Women in Media

New Kerry festival honours Mary Cummins and Maeve Binchy


Move over Listowel Writers’ Week. There’s competition in the Kingdom when it comes to discussing words and the people who write them. Ballybunion is hoping that its inaugural Women in Media gathering, which runs next weekend, will become an annual high-profile cultural event.

“When we had the Ballybunion Bachelor’s Festival here years ago, it was all about the men,” explains Joan O’Connor, whose idea the weekend was. “Now it’s time to put the focus on women.” She’s only half-joking. Along with her husband John, the couple run Kilcooly’s, a small hotel in the town, and during “the long winter months” they came up with the idea. Ballybunion, like many other small seaside towns around the country, has been struggling, particularly out of season. The O’Connors wanted to organise an event that would bring in visitors; hopefully ones that will want to return.

The O’Connors chose women and the media as the theme, due to the fact there are some local links with female journalists. The late Mary Cummins (pictured above left), who was a reporter for this newspaper, lived in the town for many years. She was particularly well-known for her reporting on social justice and women’s rights. The journalist and novelist Maeve Binchy (above right) holidayed in the town. “And we all know her novel Echoes is set in Ballybunion,” O’Connor says. There will be events commemorating both writers over the weekend, which is due to be opened on Friday by Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for the Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht.

On the Saturday, RTÉ Prime Time reporter, Katie Hannon, chairs a symposium entitled, Women in Politics; Climbing the career ladder in a male-dominated environment . Speakers will include broadcaster Alison O’Connor and Catherine Halloran, political correspondent with The Star . A lively debate from the floor can be expected.

Maeve Binchy will be remembered on Saturday afternoon by a series of readings of her work by a number of journalists including Róisín Ingle from The Irish Times . Columnist Mary Kenny will speak about her friendship with Mary Cummins. The Mary Cummins award for Outstanding Achievement in Media will be presented on Saturday by her novelist daughter, Daisy. Among the other participants will be broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan, Michelle Cooper Galvin of the Kerryman , Deirdre Walsh of Radio Kerry, and Terry Prone of Carr Communications.

And Charlie Bird, late of RTÉ, is the lone male speaker. You could call him a brave cuckoo in the nest of the women in media weekend. wimballybunion.com

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