Sometimes it is not just ambition which spurs one on to achieve great things, but a person. We asked the nominees in the social entrepreneurship category at this year’s IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Awards about the women who inspire them.
I find it hard to be inspired by women who are distant from me – their experiences seem so out of the ordinary, so exceptional, and I can never imagine me being like them. So, given that, the women who’ve inspired me are very close to home. They are, of course, my mother, Noelle Gallagher, who is entirely responsible for my determination, who always told me to go for it and ‘just ask’. She is my greatest supporter in all that I do. My cousin, Caoilfhionn Gallagher, a human rights lawyer in the UK who is just enough older than me to have tested everything before I had to do it and to provide advice and direction on all things academic and career. She encouraged me to be ambitious in my choices, to aim for the best, and made introductions for me that led me to choose Trinity and LSE, two places that truly shaped me and my career to date.
Finally, a woman I have had the privilege of getting to know in recent years through my work at Women for Election – Mary Harney – learning about her political experience, starting so young and going on to be the first female Tanaiste and leader of a political party in Ireland, has been inspirational and gives me a feeling that with women like that in politics anything is possible.
Niamh Gallagher, co-founder, Women for Election
To be completely honest my inspiration comes from my three children Megan 9, Aaron 7 and Caitlin 5. Aaron has Down Syndrome and the way he faces his daily challenges with a smile, enthusiasm and determination cannot but inspire you.
The inspiration from the little women in my life, my daughters, comes from their kindness and thoughtfulness. They promote and show what real inclusion is, not just a word, but a way of living. They are patient, considerate and teach us all to be fully accepting of the person in front of you, just for who they are.
They are always inventing new fun ways to assist their brother.
They show me that the future is bright and that they will always create new fun ways to ensure their brother reaches is full potential and is included. They will encourage, push him and look out for him. They inspire me to keep going so that their main role will always be that of his sisters and not his carers.
Since becoming the volunteer President of Down Syndrome Ireland Over two years ago I have had the privilege of meeting many of our wonderful women with Down syndrome. Their zest for life and determination to show the world who they are and what they can achieve is inspirational. These ladies lead by example and continue to show the world their many abilities. They have had success in many areas including, education, sports and employment. They have the ability to get people see beyond Down Syndrome.
Mary Doherty, president, Down Syndrome Ireland
I am frequently asked which female has inspired me and I wish I had an answer that people want! Of course, I am inspired by my brilliant, strong mother, my stoic, never ageing grandmother and my fabulous sisters but none of those women make me do what I do, unless we are relying solely on genetics. I am and always will be inspired by necessity. I am not an entrepreneur that keeps coming up with the next great idea. In fact I don’t like being described as an entrepreneur. I am just a frustrated person who can’t bear to sit back when there is a huge human need for a service. So who inspires me? Those who need the service. Be it the women in hospital post ectopic diagnosis who felt she as the only one in the world, to the child in school who has never been told how to effectively deal with the bully at the desk behind.
Jennifer Ryan, CEO, MyLife Solutions
‘I can’t believe we are actually going home. We will never be able to thank you for making this hard journey so much easier. You opened your doors and welcomed us with open arms. For 13 months you gave us a home. A place where we could be together as a family and where Cian and Amy could feel safe and secure at a time when their young lives had been turned upside down by their little brothers’ illness.
I am so grateful to be bringing Josh home. He has fought so hard to be here with us. He is our inspiration. From the bottom of our hearts we thank you for being there for our family.’
Rhona Knowles , one of our many mums wrote this the day she was leaving The Ronald McDonald House to bring Josh home. Rhona and all the mums with seriously ill children inspire me, the staff and all our volunteers at The Ronald McDonald House every day.
Marian Carroll, volunteer CEO, Ronald McDonald House Charities Ireland
Countess Constance Markievicz. My hero, mo laoch, mo ghile mear, …revolutionary & compassionate woman, suffragette, socialist, artist, politician, warrior, nationalist…her parents, the Gore-Booths, were wonderful parents giving her a broad and humanitarian education and good example. They were as generous and helpful to their tenants and neighbours during the dreadful Great Famine, giving Constance a great example of treating those less well off in a kind and caring manner. Constance set up soup kitchens in Dublin in 1913 to feed the starving poor during the infamous Dublin Lock-out.
Second in command to Mallin Mallin in St Stephens’ Green during the Rising of 1916, she was sentenced to death, which was eventually commuted to penal servitude for life. She was released in the amnesty after 14 months, entering fully into the establishment of the new fledging Irish state, being the first woman in the whole world to be appointed to a cabinet position as 1st Secretary for Labour in the 1st Dáil. She was also the 1st woman to be elected to the English House of Commons, though she never took her seat. Sadly she died at the early age of 59 in 1927.
The great Dublin dramatist Sean O’Casey said of her: ’One thing she had in abundance—physical courage— with that she was clothed as with a garment.’
In these times when we revisit and re appraise our great heroes from those heroic days in our country’s history she continues to inspire me and so many in our country and she is the complete role-model… her action with compassion, her vision with hard work, her sacrifice with commitment, her courage under fire; a dedicated, principiled, beautiful, artistic, determined, self-sacrificing hero Irishwoman!
Over 300,000 attended her funeral; her friend and co-founder of the Fianna Fail Party, Eamon de Valera said of her in a funeral tribute:‘she was the friend of the toiler, the lover of the poor’.