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A former humanitarian and aid worker, Van Leishout worked as the campaigns organiser and policy manager with Oxfam, from 1989 to 1998, and as health promotion officer with the former eastern health board before joining the NDA, the independent state body which provides advice on disability policy and practice to the Government.

She was educated at Trinity College Dublin and holds an MSc in community health and an MA in international relations from Dublin City University.

Van Lieshout’s appointment can be seen as confirmation of the President’s campaign promise to promote the rights of people with disabilities.