Nano Nagle wins title of Ireland's greatest woman

 

An 18th-century nun, Nano Nagle, has been voted as Ireland's greatest woman in a competition run by RTÉ radio's Marian Finucane Show.

Over the past few weeks listeners to the show have nominated and argued for the woman they believed was most deserving of being called Ireland's greatest woman, living or dead.

Nano Nagle, who set up the Presentation Sisters, won 23.5 per cent of the vote, beating the former president, Mary Robinson, who won 21.4 per cent.

Controversial swimmer Michelle Smith De Bruin, who was banned for tampering with a urine sample after winning three gold medals for Ireland at the Atlanta Olympics, was the surprise third-place winner with 19.8 per cent. "Initially, we were all surprised by how well she did but it was up to the public to nominate and vote," said a spokeswoman for the Marian Finucane Show.

Nano Nagle was nominated by Sr Jo Piggott of the North Presentation Convent in Cork, who celebrated her own 50th anniversary as a professed sister last October.

Nagle (1718-1784), who was also from Cork, is credited with establishing girls education in Ireland through her work with the Presentation Sisters.

Beaten into a close second place, Mary Robinson was elected as president in 1990 after a successful career as a barrister. She is perhaps best remembered for highlighting the role of the Irish diaspora around the world, keeping a candle lit for Irish emigrants in the window of Aras an Uachtaráin throughout her term.

After one term she left the Phoenix Park to take on the role of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She currently works with the Ethical Global Initiative and was nominated by Deirdre Moore and Helen Crimin.

Michelle De Bruin won a total of four medals at the 1996 Olympic Games, three gold and one bronze. She was later banned for four years for manipulating a drugs test. She is now a barrister and was nominated for the competition by her husband, Erik De Bruin.

Other Irish women short-listed were St Brigid, the "Pirate Queen" Grace O'Malley, Christina Noble, Edel Quinn, Sophia McColgan and Dr Kathleen Lynn.

"We were delighted with the reaction we got," said a spokeswoman for RTÉ. "We received more than 22,000 calls or SMS messages. The competition really took off and we were astounded by the response," she added.