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who run the world

50 Irish women who absolutely killed it in 2017

(Might be slightly more than 50.)

AS THE GREAT Beyoncé once said, “Who run the world? Girls!” As 2017 draws to a close, we thought it was apt that we salute some of the Irish women who absolutely killed it this year.

The women we’ve selected are athletes, activists, artists, entrepreneurs, actors, writers, chefs, musicians, broadcasters and meteorologists. The common thread? They’re all absolutely dominating their respective fields.

1. Ailbhe Smyth

As the convenor of the Repeal The 8th coalition, Ailbhe Smyth has been on the front line, fighting for women and their reproductive rights all year.

2. Aisling Rock

The GMIT student was named Young European Chef of the Year in November for cooking salted mackerel with root vegetables and potatoes, a dish that paid homage to her native Galway with locally sourced ingredients. Did we mention she was the only woman in the final? Get in!

3. Alison Spittle

Alison Spittle has been on the up and up for the last few years, but finally came into her own this year with an RTÉ sitcom Nowhere Fast, which she co-wrote and stars in.

Next up for Spittle? A headline date in Vicar Street. Not too shabby at all.

4. Amy Shiels

The television reboot of Twin Peaks was one of the most highly anticipated pop cultural events of the year. At the heart of it all was Dublin actress Amy Shiels, who played Candie in the series. Want to see how much of an impact she made among David Lynch diehards? Google ‘candie costume’.

5. Anne Stephens

Anne Stephens is the manager of Fish Market in Maynooth, which also has branches in Mullingar and Blanchardstown. This year, Anne became the first woman to win Young Fishmonger of the Year. G’wan!

6. Aoife McArdle

Tyrone native Aoife McArdle was responsible for one of the most talked about Super Bowl ads this year, an Audi spot about gender equality. This autumn, her debut feature Kissing Candice debuted at the Toronto Film Festival. Something tells us we’ll be hearing a lot more about her.

7. Bonzai

How many Irish singers can boast about being written up in the New Yorker? Not many, but Bonzai sure can. Bonzai (real name Cassia O’Reilly) grew up in Wicklow, but moved to London when she was 17. A few years on, she’s now putting out banger after banger. Just listen to the infectious I Feel Alright and try not to shoulder dance.

8. Caitriona Perry

Did anyone have a busier year than Caitriona Perry? Between working around the clock as RTÉ’s Washington correspondent, writing a book about Trump’s America and being appointed as the new co-anchor of the Six One News, it’s been a banner year for Perry. And that’s to say nothing of when Trump complimented her smile in the awkward Oval Office interaction heard around the world…

9. Commandant Caroline Burke

This year, Caroline Burke was appointed as Aide de Camp to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, becoming the first woman to hold the prestigious post.

10. Caroline Foran

With her bestselling book Owning It, Caroline Foran has helped kickstart a conversation about anxiety and looking after yourself, and become a welcome contributor to the ongoing discussion around mental health.

11. Catherine Corless

Amateur historian Catherine Corless is responsible for shedding a light on the plight of the Tuam babies. Despite having her research questioned in some quarters, she was wholly vindicated this year when the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation found that a large number of children’s bodies had been found at the site of the former mother and baby home in Tuam.

A true hero.

12. Cora Staunton

The Mayo footballer has long been one of the stars of ladies football in Ireland and now she looks set to make an impact down under after becoming the first Irish woman to be drafted by an AFL Women’s team.

13. Danni Barry

Danni Barry is Ireland’s only female Michelin Star chef and was named as the best chef in Ireland at the Restaurants Association of Ireland awards this year. Having cut her teeth at Deane’s and Eipic in Belfast, she recently took the helm at Clenaghan’s, a newly reopened restaurant in Co. Down that is sure to become a foodie destination in its own right.

14. Diana Mirza

Earlier this summer, Limerick’s own Diana Mirza made history when she won the World Schools Under-17 Chess Championship, becoming the first chess player from Ireland to win a world title. She also recently competed in the World Youth Chess Championships in Uruguay.

15. Dil Wickremasinghe

Dil Wickremasinge had her show Global Village canceled on Newstalk this year, bringing an abrupt end to her career at the station. The show’s cancellation came weeks after Wickremasinghe refused to present her show following offensive comments made by George Hook, who was subsequently suspended from the station.

No matter, though. The broadcaster and mental health advocate is thriving and presenting a new podcast entitled Sparking Change with Dil on the Headstuff network.

16. Doireann Garrihy

Over the last year, Doireann Garrihy has established herself as one of the country’s most beloved Snapchatters and most talented young broadcasters. Known for her gas impressions, Garrihy has won a rake of awards, done a spot of presenting with RTÉ, and landed a gig co-hosting The Zoo Crew on Spin 1038.

