1887 – Winifred Carney, trade unionist and revolutionary, is born in Bangor, Co. Down.

Winnie Carney (born Maria Winifred Carney 4 December 1887 – 21 November 1943) was a suffragist, trade unionist and Irish independence activist. Born in Bangor, County Down, her family moved to the Falls Road in Belfast when she was a child. Carney was educated at the Christian Brothers School on Donegall Street in the city, later teaching at the school.

Early career:

In 1912 Carney was in charge of the women’s section of the Irish Textile Workers’ Union in Belfast. During this period she met James Connolly and became his personal secretary. According to her biographer Helga Woggon, Carney was the person best acquainted with Connolly’s politics. Carney then joined Cumann na mBan, the women’s auxiliary of the Irish Volunteers, and attended its first meeting in 1914.

Easter Rising:

She was present with Connolly in the Dublin General Post Office during the Easter Rising in 1916. Carney was the only woman present during the initial occupation of the building, which she entered armed with a typewriter and a Webley revolver. While not a combatant, she was given the rank of adjutant and was among the final group (including Connolly and Patrick Pearse) to leave the GPO. She had earlier taken the wounded Connolly’s final dictated orders, and had refused to leave him despite being ordered to evacuate the building with the injured. After her capture, she was held in Kilmainham Gaol and later interned in Aylesbury with Nell Ryan and Helena Moloney. The three requested that their internee status, and the privileges it brought, be revoked so that they would be held as normal prisoners with Countess Markiewicz. Their request was denied and she was released in December 1916. After the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the formation of the Irish Free State, Carney sided with the Anti-Treaty forces and was arrested several times.

Later career:

She stood for Parliament as a Sinn Féin candidate for Belfast Victoria in the 1918 General Election. She polled 4.05% of the vote, losing to the Labour Unionists. In 1924 she joined the Labour Party. In 1928 she married George McBride, a Protestant Orangeman and former member of the Ulster Volunteers. Ironically, the formation of the Ulster Volunteers prompted the formation of the Irish Volunteers, of which Carney was a member. McBride was however a fellow socialist. She continued to be involved in the trade union movement, working for the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union.

Ill health limited her political activities in her later years. Carney died in 1943, and is buried in Milltown Cemetery. Her headstone was erected by the National Graves Association, Belfast.



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