The political editor of TV3 has risen steadily through the journalistic ranks via Magill and the Sunday Tribune, and now regularly grills public figures on Ireland's independent TV channel. Unafraid to ask the hard questions – as in challenging Taoiseach Brian Cowen as to whether or not he was hungover during that radio interview. More controversially, she disclosed finance minister Brian Lenihan's cancer to the nation in December 2009 (before he made any public comment) on a right-to-know basis. Serious, tenacious – a reporter in the old journo style.
The commissioning editor for drama for RTé television (and previously with TV3 in the same post), and dedicated to screening Irish drama that is both relevant and innovative. Last year was a busy one – among her commissions was gangland series Love/Hate, which has gone on to win an international film award, but she took time out too in 2009 to marry long-term partner Eamon Dunphy.
"Hello there, and a very good morning to you" is the signature greeting of this broadcaster and national institution. A former architect, she joined RTé as a continuity announcer in 1974, became a household name with Liveline, and now dominates four hours of radio on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Spare time is devoted to her HIV children's charity Friends in Ireland. Intelligent, witty and with that edge of exasperation when confronted with foolish interviewees. She told the Irish Times last summer, "I've never had sexism directed at me." Who would dare?
Current-affairs broadcaster, chatshow host, mother of seven children, darling of the colour supplements, and all-round very stylish person. But anyone taking her for just a fashion plate does so at their peril – she's hosted RTé's Prime Time for the past 14 years after a stint on the BBC's Newsnight where she covered the unfolding peace process in Northern Ireland among other big news stories. The popular Miriam Meets on Sunday radio programme shows her at her warm and engaging best.
Publishing powerhouse Casey boasts a magazine stable which includes U, Food and Wine, Irish Tatler and Woman's Way. She grew up in a lodge in the Phoenix Park, trained as a nurse in London, and first cut her media teeth as the public face of the Royal College of Nursing. She joined Smurfit Publishing and rose through the ranks rapidly, culminating in her buying the company in 2004 and rebranding it Harmonia. Winner of Publisher of the Year for three years in a row, her profile in 2011 is set to become much higher as she takes over from Sarah Newman on RTé programme, Dragon's Den.
Head of the Communications Clinic (run with her husband, RTé chairman Tom, and broadcaster son Anton), having previously worked at Carr Communications for 30 years. Also a prolific writer and journalist who tells it as she sees it. When not advising politicians and public figures on how to shake up their image, the irrepressible Prone is likely to have her head stuck in a book in her library that extends to tens of thousands of volumes... and is still growing.
Co-founded Presence PR in 2004 with business partner Sinead Ryan with "no bank loan, and no money from the parents". From starting out in an office with just a phone and a one-bar heater, she now manages the affairs of an impressive list of clients and has everyone from Colin Farrell to Brian O'Driscoll on speed dial. Tough and professional, it's not for nothing Byrne is dubbed "Ireland's Max Clifford".
Editor of the Irish Times since 2002 and the first woman editor of an Irish national newspaper (now joined by Noirín Hegarty of this title), following a distinguished career as a political correspondent with the Sunday Tribune, Sunday Press and then the Irish Times. Reserved but resolute – she famously sued Charles Haughey for illegally tapping her phone (1987) and, in 2006, refused to reveal sources in a story about payments made to Bertie Ahern. Victim of a satirical fake Twitter account last summer – but nothing the intelligent and very private "Madam Editor" couldn't take in her stride.
The most visible of the government Marys is a serious contender for the Fianna Fáil party leadership – if the Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport can hold on to her Dun Laoghaire seat in the election. She's a good media performer, warm and engaging in person, and rivals see her as retaining the bossy characteristics of her former role as schoolteacher... all to the good in keeping those unruly members in the Dáil in their place.
The deputy leader of the Labour Party is also opposition spokesperson on Finance. She was first elected to the Dáil in 1991 as minister of state for justice. Will she get the big Finance post in the next cabinet? Certainly this former PwC chartered accountant will continue to give the current government a run for its bailed-out money. A passionate gardener in her spare time.
This Labour TD for Dublin North-West was first elected to the Dáil back in 1992, when Labour won a record 33 seats and female representation at government level was significantly higher than the current dismal 13%. One woman to change that pitiful gender imbalance could be Shortall – tough, capable, to the left of the party, and tipped for a top decision-making role in the next government.
The wife of the Fine Gael leader, widely tipped to be the next taoiseach, is also seen as his best asset, having valuable insight into the workings of politics from her time as Fianna Fáil press officer (handpicked for the post by Charles J Haughey) and head of the Government Information Service (where she was the first woman to run the office). No mere First Lady-in-waiting, she will be Enda's closest political adviser.
The artistic director of the renowned Druid theatre since she co-founded it in 1975 with Mick Lally and Marie Mullen (apart from a three-year spell from 1991 when she was artistic director at the Abbey theatre). About to take three Druid productions on tour to the US this year as part of the year-long Imagine Ireland event. If all the world's a stage, this awardwinning director consistently showcases Ireland as one of its leading players.
The former teacher turned writer has sold over 40 million books worldwide, and is far more than simply the "mammy of bestselling chick-lit" (as one journo dubbed her). Her chronicles of the lives of Irish women during the socially and sexually repressed decades of the 1950s and '60s echoed the many real-life stories of her readers.
