The two-day event will celebrate the life of one of Ireland’s greatest unsung heroes and ensure that her work, sacrifices and determination are never forgotten
Midlands-North-West MEP Maria Walsh was in Mountbellew this morning to officially open the Aleen Cust Centenary Conference. At the ceremony, she spoke about Cust always following her dreams and drew on her own passion, when first elected an MEP, to encourage the Parliament to focus on mental health and make it a priority within the European Union.
Organised by Galway, Roscommon and Tipperary County Council Heritage Officers, together with the local Aleen Cust Memorial Society, supported by Atlantic TU, the Aleen Cust Centenary Conference will take place across two days, and will celebrate the life of one of Ireland’s most inspiring female trailblazers.
Aleen Cust was the first female Veterinary Surgeon, admitted to the Register of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) in 1922, and is a leading example of a visionary in the sphere of animal welfare, overcoming countless barriers to practise a profession she dedicated her life to, against many odds.
Opening the event at Mountbellew Agricultural College this morning, MEP Walsh spoke about gender equality, and the journey Ireland has travelled as a country and a society over the last 100 years. She noted that we have reached some great milestones for equality since Cust was admitted to the RCVS in 1922. “And for this, we owe a great deal of thanks to leaders like Aleen Cust,” Walsh remarked.
Looking back on the life and times of Aleen Cust, MEP Walsh said we could all learn a great
deal from the Tipperary native, about overcoming adversity and following our dreams. “If you have a passion for something, follow it. If it hasn’t been done before, be the first. When Aleen set out to become a veterinary surgeon, there was no blueprint and no clear path to follow. Her passion was her beacon and her strength to lead her into the unknown,” she told a captive audience.
Drawing on her own experiences, Walsh said that despite growing up in a house that wasn’t steeped in politics, she harboured a passion for two things which are crucial for politics – people and community. “Similar to Aleen Cust, my passion was strong and the ‘why’ needed to be answered. It was so strong that it propelled me to take the first step…and become an MEP for the Midlands-North-West,” she recalled.
Resilience, Walsh noted, was also something Cust had in abundance, and something the Mayo woman has learned much about over the years. Addressing a large crowd at the opening of the conference in Mountbellew, the MEP explained that one of her core campaign goals, from day one, was for the Parliament to focus on mental health and making it a priority within the European Union.
“I was told mental health was not a competency of the EU and so I began constructing a game plan, working on getting mental health to the forefront of the EU agenda. In June of this year, the European Parliament voted in favour of the report entitled ‘Mental Health and the Digital World of Work’. This report was solely focused on mental health and how employers and employees can safeguard their mental health in the digital world of work. By voting in favour of this report the EU were agreeing that (a) mental health was an important issue, and (b) something needed to be done about it. This attitude was very different to the one which was presented to me when I joined the parliament in 2019. That very same parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of a report which was entirely centred on the issue of mental health,” Walsh explained.
The Aleen Cust Centenary Conference will take place today and tomorrow, and will feature some 16 talks by academics, veterinarians and historians, who will examine the life, times, pioneering work and death of the Tipperary-born Anglo Saxon aristocrat who was admitted to the Royal College register one hundred years ago (1922) – two decades after she first commenced practice in Athleague, Co Roscommon.
The two-day event is organised by Galway, Roscommon and Tipperary County Council Heritage Officers and the local Aleen Cust Memorial Society, supported by Atlantic TU. The Heritage day is free and is funded by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media under their Decade of Centenaries Local Authority Funding, and by the various project partners with support from local heritage groups and vintage clubs in Galway, Roscommon and Tipperary. For a full programme of events, visit aleencust.clr.event