Margaretta D'Arcy

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Margaretta Ruth D'Arcy
Born 1934
Known for actress, writer, playwright and activist

Margaretta Ruth D'Arcy (born 1934), an Irish actress, writer, playwright, and peace-activist.[1][2][3][4][5] Margaretta is a member of Aosdána since its inauguration and is known for addressing Irish nationalism, civil liberties, and women's rights in her work.[2][3] In 2014, she was imprisoned after she refused to sign a bond saying that she wouldn't trespass on non-public parts of Shannon Airport. Her arrest was a consequence of trespassing on airport property during protests over United States military stopovers at Shannon Airport.

Margaretta was born in London to a Russian Jewish mother and an Irish Catholic father.[1] D'Arcy worked in small theatres in Dublin from the age of fifteen and later became an actress.[6] Married in 1957 to English playwright and author John Arden, they frequently collaborated.[7] They settled in Galway and established the Galway Theatre Workshop in 1976.[6] The couple wrote a number of stage pieces and improvisational works for amateur and student players, including The Happy Haven (1960) and The Workhouse Donkey. She has written and produced many plays, including The Non-Stop Connolly Show.[2]

D'Arcy has also written a number of books, including Tell Them Everything, Awkward Corners (with John Arden), and Galway's Pirate Women: A Global Trawl.[8]


As an activist, in 1961, D'Arcy joined the anti-nuclear Committee of 100, led by Bertrand Russell.[2]

Jailed in the H-block in Northern Ireland, her book Tell Them Everything tells the story of her time during the H-block protests.[2]

D'Arcy also directed a film Yellow Gate Women, a film about the attempts by women of Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp to outwit the British and United States Military at RAF Greenham Common with bolt cutters and legal challenges.[9]

Challenging censorship since 1987, she ran a women's kitchen pirate-radio from her home in Galway.[2]

In 2011, D’Arcy refused to stand for a minute’s silence in honour of catholic PSNI officer Ronan Kerr - who was killed by dissident republicans - at a meeting of the artists body Aosdana. Her actions were deliberate, she told media afterwards, which attracted fierce criticism of her perceived support for armed republican groups in Northern Ireland.[10]

Along with Niall Farrell, she was arrested in October 2012 for scaling the perimeter fence of Shannon Airport, in protest at the use of the airport as a stopover for US military flights.


In January 2014, D'Arcy, who is 80 years old and currently undergoing cancer treatment, was sentenced to three months in prison for the 2012 protest at Shannon. John Lannon of Shannonwatch called on President Michael D. Higgins, a friend of D'Arcy's family, to intervene in the case.[11] She was offered an opportunity to avoid prison if she signed a bond not to trespass on parts of Shannon Airport not open to the public but she refused.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has called for her release: “Successive governments have failed to inspect any planes in Shannon and have allowed the continued militarisation of a civilian airport. Rather than addressing these issues, the state has focused its efforts on arresting and jailing a 79-year-old woman."[12] Independent TD Clare Daly who along with Mick Wallace attended her trial also called for her release. Daly, at a protest rally in Dublin, said her behaviour in court was a model for activists.




Her books include;[8][13]


Her plays include;[13]

  • The Pinprick of History;
  • Vandaleur's Folly;
  • Women's Voices from W. of Ireland;
  • Prison-voice of Countess Markievicz;
  • A Suburban Suicide (a radio play, BBC3, 1995);
  • Lajwaad (The Good People, play by Abdel Kader Alloula, adapted by M. D'Arcy for readings in London, 1995);
  • Dublin (Irish Writers' Centre, 1996).

Plays devised as group productions include;[13]

  • Muggins is a Martyr;
  • The Vietnam War-game;
  • 200 Years of Labour;
  • The Mongrel Fox;
  • No Room at the Inn;
  • Mary's Name;
  • Seán O'Scrúdu;
  • Silence.

Plays written in collaboration with John Arden include;[13]

  • The Business of Good Government;
  • The Happy Haven;
  • Ars Longa Vita Brevis;
  • The Royal Pardon;
  • The Hero Rises Up;
  • The Ballygombeen Bequest;
  • The Non-Stop Connolly Show;
  • Keep the People Moving (BBC Radio);
  • Portrait of a Rebel (RTÉ Television);
  • The Manchester Enthusiasts (BBC 1984 and RTÉ 1984, under the title The Ralahine Experiment);
  • Whose is the Kingdom? (9-part radio play, BBC 1987).


Films as a director and those produced by Women in Media & Entertainment;[13]

  • Yellow Gate Women, 2007, shown at the 'Galway Film Fleadh' and Independent International Video & Film Festival (New York) [2008].[14]
  • Shell Hell, co-directed by Finn Arden, 2005, shown at Galway Arts Festival, the 'Stranger than Fiction Festival' at the IFC (Dublin) and the Human Rights Documentary Festival (Glasgow).
  • Big Plane, Small Axe, the mis-trials of Mary Kelly, 2005, awarded 2nd Prize for Best Feature Documentary at Galway Film Fleadh, and also shown at Cork Film Festival, Portobello Film Festival, Human Rights Documentary Festival (Glasgow), and the 'Irish Film Festival' (San Francisco).
  • Circus Exposé, 1987 (60 minutes), shown at the 'Celtic Film Festival' (Inverness) and 'Foyle Festival' (Derry).


  1. ^ a b "Margaretta D'Arcy (born 1934)",, retrieved 4 October 2010 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Filmmaker: Margaretta D'Arcy",, retrieved 4 October 2010 
  3. ^ a b "Margaretta D'Arcy postcard to Bernard McKenna",, 1995, retrieved 4 October 2010 
  4. ^ "John Arden",, retrieved 4 October 2010 
  5. ^ "John Arden",, retrieved 4 October 2010 
  6. ^ a b (Bourke 2002, p. 1287)
  7. ^ "Interview with John Arden and Margaretta D'Arcy by Raymond H. Thompson",, retrieved 4 October 2010 
  8. ^ a b "Loose Theatre: Memoirs of a Guerrilla Theatre Activist",, retrieved 4 October 2010 
  9. ^ "Yellow Gate Women",, retrieved 4 October 2010 
  10. ^ Griffin, Sam (22 January 2014). "Margaretta D'Arcy a constant thorn in side of lawmakers". Irish Independent. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  11. ^ "79-year-old jailed for three months over Shannon protest",, retrieved 17 January 2014 
  12. ^ Gerry Adams calls for release of Margaretta D’Arcy, Sinn Féin, retrieved 19 January 2014 
  13. ^ a b c d e "Margaretta D'Arcy",, retrieved 4 October 2010 
  14. ^ "Irish Documentary in New York Festival",, retrieved 4 October 2010 

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