Stormont’s only Liberal MP
Sheelagh Murnaghan (1923-93) was born in Omagh, Co. Tyrone. She became the first female barrister to practice in Northern Ireland; played hockey for Ulster and Ireland; and was the only Liberal Party MP in the 50-year history of the Northern Ireland Parliament. She won the seat for Queen’s University on 24 November 1961 which she held until 1969 for the Ulster Liberal Party, a cross-community organisation with links to the Liberal Party in Great Britain.
Sheelagh was a torchbearer for human rights, non-violence and respect for the dignity of others. Four times she brought forth pioneering legislation and four times it was rejected by the government, and Northern Ireland paid a terrible price for that rejection.
However, time proved Sheelagh to be right and to be decades ahead of other politicians and political parties, as many of her original ideas came to be enshrined in law in Northern Ireland.
Ruth Illingworth is a historian, author and tour guide from Mullingar, County Westmeath. She has written extensively on many aspects of Westmeath and Irish history. She has lectured at Maynooth University, is president of the Westmeath Archaeological and Historical Society and was a member of Mullingar Town Council from 2004 to 2014. Her most recent books are:; "A 1950s Irish Childhood" (The History Press 2018) and "The Little Book of Westmeath" (The History Press 2016).
PRONI has material relating to Sheelagh Murnaghan within its collections, including various election posters, election addresses and printed articles.