Joan Freeman (politician)

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Joan Freeman
Assumed office
27 May 2016
ConstituencyNominated by the Taoiseach
Personal details
Joan Lowe

(1958-04-02) 2 April 1958 (age 61)
Dublin, Ireland
Political partyIndependent
Patrick Freeman (m. 1982)
Alma materOpen University

Joan Freeman (née Lowe; born 2 April 1958) is an Irish psychologist, mental health activist and an Independent politician who has served as a Senator since May 2016, after being nominated by the then Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. She is the founder of Pieta House, a national mental health services charity. She resigned from Pieta House in 2014. She was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2018 presidential election.[1]

Pieta House[edit]

Freeman is the founder of Pieta House, a suicide intervention charity established in 2006 in Lucan, County Dublin. Since 2006, Pieta House has established twelve additional centres across Ireland with almost 270 therapists and administration staff, providing free therapeutic services to over 30,000 people.[2] In 2008, Freeman founded the annual fund-raising event Darkness into Light in aid of Pieta House. Begun with 400 participants, approximately 200,000 people participated in the May 2018 recent iteration of the event.[3][4] The 5 km walk took place across 180 venues worldwide. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was among the 15,000 people who undertook the walk in Dublin's Phoenix Park.[4]

Freeman resigned from Pieta House in 2014, in order to concentrate on developing Solace House, a similar charity based in New York City launched in 2015.[5] The service was initially created to serve the Irish diaspora in New York, but has since supported and counselled people from many different nationalities.[6]

Political career[edit]

In 2016, Freeman was nominated by then Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, as a member of Seanad Éireann.[7] She helped form, and now chairs, Ireland's first Committee on the Future of Mental Healthcare.[8] She is also a member of the Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs. She is a former member of the Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference,[9] at one time speaking to raise awareness on suicide prevention training programmes provided by Pieta House.[10]

Freeman received the nomination of four councils required to be a candidate in the 2018 Irish presidential election.[1] The incumbent President Michael D. Higgins was running for re-election and an election was held on 26 October 2018.[11]

The Times described Freeman as having "strong family links with the anti-abortion movement".[12][13][14] Her sister, Theresa Lowe, and her niece, Maria Steen, argued for a No vote in the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment on televised debates on RTÉ and TV3. Steen is a member of the Iona Institute.[15][16] Freeman has said that although she voted No in the referendum, she "would be happy to carry the voice of the people and sign resulting legislation into law as president" and noted her daughter's involvement in the Yes campaign.[17] Independent TD Mattie McGrath will support Freeman if she runs, stating that "a good Catholic president would be refreshing".[15] If elected, Freeman has said she will set up a "National Assembly of Well-being".[18]

During the campaign, the Irish Independent reported on a speech by Freeman in which she claimed that her eczema had been miraculously cured following a visit to Knock Shrine when she was a teenager.[19]

Personal life[edit]

Freeman is a native of Dublin. The sixth of the eight children of Marie and John Lowe, she lived in Warwickshire, England, where her parents moved when she was a baby. Her family returned to Dublin when she was 12, and her father took up a job managing his brother's pub, The Sword, on Camden Street.[20]

She is married to Patrick Freeman and has four children.[21] She holds a degree and MA in psychology. In June 2018, Freeman received the Trailblazer Award from the Women's Executive Network, Ireland.[22]


  1. ^ a b "Freeman and Gallagher both secure nominations for Áras bids". RTÉ News. 10 September 2018. Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  2. ^ "About Pieta House". Pieta House. Retrieved 18 July 2018.
  3. ^ Russell, Cliodhna. "In photos: Stunning summer morning as 200,000 walk from Darkness into Light".
  4. ^ a b "Over 200,000 dawn walkers take part in 'Darkness into Light' in venues across Ireland and worldwide". 12 May 2018. Retrieved 18 July 2018.
  5. ^ "Pieta House founder Joan Freeman leaving charity for new mental health project in New York". 31 October 2017. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  6. ^ "Solace House – Suicide Prevention Center". Solace House. Retrieved 18 July 2018.
  7. ^ "Joan Freeman". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  8. ^ "Committee on Future of Mental Health Care". 13 July 2018.
  9. ^ "Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference". Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference. Archived from the original on 8 May 2018. Retrieved 3 July 2018."Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference". Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference. Archived from the original on 15 May 2018. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  10. ^ Rooney, Nicola (April 2013). "A Pastoral Response to Suicide". Intercom. Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference. pp. 10–11.
  11. ^ Doyle, Kevin (18 July 2018). "Pieta House founder Joan Freeman seeks nomination for Aras election". Irish Independent. Retrieved 18 July 2018.
  12. ^ Justine McCarthy (8 July 2018). "Catholic support for Joan Freeman tackling the presidency". The Times. News UK. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  13. ^ Hosford, Paul (31 July 2018). "'What's wrong with a President who wears wellies?' - Independent candidates vie for nomination". Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  14. ^ Defoe, Sean (31 July 2018). "Presidential hopeful Joan Freeman 'would sign law' to allow abortions". Newstalk. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  15. ^ a b McCarthy, Justine (8 July 2018). "Catholic support for Joan Freeman tackling the presidency". The Times.
  16. ^ "How the main contenders line up". The Times. 11 July 2018. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  17. ^ Larkin, Laura (31 July 2018). "Senator Joan Freeman 'happy to sign abortion bill into law' if elected as president, despite No vote in referendum". Irish Independent. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  18. ^ "Senator Joan Freeman pledges to encourage national wellbeing if elected president". 31 July 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  19. ^ Larkin, Laura (7 September 2018). "'Knock cured my eczema,' says presidential hopeful Joan Freeman". Irish Independent. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  20. ^ "'I'm humbled by the people who fundraise and donate from their pensions and Confirmation cash' -". Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  21. ^ "'I'm humbled by the people who fundraise and donate from their pensions and Confirmation cash'". 30 October 2013. Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  22. ^ "Ireland's Most Powerful Women: Top 25 Award Winners for 2018 - WXN - Women's Executive Network - At WXN we inspire smart women to lead". WXN. Retrieved 18 July 2018.