To celebrate Nollaig na mBan, I’m going to host an imaginary dinner party for Irish women who I am inspired by.

We have so many living Irish women that have changed history, highlighted wrongs and inspired us to live better lives that it was tough to narrow it down to fit into this column - or indeed, around the table. I would love to be breaking bread with the following:

I’ll start with a Mayo woman and Ireland’s first woman President, Mary Robinson. I can still remember the surge of pride I felt when I watched her inauguration. More recently, she has inspired me to look at my life choices and how climate change is affecting those in the poorest countries; particularly women and children.

Nell McCafferty, along with my mother, were my first feminist influences. In fact, Nell once interviewed Ma in the 1960s when she asked the Irish Countrywomen’s Association to petition the Government to legalise contraception. As a young teen I thought Nell was a kick-ass woman who told it like it was. Her openness about love and life has been, at times, heartrending.

I will definitely invite my two favorite Maireads: Mairead Lavery and Mairead McGuiness

It was her beautiful singing that first drew me to Sinead O’Connor. She has a truly amazing voice that has the ability to stir deep emotions. She has also been very outspoken, often in the face of ridicule, about her childhood, mental health and relationships. I hope she is well.

I will definitely invite my two favorite Maireads: Mairead Lavery and Mairead McGuiness. They are two women who have kept the voices of rural Ireland to the fore, both in Ireland and at European level. A few years ago, I spent a most wonderful afternoon around a kitchen table with Mairead Lavery and local farmers. I watched as she got people to talk and share. She has a great way of getting people to open up on what really matters.

Mairead McGuiness is one of the few politicians who explain intricate European issues in a way we can all understand. She might have what we call a ‘big job’ in Europe, but I recently chatted to her as she donned the wellies and joined the Winterage in the Burren. These two women have always listened to rural Ireland and ensured its voice is listened to at all levels.

Orla Tinsley is one of those women who highlight the gaps and problems in our health system. We have a family friend with cystic fibrosis, so I have seen first-hand the impact the disease has. Orla’s campaigning on behalf of all those with CF must be exhausting, but she keeps doing it for herself and others. I wish her good health.

Lynn Ruane, in my view, is the politician we need more of. She is honest, down to earth and represents many who feel disenfranchised. Our access programmes and drug reform legislation all benefit from her experiences and willingness to listen to those most affected.

Author and disability activist Sinead Burke is my style icon. I’m dreadful at clothes shopping, so I admire the always-glamorous Sinead. She has also made me aware of how things I’ve never even thought of can be difficult for some people. I remember the day I heard her on the radio saying how the door locks on most public bathrooms and changing rooms are set too high for her and others. This is surely something that could be changed rather easily and make life easier for all.

When I heard the N17, sung by Tolü Makay, I was very emotional. She took a song that resonated with me and made it even more poignant.

My final guests would be my daughters, Niamh and Aishling. They are two young women who make me laugh, cry, feel and help me understand a world of changing social norms.

Will one of you pass the spuds up the table please?

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Happy Nollaig na mBan

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