24 June 2005


Presentation Sisters' web page about Nano Nagle here

Nun named Ireland's greatest woman

24/06/2005 - 13:04:51

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An 18th Century nun, credited with establishing girl’s education in the State, was today named Ireland’s Greatest Woman.

Sister Nano Nagle, who died in 1784, was awarded the accolade over a host of well-known figures including campaigner Christina Noble, disgraced Olympic swimmer Michelle Smith and journalist Veronica Guerin.

Listeners’ to the competition on RTE Radio’s Marian Finucane show awarded the prestigious title to Cork-born Sr Nagle, who was credited with establishing girl’s education in Ireland through the founding of the Presentation Sisters.

Sr Jo Piggott said she nominated Sr Nagle for her extensive achievements and in light of Cork being the European Capital of Culture for 2005.

Sr Piggott said the nun, who was born into a wealthy family and educated in France, had a change of heart after viewing the disadvantaged women in Cork.

“They were very disadvantaged,” Sr Piggott said. “So she choose education and she came back to Cork and formed her little followers, she also brought the Ursuline Sisters to Cork. She built a house for them.”

The Ursuline Sisters were founded primarily for the education of girls and the care of the sick and needy.

“She died at 69, worn out. She never gave up but was a very spiritual woman towards the end.” Sr Piggott added.

The nation wide phone poll at the radio station had listeners pitch over the past few weeks the reasons why their nominee should be given the accolade of ‘Ireland’s Greatest Woman’.

Ms Finucane said the listeners’ poll, which has been running on the show for several months, had received massive publicity over the amount of people who voted for Ms Smith.

The swimmer, who was banned from the sport for four years in 1998 for charges of manipulating a sample, was one of the 10 finalists in the show’s competition.

Smith, who won four medals for swimming at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996, was nominated by her husband Erik De Bruin for the competition.

There were over 25,000 votes cast for the nominees for ‘Ireland’s Greatest Woman’ with 23.5% going to Sr Nagle, 21.4% for former President Mary Robinson and 19.8% for Michelle Smith.

The presenter, who is leaving her mid-morning slot for a weekend radio show, said: “One of the things, presumably why this got so much coverage around the world, was the amount of people that voted for Michelle Smith.

“It really was quite astonishing and it was from all over the country. It was said that Michelle Smith was in disgrace but it would appear that there are an awful lot of people that don’t except that.”

She added: “We were really quite astonished about this and it looks like the Irish people have not accepted the international view that Michelle is in disgrace.”

Some of the well-known names, of those living and dead, who were nominated included charity worker Christina Noble, Peig Sayers, Maureen Potter and former President Robinson.

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