Celia Lynch, circa 1935, UCG graduate and first woman Fianna Fáil whip. Photo: NUI Galway
Jul 18 2017 Posted: 12:11 IST

A mini-conference in conjunction with Path Breaking Women of NUI Galway: 1912-1922 and beyond

Some of NUI Galway’s most remarkable - but little known - women over the last century will be celebrated and remembered this Friday, 21 July as a fascinating programme of talks and performances will take place entitled ‘Women in history, politics and culture’. The mini-conference takes place in conjunction with the exhibition Path Breaking Women of NUI Galway: 1912-1922 and beyond, which was officially opened by former EU Commissioner Máire Geoghegan Quinn earlier this year, and on display at the Hardiman Library exhibition space through to September 2017. 

Dr Claire McGing from Maynooth University will explore the careers of two erstwhile UCG students in the 1930s, who went on to be pioneering women parliamentarians in 1950s Ireland – Maureen O’Carroll (1913-1984), mother of actors and writers, Brendan and Eilish O’Carroll, who became the Labour Party’s first female TD, and Celia Lynch (1908-1989) born in Duras House, Kinvara, Co. Galway, who became the first woman Fianna Fáil whip, and was the longest-serving female TD when she retired in 1977.

Traversing politics and culture, the poems of the inspirational sean nós singer, writer, poet and actor Caitlin Maude (1941-1982), a graduate of UCG, will be performed by the talented writer and actor, Caitríona Ní Chonaola, with an overview of Maude’s life presented by poet and director of the Irish Studies Centre at NUI Galway, Dr Louis de Paor. 

Looking back to early decades, the opening session, chaired by historian, NUI Galway’s Dr Sarah Anne Buckley, will feature a keynote presentation by Dr Nadia Smith from Boston College. Smith will discuss the life and times of the impressive Galway woman and outspoken champion of diverse political, social and cultural causes, Mary Donovan O’Sullivan (1887-1966), who became UCG’s first Professor of History in 1914. Dr Smith will also talk about Síle Ní Chinnéide (1900-1980) who was born into a Catholic nationalist family in Waterford and active in the Irish language revival and was appointed Lecturer in History (through Irish) at UCG in 1927. A striking figure on campus, known for smoking cigarillos in a holder, Nadia Smith notes, Ní Chinnéide advised students “it would do them no harm to read certain works on the Vatican Index of Forbidden Books.” 

The event runs from 11.00am to 3.30pm in the NUI Galway Hardiman Research Library. It is free and open to the public, but spaces are limited and anyone who would like to attend should rsvp to: lydia.kelly@nuigalway.ie.

The Path Breaking Women project, is led by Niamh Reilly, Established Professor of Political Science and Sociology at NUI Galway. It was supported by Irish Research Council New Foundations Scheme 2016 and is co-sponsored by the School of Political Science and Sociology, the Centre for Global Women’s Studies, Gender ARC and the Moore Institute at NUI Galway. The Exhibition runs until September 2017 in the library exhibition space at NUI Galway. For more information see: www.nuigalway.ie/pathbreakingwomen

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