The uncrowned rockabilly queen of the Liberties. Inspired after hearing a Billie Holiday album, she began her career in music at 16 and released her debut album in 2005. Won Female Artist of the Year at the 2009 Meteor awards, recognised as a unique talent by Jools Holland among many, and the only woman who can combine a '50s quiff and leopardprint coat with playing the bodhran – and make it look the essence of cool.
Bacik is nothing short of an intellectual, political and academic powerhouse. From her impeccable record in Trinity to the confidence Labour has in her to be elected as Eamon Gilmore's running mate in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown in the upcoming election, she is as formidable as she is friendly. And she's also a lady who's not afraid to let her hair down, being frequently spotted in the coolest of places – like dancing to Grace Jones's set at Lovebox in London or hanging out with her thisispopbaby buddies at Werk in the Abbey theatre. Above all, this Reid Professor of Criminal Law, barrister and senator is a champion of equality and common sense.
The Hon Mrs Justice Susan Denham is the longest-serving member of the Supreme Court and, as chair of the Committee on Court Practice and Procedure, was instrumental in driving recent reforms such as the introduction of the Commercial Court, which has access to state-of-the-art technology to assist it in its deliberations.
As the managing director of Special Olympics Europe and Eurasia, former special-needs teacher Mary Davis is responsible for overseeing the growth and development of the Special Olympics in the 58 countries of the region. She was appointed to the Council of State in 2004 by Mary McAleese, chairs the Taskforce on Active Citizenship and sits on numerous boards. Davis has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate and has indicated a willingness to stand.
The managing director of Sunway Travel, Airey has been working at the company founded in 1966 by her grandfather, Roy Beatty, since she was 18. It's very much a family business – her father, Jim Furlong, and husband, Philip Airey, are both involved. Dynamic and driven, she recently added Bali to Sunway's extensive list of holiday destinations, and has proved astute at steering the company through tough market conditions.
The outgoing chair of IL&P must often have rued the day in 2004 that she stepped outside the comfort zone of the travel industry in which she made her fortune and took up the reins at the financial institution. Now that she has announced her decision to leave as soon as a successor can be found, Bowler can concentrate on building her new online travel business, clickandgo.com and repeating the success of Budget Travel.
Glamorous businesswoman Jackie Lavin used to be a model and boutique owner but these days she is best known as the other half of Bill Cullen. The couple co-own the Muckross Park hotel in Killarney. Lavin is also one of the judges on TV3's The Apprentice. Business is tough for hotels and spas in the Kingdom these days – Jackie has diversified to produce a make-up range which may help them ride out the recession.
The youngest daughter of the legendary hotelier PV Doyle. With her husband, businessman John Gallagher, she successfully steered the family business through the well-timed divestment of their Jury's Hotel Group, including the Burlington to Bernard McNamara and the Berkeley Court/Jury's Ballsbridge to Sean Dunne, emerging with a substantial pot of cash. She is currently involved with the Doyle Collection of premium hotels and remains hands-on in the business.
From a marketing background, Lucy Gaffney is also a director of Denis O'Brien's Digicel and sits on the board of Independent News & Media. Regarded as one of O'Brien's closest lieutenants, she is well-respected in business circles and known to be forthright in her opinions and a ruthless decision-maker. Married to Gerard Maguire of 64 Wines.
When CPL, the IT recruitment company founded by Longford woman Anne Heraty, floated in 1999, she and her husband, Paul Carroll, became two of the wealthiest people in the country. The first woman to head up a public company in Ireland, Heraty also served as a non-executive director of Anglo but resigned in 2009.
In December 2010, Juanita Wilson featured on the prestigious Variety December 2010 list of 10 Directors to Watch. Her move out of indie obscurity came when her short film, The Door, was nominated for an Academy Award in 2010. This year will see the release of her first feature As If I'm Not There. Married to producer James Flynn, who co-produces lucrative imports such as The Tudors and Camelot with veteran Morgan O'Sullivan, she is one half of the only true power couple in the Irish film industry.
A bridal boutique is the latest addition to Louise Kennedy's flagship premises in Merrion Square. With eponymous shops in Dublin and Knightsbridge, Kennedy is the designer of choice for professional women in search of sharp tailoring and restrained luxury. This year will see the launch of a new range of tableware for Tipperary Crystal, for whom Kennedy already designs a successful glassware range.
From humble beginnings with their Ritzy shop at the far end of Harcourt Street, Dublin, back in the '70s, designers Liz Quin and Carolyn Donnelly now outsell all other Irish designers with their wearable collections – there's hardly a woman in the country without a few Q&D pieces in their wardrobe. Stocked by Brown Thomas in Ireland, they also sell in the UK and Europe.
Make-up artist to the stars and founder of Make-Up Forever, Gribbin originally studied fashion, but found her niche in the cosmetics industry, and went on to create her own range, Face 2. A key player in creating that all-important image for many performers as diverse as Amy Winehouse to Emmylou Harris.
Dublin-born DJ (real name: Anne McManus) is one of the most prominent music radio presenters in the UK, having carved out an impressive niche at the BBC with shows such as Annie Mac's Mash Up. She puts in regular appearances as a TV pundit and last year released her first album Annie Mac Presents 2010.
The ubiquity of Kiely's retro leaf-print handbags is evidence of the Irish-born designer's huge success, but there's far more to the empire that Kiely and her husband Dermott Rowan have created. With shops around the world (she's big in Japan) and design collaborations with everyone from Dulux to Bewley's to Citroen to her credit, Kiely's fingers are in all sorts of pies. Rumours of a Dublin store opening are still doing the rounds, though the likelihood must be less in these tough times.
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