RTE's List of the Greatest Irish Overlooks Mna Na hEireann

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), March 21, 2010 | Go to article overview

RTE's List of the Greatest Irish Overlooks Mna Na hEireann


Byline: Warren Swords

IT is meant to be the search for our greatest ever citizen, but RTE television's historical series appears to have overlooked the contribution of women, with only three females making the longlist of 40 candidates. While popstar mentors, footballers and crooners are represented in thei rdroves, women make up less than 8pc of the top 40.

And so despite being acclaimed as some of the greatest Irish figures in history, regardless of sex, there is no room on the list for Countess Markievicz, Maud Gonne, Grainne O'Malley or Lady Gregory.

Instead, the public are being asked to choose the greatest Irish figure of all time from a list that ranges from Charles Haughey to Louis Walsh and from Daniel O'Connell to Daniel O'Donnell.

The show is an Irish interpretation of the BBC series Great Britons.

An RTE spokeswoman said: 'The shortlist of 40 was derived from an MRBI poll, which will be put to a vote on a dedicated website. The five most popular will be the subject of an hourlong documentary, each charting the individual's impact and contribution to Irish life, as interpreted and championed by a well-known personality.' The show is already facing criticism, however, for airbrushing women from our history. The list includes a diverse range of men from poets to politicians, entrepreneurs to entertainers, revolutionaries to rock stars, as well as authors and humanitarians.

The public were excluded from choosing people like Mary McAleese or even Bertie Ahern, as those who currently hold public office were banned from the list. Including them would apparently breach RTE's election rules if there were an election before the programmes air in the autumn.

Perhaps reflecting society's obsession for all things celebrity, an abundance of actors and pop singers make the list at the expense of not only Ireland's greatest but some of the world's greatest scientists and artists.

The controversial list virtually ignores Irish women in all walks of life, despite them attaining greater success in their field than many of their male counterparts on the list.

There's no room for Maureen O'Hara, for instance, although she is considered an icon of Hollywood's golden age. Yet Colin Farrell and Liam Neeson are included in the Top 40.

Bono, Christy Moore, Ronan Keating and Stephen Gately all make the list, but inexplicably there is no room for Sinead O'Connor or Enya, Ireland's biggest-selling solo artists.

The heroes of 1916 and the Civil War feature prominently. James Connolly, Eamon de Valera, Sean Lemass and Padraig Pearse's roles in the Easter Rising and the foundation of the State ensured their places in the Top 40.

However, their female comrades, women like Countess Markieviecz and Maud Gonne who fought alongside the men in the struggle for independence, are ignored. …

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