Aideen McCarthy Cudmore shares a piece about her father, our Co-founder Liam McCarthy

My Dad, Liam McCarthy, co-founder of PCI College.


Long before PCI began, while teaching at the primary school and secondary school level, Dad (Liam) was always involved in setting up programmes for adult learning. 30 years ago this year he had a vision, a plan to bring to fruition his own dream. His vision was what we now know as PCI College. Liam was very passionate about adult education and held a firm belief which encouraged students to become self-aware and take the risk to reflect on oneself with critical analysis. He expressed this as looking for answers from within oneself in order to flourish and discover untapped potential. His belief was that learning with Personal Counselling Institute would be participative and experiential and draw from the prior lived experience of the learner.


The genesis of PCI, as he would say himself, goes back to a visit to his sister in New Hampshire, USA, in 1984, and with her encouragement he had signed up to a course while being there in the University of New Hampshire with Dwight Webb. As a participant on that course at a one-to-one meeting with Dwight, he was asked about his plan for all his learning. Liam came back to him a few days later with the plan of what is now PCI. He felt it was “time to shake down the old university system” and its then exclusivity of adult learners, who hadn’t met their entry criteria and bring people into third-level education who probably wouldn’t get the opportunity because of the university system back then. University systems in the 1980s actively kept adults out of the third level as learners, people with a great wealth of life experience. Liam knew, from his primary and secondary teaching experience, that a great number of people with high levels of intelligence (“good thinking minds” as he called it) and ability were being denied the opportunity of third-level education. When he approached the Universities in Ireland at that time with the idea of adult education at the third-level, they closed the door on the idea proffering it wasn’t possible to be in third-level education without “the points” or the equivalent for that time.


He then turned to England, and especially to Professor Michael Carroll, and here Liam was put through his paces, he had to design and write a course with the purpose to gain approval and ultimately accreditation at degree status from Middlesex University. This would ultimately allow adult learners without the “points” to take a course that would lead them to obtain a degree at third level education status.


A further driving force behind the creation and development of PCI, and at that time its unique vision, was that there was another small group in Dun Laoghaire who had commandeered counselling and made it their own and shut the door on anyone with a spiritual dimension. Dad did not want that to continue so he and Josephine and Jack Finnegan and two nuns from the Bons Secours order, set up the National Association of Pastoral Counselling and Psychotherapy and so opened the door for accreditation for people with a spiritual dimension and who were willing to acknowledge it. Eventually, 20 years later (11 years ago now) equal registration was given to both sides. In this regard, his vision, according to Dwight Webb, was central to the revolution of counselling in Ireland.


Aideen McCarthy Cudmore, March 2021.

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