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08th Mar 2022

10 Irish cultural icons to celebrate this International Women’s Day

Fiona Frawley

screenshots of Nadine Coyle from

This country was built by these women and we all know it.

To mark International Women’s Day we’re paying homage to some of Ireland’s most legendary women, each of whom have contributed unequivocally to the country’s cultural tapestry. Not a day goes by where we don’t have at least one of these ladies on our minds – some have had tv or online moments that are etched in our memories forever, some are music or sporting icons, all are immeasurably sound and should be celebrated. How we can even begin to thank them for their contributions to Irish culture, I don’t know. But listen, we’ll give it a try.

Anne Doyle

Find me a person on this island who doesn’t forever associate the six one news with that iconic blonde bob (although here we’ve opted for old school Anne sporting an Anni-Frid from Abba type perm, just to show she can pull off anything). Most recently, Anne teamed up with HIV positive community advocate and drag legend Veda Lady, to fight the stigma against those living with HIV. As if she couldn’t get sounder.

Erin McGregor (‘s voice note)

This voice note echoes through the hallowed halls of my brain permanently, and is the subject of several Irish works of art (see below). It now lives on TikTok, as an audio accompaniment to many a dance and lip sync. As I’m sure was the original intention.

Kellie Harrington

There are sports journalists and broadcasters who could speak far more eloquently about what an incredible representative for our country Kellie Harrington is. The scenes from her return home to Portland Row after her Olympic win are Italia 90 levels of uplifting, she’s an advocate for girls sports, worked on the frontline during the pandemic and just generally seems like someone you’d want to have a pint with.

Teresa Mannion

The broadcaster turned TikTok star instantly made history with her weather report during Storm Ophelia back in 2015, and since then has been the best of sports about it. Teresa re-shares all the parody videos, illustrations and street art inspired by the fateful broadcast, and even did a storm-inspired number during her stint on Dancing With The Stars. The audio is now a viral TikTok sound, and Teresa continues to take it all in her stride.


The most elusive of the icons on the list, Enya continues to be a subject of obsession for Irish people. She’s Ireland’s top-selling solo artist and one of the richest women in the music industry, and the mystery around her just makes us love her more. I hope she’s sitting on the highest turret of her Killiney castle this International Women’s Day, looking down on the loyal subjects who love her so as she bathes in the tears of angels. I’d assume that’s the vibe.

Maura Higgins

There are too many iconic moments to choose from when it comes to Maura Higgins – does one opt for her saying she’d rather never have sex again than have sex with Boris Johnson, or her seminal put-down of… whatever his name was in her season of Love Island? She came into season 5 like a wrecking ball, lifting it up from the mediocre gutter it was floating in and carrying it into the reality tv history books. She does Longford proud.

Majella O’Donnell

How would Daniel have figured out the lockdown live streams without Majella? A legend in her own right, I personally fell in love with her after she took no shite from Dermot Bannon during their episode of Room to Improve, and following her many iconic wise cracks during Daniel and Majella’s B&B Roadtrip. Even if some of the diehard stans who believe no one could ever be good enough for wee Daniel will never get onboard, we’ll always love you Maj.

Nadine Coyle

Where do I even begin to describe the hold this clip has on us as a nation. I remember watching it live as an impressionable young wean of ten (I was always a fiend for reality tv), genuinely believing that she’d forgotten her date of birth amidst the excitement of becoming a popstar. Sure we’ve all been there. Since then, Nadine’s been the gift that keeps on giving. From her services to girlband culture via Girls Aloud and her pronunciation of “flour” which just. makes. sense., she’s an Irish institution. We’re not worthy.

Samantha Mumba

Body to Body was made infamous as the soundtrack to a graphic road safety awareness ad, but before that Samantha Mumba had earned her stripes as a pop princess the country could be proud of. At just 17 she released Gotta Tell You, which is listed in Billboard’s 100 Catchiest Choruses of the 21st Century (you’re singing it in your head now, aren’t you?) and of course, we all remember her Toy Show debut as part of the Billie Barry troupe. High up on the list of things we love to see, here she is slinging out a few pints of guinny on Paddy’s Day. Hup Samantha.

Sinead O’Connor

After the tragic loss of her son Shane earlier this year, Sinead O’Connor has been open with her grieving on social media and criticised mental health services for not doing enough for Shane and others in their care. It’s devastating to see one of the greatest Irish artists ever go through something so unthinkable, but despite all this she’s still finding time to champion up-and-coming female Irish acts and stand in solidarity with others who’ve been affected by mental healthcare in Ireland. A true cultural icon who should be celebrated.

Happy International Women’s Day to all the legendary women of Ireland. They make the country what it is.

Header image via Youtube

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