflect on the programme’s contribution in a systematic way. This includes clearly articulating aims and outcomes associated with our work, monitoring and evaluating feedback in collaboration with our stakeholders and taking a flexible and responsive approach to implementing changes in response to that feedback and to the changing nature of evidence-based research associated with relationships.

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"Often, these are short interventions or moments. At other times, people need more time and support. One of the biggest challenges for me was being able to boundary my time in a respectful way while learning to leave the door open for future conversations."
Karina Healy,
The Lantern Project

Our Team

We are a small team working in a supportive and welcoming environment. We share a growth
mindset and relationships stand at the heart of our work. Our licensed trainers have diverse
experience of frontline practice work and a shared interest in relationship-centred practice. Each is
adept at tailoring the course content as they are delivering it to reflect the needs of the group. This
is a rare skill.

Fern Higgins Atkinson

Relationships in Practice Programme Manager

Fern is responsible for the management and development of the Relationships in Practice Programme. An experienced trainer/facilitator, a registered health promotion practitioner,, professional youth worker and a Youth Mental Health First Aid associate instructor. She is also a part-time lecturer at University College Cork in programmes including the BSocSc (Youth & Community Work), UCC ACE diploma in youth and community work and contributes content to undergraduate and postgraduate modules . She holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health and is currently undertaking doctoral research surrounding youth mental health policy.

Relationships stand at the heart of her work. Before joining Relationships in Practice, Fern worked with the West Cork Development Partnership and was initially youth health promotion and development officer before moving to the role coordinator with Ability West Cork, WCDP.

She also holds several voluntary positions including chairperson of Bród, a community group supporting and promoting LGBTQI+ people and issues in West Cork.


087  1751259

Norma Roche

Advocacy and Training Coordinator

Norma is working as our advocacy and training co-ordinator with Relationships in Practice. Norma has been a trainer with SHEP for the past eleven years, as well as a part-time lecturer with the UCC’s Adult Continuing Education department. She has a BA Degree in Social Science (Youth and Community Work) and has previously worked as Community Development Co-ordinator with The Lantern Community Project at Nano Nagle Place and Equality & Diversity Co-ordinator with Avondhu Blackwater Partnership Ltd. 

Norma will support our evidence-based ABLE training programmes and coordinate and develop our advocacy work to support relationship-based practice and understanding of why quality relationships matter in frontline work. 


085  8619468

Robyn Pinkham

Robyn Pinkham

Training and Development Coordinator

Robyn is working as our Training and Development Coordinator for Relationships in Practice. She has many years of experience working in various areas including administration, health research and business management. Robyn holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health in which she undertook a work placement with UCC Health Matters, becoming involved in the development of UCC’s first sexual health policy. During her undergraduate degree (B.Sc. Public Health), Robyn also had the opportunity to work on community development projects while on placement in Vietnam.

Robyn has recently completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Trials and will now work on the development and evolvement of our evidence based ABLE training programme. Robyn will also support the team in administration, advocacy and in collaborative work such as the Heart of Frontline Practice.


087 1466011


Dr Maeve Hurley, MB, MRCGP

Relationships in Practice Trainer and Founder of Ag Eisteacht

As well as being a caring and inspirational leader, Dr Maeve Hurley, a former GP, is an experienced trainer and facilitator.

Maeve’s vision is to equip practitioners with the skills to build quality relationships with clients and to support them in managing their boundaries.

She is regularly invited to share insight at the Royal College of Physician Ireland (RCPI) and is a respected speaker at national conferences such as the Irish Attachment in Action Annual Conference, The RCPI Quality in Healthcare Summit and the Northridge House and St Lukes Annual Conference. She also works on an annual basis with UCC’s GP Registrar Scheme.


Patsy Hannan

Relationships in Practice Trainer 

Patsy joined us in 2012 as a licensed trainer. She holds a 1st class honours Higher Diploma in Social and Personal Health Education with Waterford Institute of Technology and delivered Ag Eisteacht training to multi-disciplinary groups within the disability and homeless sectors, public health nurses, teachers, social workers and childcare workers.

A member of the Infant Mental Health Network Group and Steering Committee, Patsy also works with the Social, Health and Education Project (SHEP) as a tutor.

Cliodhna Mahony

Relationships in Practice Trainer 

Cliodhna is a qualified Public Health Specialist with over 10 years’ experience in substance use prevention, family support and community development. She has worked in a variety of settings, both in Ireland and abroad, in training and management roles. Cliodhna has been involved in delivering relational based training to a number of different sectors including the disability sector and the mental health sector for many years. Her practice interests are family-based prevention interventions, supporting the health and wellbeing of children and young people and inter-agency partnerships and collaboration.

Una McHale

Relationships in Practice Trainer 

Una is a recently retired social worker and has worked for over thirty years in both the voluntary and statutory sectors. Before becoming a licensed trainer with Ag Eisteacht, Una was employed as a Training and Development Officer in Workforce Learning and Development in Tusla, Child and Family Agency.

Having attended our training as a participant, she realised that it would be of great benefit to frontline practitioners in their role in supporting service users experiencing relational difficulties.

Rose Crowley

Relationships in Practice Trainer 

Rose is a clinical nurse specialist, holds a BA in Counselling and MA Integrative Psychotherapy and is an accredited therapist and supervisor with IACP.

Her special interest is trauma and she has trained in Mindfulness Based Somatic Experiencing and EMDR Therapy. She is also a psychotherapist and supervisor in private practice and a trainer for group facilitators and trainee counsellors.

Having experienced our ABLE model as a group participant, she found it provided a bridge between the separate roles she holds.

Leon Ledwidge

Relationships in Practice Trainer 

Leon is a qualified social care worker with an MA in Child, Family and Community Studies. She has extensive experience in the residential social care area, and was a family support worker and also worked in the disability sector. Leon has worked in Tusla Child and Family Agency for the last seventeen years. In recent years she has also become an independent trainer and consultant in the social care sector, providing training and consultancy services for Ag Eisteacht, Orchard Children Services, The Essential Organisation and Barnardos.

Bernadette Rogers

Relationships in Practice Trainer 

Bernadette has over 25 years’ practical and successful experience as a trainer, facilitator and coach. She has a HDip in Business Studies, Training & Development, a Certificate in Compliance, a certified mBIT (multiple Brain Integration Techniques) Coach and is a certified Professional Coach. As well as being a valued member of our training team, Bernie is also a partner and senior trainer with Neuro-Linguistic Programming Training (NLP) Institute.

A firm believer in continuous professional development and personal development, Bernadette undertakes further training each year to develop her skills.

Declan Cunningham

Relationships in Practice Trainer 

Declan is a qualified engineer with more than 30 years’ national and international experience at senior level in managing transition management scenarios. He has seen first-hand the importance of listening, responding sensitively and how misunderstandings can occur between people in times of crises. Declan’s work with Ag Eisteacht focusses on supporting quality relationships within the corporate sector.