The plot revolves around unmarried Sharon Rabbitte's pregnancy, and the unexpected effects this has on her conservative, working class Dublin family.
In the Rabbite household, unwed motherhood isn't the disaster it might be elsewhere. When twenty-year old Sharon informs her father, Jimmy Sr., and mother, Veronica that she's "up the pole", they aren't thrilled, but there's no display of histrionics. After asking who the father is (and not being told), Jimmy Sr. invites his daughter out to the local pub for a drink. Sharon's friends are as interested as her family in the father's identity, but she resolutely keeps mum about the truth until an event in the neighborhood brings it into the open. It turns out that the father was her friend Yvonne's father George Burgess, who took advantage of her while she was drunk. Sharon tells everyone that it was a Spanish sailor, to avoid the embarrassment and the shame of everybody knowing. However most of the town believe the truth. She is often criticised and made fun of because of Burgess being the father. Because of the incident, Burgess runs away from home, and Sharon quits her job as a shelf stacker.