Sunday 4 December 2016

Hospital master and Garda Commissioner share secrets of success on Women's Day

Published 09/03/2016 | 02:30

Dr Rhona Mahony. Photo: Collins Photos
Dr Rhona Mahony. Photo: Collins Photos
Minister for Arts,Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys TD welcomes women from across all sectors of Irish Society to Royal Hospital Kilmainham for a special Women 2016 event highlighting the role of women in the events of 1916 on International Women's Day. Photo shows members of the women's performance group 'Flames not Flowers' at the event. Photo: Maxwells
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan Photo: Steve Humphreys

They are two of Ireland's most inspiring women whose day jobs could not be more different.

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But National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, master Dr Rhona Mahony and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan share a drive to succeed - having carved out careers through making great sacrifices and having the courage to seize opportunities.

Both women put a high price on both qualities when they faced a nearly all-female audience at an International Women's Day event organised by management consultants Accenture yesterday.

For Dr Mahony, who became the first woman to head the country's busiest maternity hospital, the climb up the medical ladder saw her having to leave her three young children behind in order to get necessary training in the UK. "There is nothing more lonely than 6am in Dublin Airport. And that applies to men as well who leave to work from Monday to Friday," she said.

"There is a whole sub-culture there," said Dr Mahony, who admitted she was lucky to have a much-trusted childminder who, with her husband, kept the family home afloat.

It was really "a difficult decision", which left her trying to "balance two lives".

She pursued the job of master at a time when hospital funding was cut and morale low.

Dr Mahony often puts in a 72-hour week; she also worries about the babies discharged home who are not all so fortunate to be smothered in love.

Meanwhile, Commissioner O'Sullivan recalled that when women were first recruited as gardaí in 1959, a concerned TD hoped they would not be too good looking because they would distract male colleagues. When she joined the force in 1981 she was sent to Store Street Station in Dublin - and was bored by her duties. She recalled answering a house call and being told by a man inside to go away and send a "real garda".

She could have stayed in the comfort zone, but insisted: "I wanted to catch the bad guys."

The young garda and two male colleagues saw an opportunity to set up their own undercover team to tackle the menace of drugs blighting inner-city communities.

"Nobody said, 'this is a great idea.' We had to make a strong case and were then told to make sure it worked.

"That was some motivation," she said.

She told the gathering: "The lesson I learned was not just to accept the way things are being done."

Irish Independent

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