Mamo McDonald, women’s rights campaigner and former ICA chair, dies

The Co Galway native, born in 1929, had recovered from Covid-19 last year

The feminist and women’s rights campaigner Mamo McDonald has died.

Ms McDonald, who once said she had not set out to be a feminist, rather “it was life that made a feminist of me”, was a leading figure in the Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA) and its chair from 1982 to 1985.

She would famously credit the washing machine with bringing about the greatest change in her life and say of a childhood alongside her four sisters: “We never knew that it wasn’t a good thing not to be a boy.”

Born in 1929, the Co Galway native later went on to settle in Clones and Smithborough, Co Monaghan. She died at St Anne's Nursing Home in Ballybay on Thursday, the same care facility in which she recovered from Covid-19 last year.


A mother of eleven, she is predeceased by her husband Eugene and her son Vincent. She is survived by 32 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

In a 1994 interview with RTÉ she said the ICA had taught her how to be assertive, and said she had come to regard the organisation as her third-level education. She also described coming from a long line of strong women, including both of her grandmothers.

Ms McDonald was also a former chair of the Age and Opportunity organisation. In 1999, she received a People of the Year award for services to Irish women and older people.

In her youth she played camogie and tennis as a boarding pupil at the Dominican College in Sion Hill, Dublin, before her holidays at home with her siblings.

“We were quite tomboy-ish; we were adventurous . . . we had a very free and wonderful childhood,” she recalled.

In a more recent interview on RTÉ’s This Week programme, she spoke about older people during the pandemic.

“They have fortitude in abundance and older people will manage,” she said. “I think it is the young people that I would worry about more. They have got used to so much and there is not going to be so much now for them after this.”

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times