Detta O'Cathain, Baroness O'Cathain

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Baroness O'Cathain

Official portrait, 2018
Detta O'Cathain

(1938-02-02)2 February 1938
Cork, Cork, Ireland
Died23 April 2021(2021-04-23) (aged 83)
Political partyConservative
William Bishop
(m. 1963; died 2001)

Detta O'Cathain, Baroness O'Cathain, OBE (/ˌkəˈhɔɪn/; 2 February 1938 – 23 April 2021) was an Irish-born British businesswoman and Conservative politician.

Early life and education[edit]

Margaret M. B. Ó Catháin[citation needed] was born in Cork,[1] daughter of Caoimhghin Ó Catháin, of Dublin, and Margaret (née Prior).[2][3][4] She was educated at Laurel Hill Convent in Limerick,[5] before earning a BA at University College Dublin and emigrating to England.

Business career[edit]

Ó Catháin was a director of many companies. She served as non-executive director of Midland Bank from 1984 to 1993, of Tesco from 1985 to 2000, and of British Airways from 1993 to 2004. She served as managing director of the Milk Marketing Board of England and Wales from 1984 to 1989 and of the Barbican Centre from 1990 to 1995. She was also a director of BNP/Paribas (UK) and Allders. In the 1983 New Year Honours she was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).[6]

Political career[edit]

Baroness O'Cathain made many appearances on the BBC's Question Time during the 1980s. She was made a life peer as Baroness O'Cathain, of The Barbican in the City of London, on 21 June 1991[7] and sat in the House of Lords on the Conservative benches. She served on a number of committees within the House, including the Constitution Committee and the Economic Affairs Committee. She also sat on the European Union Committee, chairing the Sub-Committee on Internal Market, Infrastructure and Employment.

She was known for her socially conservative views, in particular her efforts to retain the ban on same-sex couples from adopting, and had taken on a leadership role against gay rights after the death of Lady Young.[8]

In 2004, Lady O'Cathain denied that her decision to step down from the board of British Airways was connected with a threatened boycott of the airline by gay rights group Stonewall.[9] Gay rights supporters took exception to what was described as her attempted "wrecking" amendment of the civil partnerships bill. She responded that her amendment was "nothing to do with homosexuals at all." In 2009, she proposed a law criminalising the possession of "extreme pornographic writings", similar to the recently[when?] passed law on images.[10][11]

In 2014, Baroness O’Cathain was selected to chair the House of Lords inquiry into civil use of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), devices commonly referred to as drones.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Baroness O’Cathain married William Ernest John Bishop in 1963. He died in 2001.[13]

She died at her home in Arundel, West Sussex, following a short illness, in April 2021.[14] Baroness Janet Fookes paid tribute to her, saying that she was "never afraid to speak her mind".[15]


  1. ^ "Baroness O'Cathain, businesswoman criticised for her authoritarian style at the Barbican – obituary". The Telegraph. 28 April 2021. Retrieved 25 December 2021.
  2. ^ Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 107th edition, vol. 2, ed. Charles Mosley, Burke's Peerage, 2003, page 2969
  3. ^ Dod's Parliamentary Companion 2007, page 794
  4. ^ The International Who's Who, Europa Publications, 2000, page 1154
  5. ^ Moroney, Paddy (1994). "Sisters Mark 150th Year in Limerick" (PDF). General News. p. 1 – via Limerick City and County Council.
  6. ^ "No. 49212". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1982. p. 11.
  7. ^ "No. 52583". The London Gazette. 26 June 1991. p. 9777.
  8. ^ Kite, Melissa (17 October 2002). "Lords join forces to wreck Blair's gay adoption Bill". Times Online. Retrieved 18 March 2010.[dead link]
  9. ^ Waller, Martin (31 July 2004). "Untimely departure". Times Online. Archived from the original on 11 June 2011. Retrieved 18 March 2010.
  10. ^ "Coroners and Justice Bill - Amendment text". UK Parliament. 3 July 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
  11. ^ "Tory Lady tries to give bodice-rippers the snip Stealing a leaf from New Labour's morality handbook". The Register. Situation Publishing. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
  12. ^ "Lords to examine civil use of drones". Lords Select Committee. UK Parliament. 30 July 2014. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  13. ^ Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage 2008, ed. Charles Kidd, Debrett's Peerage, 2008, page 1089
  14. ^ "'Sorely missed': Institute Patron Detta O'Cathain remembered". Christian Institute. 26 April 2021. Retrieved 4 May 2021.
  15. ^ "'Never afraid to speak her mind': Baroness Fookes pays tribute to Baroness O'Cathain". Politics Home. Merit Group. 7 May 2021. Retrieved 10 May 2021.

External links[edit]