Mary Kenny

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Mary Kenny in 2008

Mary Kenny (born 4 April 1944, in Dublin, Ireland) is an Irish author, broadcaster, playwright and journalist. She is a frequent columnist for the Irish Independent. She was a founding member of the Irish Women's Liberation Movement. She has modified the radical ideas of her past, but not rejected feminist principles.[clarification needed][1]

Early life and family[edit]

Mary Kenny grew up in Sandymount,[2] and was expelled from convent school at age 16.[3] She had a sister, Ursula.[4]


She began working at the London Evening Standard in 1966[5] on the Londoner's Diary, later as a general feature writer, and was woman's editor of The Irish Press in the early 1970s.[6]

Irish Women's Liberation Movement[edit]

Kenny was one of the founding members of the Irish Women's Liberation Movement. Although the group had no formal structure of officials, she was often seen as the "ring leader" of the group.[5] In March 1971, as part of an action by the IWLM, she walked out of Haddington Road church after the Archbishop of Dublin's pastoral was read out from the pulpit, confirming that "any contraceptive act is always wrong",[5] saying "this is Church dictatorship".[7] In a follow-up letter to The Irish Times she explained her actions by saying Ian Paisley was right: "Home Rule is Rome Rule".[8]

In 1971, Kenny travelled with Nell McCafferty, June Levine and other Irish feminists on the so-called "Contraceptive Train" from Dublin to Belfast to buy condoms, then illegal within the Republic of Ireland.[9][10] Later that year she returned to London as Features Editor of the Evening Standard.[5]

"Ugandan discussions"[edit]

In 1973, Kenny was allegedly "disturbed in the arms of a former cabinet minister of President Obote of Uganda during a party", which led poet James Fenton to coin the euphemism "Ugandan discussions"[11] to mean sexual intercourse.[12] The phrase was first used by the magazine Private Eye on 9 March 1973,[13] but has been widely used since then and was included by the BBC in a list of "The 10 most scandalous euphemisms" in 2013.[11]


Kenny has written for many British and Irish broadsheet newspapers, including the Irish Independent, The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator and has authored books on William Joyce and Catholicism in Ireland. She also writes for the weekly The Irish Catholic. She is known in the UK as a Roman Catholic journalist. Crown and Shamrock: Love and Hate between Ireland and the British Monarchy (2009), described by Roy Foster as "characteristically breezy, racy and insightful".[14] She is author of the play Allegiance, in which Mel Smith played Winston Churchill and Michael Fassbender played Michael Collins, at the Edinburgh Festival in 2006.

Personal life[edit]

Kenny married journalist and writer Richard West in 1974 and the couple raised two children: Patrick West and Ed West, both journalists.



  • Women X Two: How to Cope with a Double Life (1978)
  • Why Christianity Works (1981)
  • Making the Family Matter: A New Vision of Expanded Family Living with Practical Ideas to Make it Work (co-authored with James Kenny) (1980)
  • Goodbye to Catholic Ireland: A Social Person and Cultural History (1997)
  • Death by Heroin; Recovery by Hope (1999)
  • Germany Calling: A Personal Biography of William Joyce, Lord Haw-Haw. Dublin: New Island Books. ISBN 9781902602783.


  • The Long Road Back: The Story of a Triumph Over Sudden and Total Disablement by Bill Ellis


  • A Mood for Love and Other Stories

See also[edit]


  1. ^ For example, as explained on McGurk and Company, 12 July 2008 on RTE Radio 1
  2. ^ Kenny, Mary (24 April 2004). "Religion in schools – it was always a question of class". Irish Independent. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  3. ^ Kenny, Mary (4 December 2004). "Why the nuns sacked me". The Spectator. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
  4. ^ Boland, Rosita (5 November 2011). "New lady of the Áras". The Irish Times. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d Bourke, Angela (2002). The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing: Irish women's writing and traditions. NYU Press. pp. 192–. ISBN 9780814799079. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  6. ^ Kenny, Mary (1 August 2012). "Maeve Binchy shunned the dark side". Irish Independent. Independent News & Media. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  7. ^ Irish Times, 29 March 1971, p. 4
  8. ^ Irish Times, 30 March 1971, p. 13
  9. ^ Irish Times, 18 October 2008, p. 14
  10. ^ "Writer central to the women's movement". The Irish Times. 10 October 2008.
  11. ^ a b Jon Kelly (15 May 2013). "The 10 most scandalous euphemisms". BBC Online. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  12. ^ Adam McQueen Private Eye: The First Fifty Years, London: Private Eye Productions, 2011, p. 286
  13. ^ Adrian Room Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable, London: Cassell, 2000, pp. 714–5
  14. ^ Roy Foster "Strong family feelings" Archived 25 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine, The Spectator, 6 January 2010

External links[edit]