Mná 100: Maureen O’Carroll among women celebrated on historical website

Mother of entertainer Brendan O’Carroll was elected as Labour TD in 1954

Maureen O’Carroll, who was elected as a Labour TD in the 1950s

Maureen O’Carroll, who was elected as a Labour TD in the 1950s


The story of former Labour TD and mother of Mrs Brown’s Boys creator Brendan O’Carroll will be among those celebrated in a new exhibition to honour the role of women in Irish history.

Maureen O’Carroll, née McHugh, was one of the first beneficiaries of money raised in the United States by women during the War of Independence.

The Irish White Cross fund was set up in February 1921 to aid Irish families who were impoverished by the war.

The funds allowed Mrs O’Carroll, who was born in 1913, to attend secondary school at the Jesus and Mary Convent, Gortnor Abbey in Co Mayo.

She was elected as a Labour TD in 1954 and gave birth to her 10th child, Brendan, as a TD and Labour chief whip.

The Mná 100 website goes live with the first piece of major new research on the Report of the American Commission on the Conditions in Ireland, through a new video piece showcasing original research and previously unseen photos and documents.

The commission, which reported in 1921, documented atrocities carried out by crown forces against the population in Ireland.

The role of the commission was driven in the first instance by the role of women such Muriel MacSwiney and Mary MacSwiney, the wife and sister respectively of Terence MacSwiney who died on hunger strike in Brixton Prison in October 1920, and Nannie O’Rahilly, the wife of The O’Rahilly.

Nannie O’Rahilly
Nannie O’Rahilly

They feature on the website, which also includes American feminist Jane Addams, who was the president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and a member of the commission.

The Mná 100 initiative will focus on the role that women played in the forthcoming centenaries leading up to the Truce of July 1921, Partition, and Civil War.

It will be developed to reflect on key themes, such as the role of women in advocating for Ireland internationally, women in the Oireachtas and the stories of the pioneering women within their chosen professions.

Speaking on behalf of the Minister for Culture Catherine Martin, who was absent, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said she hoped Mná 100 will become one of the “great legacies of the Decade of Centenaries Programme”.

Ms Humphreys was responsible for the Easter 1916 centenary commemorations.

Speaking at the online launch, Prof Miriam Nyhan Grey of New York University said Ireland mattered in the United States a century ago “even beyond the Irish American ethnics”.

She said: “The Easter Rising had made headlines, as had the ensuing troubles and the death of Terence McSwiney. In other words, ordinary Americans who engaged with the world around them could easily tap into reporting on Ireland and the struggle it was involved in.

“The evolution of the American Committee on the Conditions in Ireland and the American Committee for Relief in Ireland, and the rather mercurial figure of Dr William J Moloney are really fascinating to contextualise.”

Dr Sinéad McCoole, the curator of, says the website will be “another primary online source for all ages” and will seek new audiences through podcasts and webinars.

It will include a film, Toward America, which looks at the American Committee on Conditions in Ireland and the foundation of the Irish White Cross.

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