Actor Kate O'Toole with actor and writer Kate Beaufoy at the Abbey theatre for the #WakingTheFeminists public meeting.Leah Farrell / Photocall Ireland

Despite the love we always show for our lovely Irish mammies and the long ancient history of Irish queens such as Queen Medb of Connacht, Ireland hasn’t always treated her women well.

Between the shame and guilt forced upon us in Mother and Baby homes and the Magdalene Laundries, the atrocious history of symphysiotomies given without consent causing catastrophic long-term health problems, and the lack of representation still suffered by women in government, among many other issues, Irish women have had some rough times.

Things are looking up, however, with the powerful stance taken by the Waking the Feminist movement at the end of last year and the forever increasing number of Irish women proudly flying the flag worldwide. 2015 was a big year for Irish women, but there’s still more to come.

We look at the talented Irish women we believe are going to have a great 2016.

1. Saoirse Ronan

One of our finest young actors, Saoirse Ronan.

One of our finest young actors, Saoirse Ronan.


Despite the many, many attempts to claim her (and many other Irish actors and actresses) as British, New-York born and Carlow-raised Ronan is one of Ireland’s biggest acting stars. As one of the youngest people to ever receive an Oscar nomination, which she earned for her supporting role in 2007’s “Atonement,” you still may be surprised to hear that she is still only 21 years old.

The star of one of this year’s biggest hits, “Brooklyn,” she was a front-runner for her second Oscar nomination earlier this year. This February also saw her perform her Broadway debut as Abigail Williams in “The Crucible.”

2. Sharon Horgan

Already well known in Ireland and Britain for her hilarious writing talent and comedic acting skill, 2016, we believe, will be the year the US falls in love with Sharon Horgan.

Making her writing breakthrough with the BBC show “Pulling,” in which she also starred, Horgan co-wrote and co-starred in “Catastrophe” with American comic Rob Delaney (shown exclusively on Amazon Prime Instant Video in the US).

In 2016, Horgan is the powerhouse behind Sarah Jessica Parker’s first major acting commitment since the end of “Sex of the City” with “Divorce,” an upcoming TV comedy series set to appear on HBO.

3. Waking the Feminist movement

The Abbey Theatre.

The Abbey Theatre.


A campaign born from a hashtag when the Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s national theatre, launched a program to mark the 1916 centenary with a severe lack of gender balance, the Waking the Feminist Movement continues to build momentum.

Working to make gender equality a reality through their policies and programming, the grassroots movement continued their good work with events on Nollaig na mBan (Women’s Christmas) on January 6 and are not about to quieten down any time soon.

4. Michelle O’Donnell organization Niamh Gallagher - Founders of Women for Election

Established in 2009, Women for Election is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organisation whose vision is of an Ireland with balanced participation of women and men in political life.

Despite Countess Markievicz becoming the first women in the world to ever hold a cabinet position (Minister for Labour of the Irish Republic, 1919–1922), Irish women have not continued to find the same representation among our elected representatives. In the current Dáil, only 15 per cent are women.

Women for Election attempt to rectify this through educating and inspiring women to play a more active role in Irish politics.

With this year’s general election working with a gender quota for the first time, we will hopefully see large increases in the gender balance in Irish politics.

5. Louise O’Neill

Award-winning author Louise'Neill. Image: Photocall Ireland.

Award-winning author Louise'Neill. Image: Photocall Ireland.


Winner of the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book of the Year 2015 for her second novel “Asking for It,” 30-year-old Irish author Louise O’Neill shot to fame with her first novel “Only Ever Yours” in 2014.

Exploring the issues that affect young (and old) Irish women in her books, such as rape culture and modern concepts of beauty, O’Neill has also bravely spoken out about her own battle with an eating disorder.

“Only Ever Yours” will this year be adapted by Killer Films (the people behind 2015’s “Carol” with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara), introducing an author already heralded as one of the top young adult writers in the world to a whole new audience.

6. Irish women’s rugby team

With a brand new home established in Donnybrook, Dublin, the Irish women’s rugby team are ready to battle it out for the a third Six Nations title in 2016.

As great as the men’s team are, let’s get behind both teams in the Six Nations this year.

7. Emma Donoghue

Irish author Emma Donoghue.

Irish author Emma Donoghue.


Another contender for an Oscar, Emma Donoghue is an Irish-born playwright, literary historian and novelist now living in Canada.

Her 2010 novel “Room” became an international best-seller and was a finalist for the Man Booker prize before the power of the silver screen turned it into a critic’s favorite in 2015.

Entrusting a fellow Irishman, Lenny Abrahamson, the man behind “Frank,” with her adapted script (which she wrote just after selling “Room,” before it had even been published), Donoghue could win big this year.

8. Maeve Higgins

Irish comedian, Maeve Higgins.

Irish comedian, Maeve Higgins.


One of the Irish Voice’s 2015 Women of Influence, Maeve Higgins was an established comedian in Ireland before relocating to New York and has already found herself on “Inside Amy Schumer.”

With her latest book “Off You Go: Away from Home and Loving It” about her time in New York published last October, Higgins is sure to be a hit in 2016.

9. Ambassador Anne Anderson

Ambassador Anne Anderson.

Ambassador Anne Anderson.


After 245 years, Ambassador Anne Anderson will become the first female member of the Society of the Friendly Sons of St Patrick after previously speaking out about the tradition of men-only Irish societies in the US.

When she began her tenure in August 2013 she pledged to alter the tradition and with her honorary induction in March 2016, she’s blazing a trail for gender equality.

10. Women of 1916

Countess Markievicz.

Countess Markievicz.


Often forgotten from the history books, 2016 will finally be the year that Irish women are properly celebrated for their role in earning Irish independence. From the previously mentioned Countess Markievicz, to Margaret Skinnider—shot three times and then refused a pension because she wasn’t a man—this year, they, and the more than 200 other members of Cumann na mBan, will take their rightful place alongside the men of 1916.

Special Mention: To all the women involved in the Irish Times’ “The Women’s Podcast,” voted by iTunes as one of the best new podcasts of 2015 and with very good reason.

Is there anybody we’ve forgotten? Let us know in the comments section, below.

* Originally published in Jan 2016.