17. Eileen Flynn

As part of her advocacy work with the Irish Traveller Movement, Eileen Flynn has been lending her voice to events like FemFest and Feminists Are Everywhere, and ensuring that the Travelling community are represented in the discussion around feminism, reproductive rights and more.

18. Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen


Writing a book based on a Facebook page is a daunting ask, but somehow Emer McLysaght (formerly of this parish) and Sarah Breen managed to pull it off with aplomb. With Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling, they have managed to create a loving ode to a certain type of Irish woman that’s hilarious, comforting and warm. A hot water bottle of a book, if you will.

We can’t wait to see what they do next.

19. Emer Reynolds

Emer Reynolds is the woman behind one of the most well received documentaries of the year, The Farthest, a stunning exploration of NASA’s Voyager program that boasts a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. We look forward to seeing what she cooks up next.

20. Gina Akpe-Moses

It’s been a while since Ireland produced a great sprinter, but the tide could be turning with Gina Akpe-Moses. The teenager stormed to victory in the European U20s earlier this year, landing a gold in the 100m. It was the first time an Irish athlete had won a gold medal at those championships since 2005. Gina now has her sights set on competing in Tokyo in 2020. We’ll be shouting for her every step of the way.

21. Grace Dyas

The acclaimed theatre maker started the discussion about sexual harassment in the arts when she went public with allegations against Michael Colgan. She encouraged other women to speak out about their own experiences, offering advice and support for those with allegations to make. Some woman for one woman.

22. Jillian McNulty

Jillian McNulty spent two-and-a-half years campaigning for Irish cystic fibrosis sufferers to have access to Orkambi. Earlier this year, her hard work paid off when the HSE struck a deal with the drug’s manufacturer to provide the drug to people living with cystic fibrosis.

23. Joanna Donnelly

Who can forget Hurricane Ophelia when Joanna Donnelly played an absolute blinder, providing the country with regular updates and doing her best to ensure the damage caused was minimal? Let’s also acknowledge that she’s the queen of sign-offs.

24. Joella Dhlamini

Last month, teenager Joella Dhlamini spoke frankly about the racism she has encountered since moving to Ireland from her native South Africa. She was subsequently given the opportunity to accompany the Taoiseach for a day and was featured on RTÉ’s Six One News, receiving widespread praise for speaking honestly about the discrimination she has endured. #Joella4President

25. Joy Neville

Joy Neville is a trailblazer in the world of rugby. This year, it was announced that she would be the first woman to referee a European professional club fixture. She also officiated the Women’s Rugby World Cup final, and was named World Rugby referee of the year for her efforts.

26. Katie Hannon

Katie Hannon has done some Trojan work this year, particularly in relation to uncovering the smear campaign against whistleblower Maurice McCabe. Indeed, she was highly visible during last month’s election scare and was cited by both viewers and politicians from across the political spectrum for her excellent work.

27. Katie McGloin

Earlier this year, Donegal teenager Katie McGloin was named Foróige Youth Entrepeneur of the Year for her clothing line K.T. Clothing Co., which specialises in making gender neutral clothing. The company’s motto? “Achieve goals without gender roles”.


28. Katie Taylor

Katie Taylor has long been one of our sporting luminaries. This year saw the Bray boxer cement her status as one of the sport’s rising stars by fighting in Wembley Stadium and winning her maiden WBA lightweight title. Heading into 2018, you can’t help but feel that the world is her oyster.

29. Keelin Shanley

After a lengthy broadcasting career, Keelin Shanley was given her biggest gig yet when she was appointed as the co-anchor of the Six One News. Shanley will host RTÉ’s flagship news programme alongside Caitriona Perry in the New Year. G’wan!

30. Louise Bruton

Louise Bruton had a busy year. In addition to being one of the country’s leading authorities on pop music, Bruton made her first foray into theatre with her one-woman show Why Won’t You Have Sex With Me?

The show debuted at the Dublin Fringe Festival and was a searing exploration of disability and sexuality that forced able-bodied people to reckon with any preconceived notions they had about people with disabilities having sex. We hope it makes a comeback in 2018 because it’s a show that deserves, nay, needs to be widely seen.

31. Lucy Deegan

Lucy Deegan from Luggacurren, Co. Laois, won the Texaco Children’s Art Competition for this stunning portrait of her younger brother. She now has a series on TG4′s Cúla 4 YouTube channel in which she teaches viewers how to draw everything from Spongebob Squarepants to a pumpkin.

32. Lydia Boylan and Lydia Gurley

The cycling duo won a silver medal in the European Track Championships this year in the women’s madison. The madison has been added to the Olympic programme for 2020, so the pair may well be prospects for Tokyo…

33. Maeve O’Rourke

Maeve O’Rourke joined the Irish Council of Civil Liberties as Senior Research & Policy Officer this year. O’Rourke has spent the last few years leading the Clann Project, an initiative set up to investigate the treatment of unmarried mothers and their children in 20th century Ireland.

