Laura Keyes

A picture of Laura Keyes, Rabharta's Mayoral candidate for Limerick

Dr Laura Keyes is the Party Candidate for Directly Elected Mayor of Limerick. Laura is from the North Circular Road in Limerick City. She has a PhD in Public Health and a Fellowship in Epidemiology and currently works as a senior leadership manager in the public sector where she works to drive improvements in health and social care services.

Laura attended Salesians Primary School and then Laurel Hill Coláiste. She pursued her undergraduate degree in Nutritional Sciences in University College Cork and continued to achieve a PhD in Public Health. Following completion of her PhD she was selected for a three-year fellowship in Cambridge University in Epidemiology and Leadership where she led projects including the evidence base for the UK sugar sweetened beverage policy and sat on the national think tank committee for food security.

After having her first child, Laura moved to Manchester to take up a senior lectureship position in the area of health services and health professions. There she oversaw the suite of Masters programmes in Nutrition and Dietetics and led the Departmental Research Hub. One of her key projects was the instigation of a community outreach programme supporting people to improve food knowledge and cooking skills, aimed at improving overall health, lowering obesity and preventing people from needing medical services. She secured £2.2M in funding for a research project with the Baka tribes in Cameroon aimed at increasing food security and improving health in the region. Laura was highly active on the University committee for Athena Swan (a framework used across the globe to support and transform gender equality within higher education and research). She was also chair of the University ethics committee, a member of the research governance committee and a board member of the UK and Ireland fitness to practice board for Registered Nutritionists. While in Manchester she led a pivotal piece of research on how the public react to government policy. The findings indicated that there was a deep mistrust of the public in professionals, feelings that those making policy were out of touch with the lives of the people who the policy was meant for and a general disdain for the paternalistic approach to policy making. These findings were to shape the next steps in her career and her engagement with politics.

Following the birth of her second child, Laura moved home to raise her children. She took a senior leadership position in the public sector. There she moved into strategy development and planning roles where, among other projects, she led on the development of the framework for measuring impact of national interventions and methods for public engagement in national projects. She was seconded from her position during the COVID-19 pandemic to contribute to NPHET as evidence for public health guidance lead. Laura is currently leading a research programme aimed at improving social care services across Ireland and is Ireland’s representative in the international health and social care regulation research consortium.

Over the years, Laura continued her studies in areas including corporate finance, negotiation, contract law, systems thinking and programme management. Not leaving behind her academic career, she secured €0.28M funding to undertake a first of its kind project to convert routinely collected regulatory data into an open access database. She believes that information collected with public money should be accessible to everyone. This model is now the gold standard for regulators internationally and won the 2023 Irish Health Care Centre Awards for Best use of Technology. Laura continued to publish academic papers in the area of improving care for residents of nursing homes and centres for people with disability, but, following her previous learning in Manchester, she emphasised patient interaction and co-creation in all her work, gaining her a reputation as a leader in the field on putting the voice of the person at the centre of the work.

Laura was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2021. As she learned to adapt to her new way of life, she experienced the inaccessibility of the world we live in, the lack of supports for people with disabilities and the vital role of carers in our society.

Inspired by her own experiences, the need she saw through her daily work and also her grandfather and great grandfather, both former mayors of Limerick, Laura joined Rabharta as she wanted to be a voice for people with disability, carers and at-risk groups, in politics. Since joining she has worked tirelessly in the Communications Group and the Programmatic Group and was elected to the National Executive Committee in November 2023. She recently co-ordinated the Party’s response to the Government green paper on disability allowance reform.

Laura believes in a person-centred approach to leadership and that politics and decision making should be transparent. She has made accessibility and inclusivity a core part of her campaign and Mayoral Programme.