The ‘mad, bad, and dangerous’ women of Ireland

The ‘mad, bad, and dangerous’ women of Ireland

Margaretta D’Arcy

By Ciarán Tierney

A series of four documentary films celebrating the lives of older Irish women who have been “mad, bad, and dangerous” will be screened at Áras Éanna, Inis Oirr, on Sunday.

The screenings of the films, which were created and directed by Emma O’Grady, is part of our celebration of International Women’s Day this week.

Emma, who has been enjoying time out on Inis Oirr this winter and is a frequent visitor to the island, will screen the four films at two hour intervals from 1pm to 5pm. Each of the films is one hour and 45 minutes in length and admission is free of charge.

‘Mad, Bad and Dangerous – A Celebration of Difficult Women’ first premiered online during the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2020.

It is a series of interviews in which well-known Irish women over 70 years of age interview each other. Each participant nominated a woman they want to interview, or be interviewed by, and in this way the series of films was curated by the participants.

Among the women featured are Lelia Doolan, Margaretta D’Arcy, Bernadette McAliskey, and Nell McCafferty.

People who are on Inis Oirr on Sunday can attend any or all of the four films free of charge in our theatre.

“These women have been blazing trails for 50 years,” says Emma. “They were moving mountains long before hashtags. They are the ‘difficult’ women, the brass necks, the sharp, the fearless: the mad, the bad, and the dangerous.”

According to Emma, the title of the series of films comes from then Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, in the 1960s.

“That woman is mad, bad,and dangerous,” he said, referring to Lelia Doolan, who was working for RTE at the time.

Programme for the day:

1:00 i.n. – Bernadette McAliskey & Lelia Doolan

3:00 i.n. – Lelia Doolan & Margaretta D’Arcy

5:00 i.n. – Pauline Cummins & Jo Murphy Lawless

7:00 i.n. – Nell McCafferty & Lelia Doolan


Lelia Doolan

This series was created, directed and produced by Emma O’Grady. Producer: Lara Hickey Associate producer & researcher: Miriam Haughton DOP: James Ryan (Ep 1) and Cathy Dunne (Ep 2, 3 & 4) Sound: Dean Murray (Ep 1 & 2) and Laura Sheeran (Ep 3 & 4) Editor: James Ryan (Ep 1) and Laura Sheeran (Ep 2, 3 & 4).

Original music by Orlagh De Bhaldraithe Produced by Up Up Up, with Copper Alley, in association with Dublin Fringe Festival and Age & Opportunity’s Bealtaine Festival, with support from Galway County Council and the Irish Women Lawyers Association along with the Community Knowledge Initiative, Institute for Lifecourse and Society and The Feminist Storytelling Network (NUI Galway) and donors on GoFundMe.

Nell McCafferty


‘Mad, Bad & Dangerous’