34. Marina Carr

Marina Carr is one of Ireland’s most celebrated living playwrights and earlier this year, she was the recipient of the Windham-Campbell Prize from Yale University. Her play On Raftery’s Hill will be staged in the Abbey Theatre in April 2018.

35. Mary Crilly

Mary Crilly is the director of the Sexual Violence Centre Cork and has long campaigned for an end to sexual violence. Earlier this year, Amy Barrett, a woman who endured sexual abuse at the hands of her father, described Mary Crilly as her “angel” for assisting her when she came forward about her abuse. An unsung hero.

36. Mary Gallagher RTE RTE

Ballaghadereen’s Mary Gallagher warmed people’s hearts earlier this year when she spoke about Syrian refugees being settled in her town. It was a rare moment of humanity and compassion in a year that seemed to be dominated by hate and division.

37. Mary Horgan

Mary Horgan was appointed president of the Royal College of Physicians in October, becoming the first woman to hold the post in the college’s 363-year history. About bloody time, eh?

38. Mona McSharry

Sligo’s own Mona McSharry won a gold medal at this year’s World Junior Championships in the 100m breaststroke. The 17-year-old also picked up three medals at the European Junior Championships, making her one to watch for Tokyo 2020.

39. Norah Casey

This year, Norah Casey spoke out about the realities of being a survivor of domestic violence. In May, she appeared on The Late Late Show to tell of how she was “battered senseless” by her first husband in an interview. She has since worked with Women’s Aid on a number of initiatives. A hugely courageous and necessary contribution from one of Ireland’s leading businesswomen.

40. Norah Patten

For Mayo’s Norah Patten, visiting space has been a lifelong ambition. This year, she took one step closer to making it a reality when she was traveled to Florida as part of Project PoSSUM’s Scientist Astronaut Program, which sees participants undergo a week of intensive training. Houston, we have liftoff…

41. Nora Twomey

Nora Twomey landed a Golden Globe nomination for her animated feature The Breadwinner, a tale of an Afghan girl forced to dress as a boy so she can work and support her mother. Did we mention Angelina Jolie is its executive producer?

42. Rena Buckley

In September, Rena Buckley collected her eighteenth All Ireland medal. Yes, you read that correctly: eighteenth. The Cork dual star has won seven titles with the Cork camogie team and a further eleven with the Cork ladies football team, making her the most decorated player in GAA history. What a woman.

43. Republic of Ireland Women’s Football Team

Earlier this year, Ireland’s women’s football squad outlined how they were being treated as “fifth class citizens” by the FAI and demanded better treatment by the governing body. In doing so, they stood up not only for themselves, but for future generations of women in sport.

Months later, Republic of Ireland are second in their qualifying group for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019. #COYGIG

44. Ruth Fitzmaurice


Ruth Fitzmaurice’s I Found My Tribe was one of the most stunning literary debuts of the year. The memoir follows Fitzmaurice’s home life following her husband’s diagnosis with motor neurone disease – Simon Fitzmaurice sadly passed away this year – and how she turned to swimming with friends to help cope with the card she had been dealt. A must-read.

45. Sally Rooney

This year, Sally Rooney established herself as one of the country’s most promising young writers, winning rave reviews for her debut Conversations with Friends and winning the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. As if all that weren’t enough, she was recently announced as the new editor of Irish literary magazine The Stinging Fly. A bright future beckons.

46. Saoirse Ronan

Saoirse Ronan has been killing it since she was a tween, but she has garnered the best notices of her career for her performance in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird. She became the first Irish woman to host Saturday Night Live and was nominated for a Golden Globe. Additionally, a third Oscar nomination looks to be on the horizon and a win isn’t out of the question. *lights a candle*

47. Sinead Kane

Want to feel lazy? Sinead Kane ran seven marathons on seven continents in seven days, making her the first visually impaired athlete to do so. And to think you have to practically be bribed to get up and put your empty biscuit packet in the bin.

48. Soulé

It’s been quite a year for Balbriggan’s Soulé. She earned over two million plays on Spotify, she was nominated for the Choice Music Prize, and played her first headline show in Dublin’s Button Factory. We can’t wait to see what she does in 2018.

49. Stefanie Preissner

Stefanie Preissner had yet another backbreakingly busy year as she wrote the second season of Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope, and published her debut essay collection Why Can’t Everything Just Stay The Same? A host of other television and film projects are in the pipeline, so looks like there’ll be no sleep for Stefanie in 2018.

50. Zainab Boladale

This year, Zainab Boladale became the first RTÉ news anchor of Afro-Irish heritage. Boladale originally hails from Lagos but settled with her family in Ennis, Co. Clare, at the age of four. She now presents RTÉ 2′s News2Day, the public service broadcaster’s daily news bulletin for kids.

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