Mary Maher memorial event told of splendid journalist and feminist

Celebration of wonderful life on her favourite date of the year – International Workers’ Day

Former Irish Times journalist Mary Maher was described as a "passionate feminist and trade unionist", "superb reporter and editor" and "coolest granny in Ranelagh" at a memorial on Sunday.

The event was hosted by Dublin Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland in the Mansion House.Those assembled heard Maher would have been "proud" her life was celebrated with an event "filled with music and song on this, her favourite day of the year". May 1st is recognised as International Workers' Day.

Maher, who died last November aged 81, was the first women’s editor at The Irish Times, first mother of the chapel at the newspaper, and first woman to return to work there after getting married.

Friend and colleague Olivia O’Leary, reading from a letter Maher had written before her death, quoted her recounting the roots of her socialism.

"I have been a Communist at heart since I was 10 years old," wrote Maher. Explaining she attended a convent school in her native Chicago, she said her teacher, Mother Mary Ignatius, told the class that children in communist Russia "had no property of their own . . . all property was shared.

"So I stood up and asked, 'why was sharing wrong in Russia but right for the nuns here?' " It inspired in her a belief in social justice – a conviction solidified when she later heard the Karl Marx mantra, "From each according to his ability, and to each according to his need".

“Maybe that day will come. Maybe I’ll see you all again. I hope so. I’m ruling nothing out,” wrote Maher.

Sustained impact

Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists and close friend, Séamus Dooley, said: “Few journalists have had a more sustained impact on the social, economic and political landscape by dint of their journalism and their activism.”

He paid tribute to her pioneering feminism as co-founder of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement (IWLM) and journalism – giving voice to those on the fringes of society, including Travellers, women in poverty and the homeless.

“Mary was a great listener. Not just as a journalist but as a lover of music and song,” he continued.

To her daughters, Maeve and Nora Geraghty, he said "she was a loving mother who took challenges in her stride, respected their life choices, and reared them to be, like her: strong, independent and sometimes stubborn women".

To her grandchildren she gave “incredible street cred for having the coolest granny in Ranelagh”.

Songs performed included Hard Times Come Again No More, Union Maid, and Oft in the Stilly Night.

Among attendees were Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik, general secretary of congress Patricia King, deputy editor of The Irish Times Deirdre Veldon, co-founders of the IWLM including Rosita Sweetman and many past and current Irish Times journalists.