I have successfully held a variety of leadership roles in Ireland and the EU across business, public affairs and voluntary sectors. In that time, I have served as a Board Member, CEO and Public Representative. I have built a strong public reputation for integrity and sound judgement. I am currently seeking Board positions as an Independent NED with a particular interest in governance and public affairs.


Vice Chair, Board of Directors

European Movement Ireland
When: 2008 to present
Where: Ireland

European Movement Ireland brings together leaders from business and government to promote a positive relationship between Ireland and the EU. I have significantly contributed to the growth of the organisation in terms of membership, capacity and recognition. In response to Brexit the organisation has significantly increased the scope and depth of its work.

Independent Senator

Seanad Éireann, Upper House of the Irish Parliament
When: 2011 to 2016
Where: Ireland

Leader, Independent Group. During my tenure, I formed, shaped, and amended a wide range of laws. I published legislation and guided its passage into law. I was a member of several committees including the body ensuring compliance with the Ethics in Public Office Acts.

Member and Vice President

EU European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)
When: 1998 to 2011
Where: European Union

The EESC is a consultative body of the European Union bringing together employers, employees and representatives of various interests. I represented the views of the 344 members from the then 27 Member-States to shape and inform EU policy. My work entailed high level representation of the EESC on inter-institutional bodies; engagement with the European Commission and European Parliament; at bi-lateral meetings with Member States; and on the EESC EU-China Round Table.

Chief Executive

Children’s Rights Alliance
When: 2005 to 2011
Where: Ireland

I transformed the Alliance from a campaign group to a respected organisation by: developing and creating governance systems and procedures; envisioning and successfully implementing its Strategic Plan; and building the Alliance capacity, sustainability and recognition.

EU High Level Expert Forum on Mobility

European Commission
When: 2008
Where: European Union

Chaired by Maria João Rodrigues, I was an expert member of this high-level group informing the EU’s policy to extend the scope of Erasmus, increasing exchanges and movement of young people.

Secretary General

When: 1993 to 1996
Where: Council of Europe

This youth platform brought together European based International Youth Organisations. My most significant achievement was successfully leading the creation of the European Youth Forum. This involved the merger of three umbrella organisations, at EU and Council of Europe level, into a single platform to be the voice of young people in Europe. It required intense mediation, strategic planning and change management.


O & E Group
When: 1990 to 1993 & 1996 to 2004
Where: Ireland

Throughout my childhood I was involved in the family business. I formally commenced employment in this mid-sized office supplies business in the service department and soon progressed to ICT. I left in 1993 to take up my role in Brussels. In 1996 on my return, I was appointed Manager of Marketing, helping the company to grow considerably. In 2000, I was appointed a Director and charged with preparing the business for sale. In 2002, O & E was sold to a UK based company and I managed the two-year transition on request of the buyer.


Governance Committee

World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS)
When: 2017 to present

WAGGGS operates in over 145 countries. My role is to evaluate and advance effective governance policies and practices at the global, regional and member organisation level.

Independent Chair

Early Childhood Ireland
When: 2011 to present

I was head-hunted to be the first Chair of Early Childhood Ireland which was created through a merger between the two leading Irish early childcare organisations and represents over 80% of all early childcare settings in Ireland. It was an immense challenge to foster a new culture and ethos. I have navigated between a wide spectrum of stakeholders, to ensure its financial viability, recognition and influence on Government policy.


Irish Girl Guides Trust Corporation Ltd
When: 2002 to present

We oversee and manage the properties and investments of the Irish Girl Guides

Past volunteering highlights

2014 to 2017 Chair, Board of Directors, Children in Hospital Ireland. I stepped into the role of Chair at a time when the organisation was facing immense challenges to survive. We rebuilt the governance structures and it is now a revitalised and growing charity.

2011 to 2014 Board of Directors, Women for Election. I was a member of the founding Board of this organisation who are striving to inspire and equip women to succeed in politics.

2011 to 2015, Irish Girl Guides, Chair and key driver to reimagine and develop the ‘Journey’ programme for all members aged 5 to 30.

1997 to 2000, Chief Commissioner, Irish Girl Guides. I grew the membership by 8% during my time as head volunteer of the organisation. I continue to volunteer at a local and national level for this leading women’s organisation.

1997 to 2000, President, National Youth Council of Ireland. I secured and developed its current property and grew its influence through membership of social partnership.


Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite, 2016

Awarded by the President of the French Republic.

Politician of the Year, TV3, 2015

The judging panel, comprising four political correspondents, said: “Jillian has demonstrated how to bring issues forward and make a real impact”.

Social Entrepreneur of the Year, 2010 Awarded by Newstalk WMB.

In recognition of her work for the Children’s Rights Alliance, it is testimony to my ability to be strategic, innovative and creative.


I am married to Michael van Turnhout, who is Dutch and who I thank for giving me my very distinctive surname! In my spare time I enjoy genealogy and have been  tracing my family tree for over a decade. Some of my genealogical discoveries can be seen in the Family History section of this site.

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