Winifred Carney

Belfast socialist, feminist and republican.

Winifred Carney was born in Larne in 1887, but moved to Belfast at an early age. Educated in Christian Brothers School in Donegall Street, Carney later became a teacher there. Around 1910 she enrolled at Hughes Commercial Academy and qualified as a secretary and shorthand typist, one of the first women in Belfast to do so.
She met James Connolly in 1912, when the socialist leader was organising trade union activity in the city. Carney, who was also involved in Gaelic League and the suffragette movement, became secretary of the Textile Workers Union, for whom she drafted a manifesto, containing these words:
Many Belfast mills are slaughterhouses for the women and penitentiaries for the children. But while the world is deploring your conditions, they also unite in deploring your slavish and servile nature in submitting to them: they unite in wondering what material these Belfast women are made, who refuse to unite together and fight to better their conditions.
George McBride at Winnies grave. Reproduced with kind permission of An Phoblacht/Republican NewsCarney became Connolly’s friend and secretary, and joined him in the newly-formed Irish Citizens Army. After the suppression of the 1916 Easter Rising, where Carney fought with Connolly, she stood as a Sinn Fein candidate in Belfast, but lost at the polls. Continuing to work in Belfast with the Transport and General Workers Union, she also became involved with the Northern Ireland Labour Party. In 1928, she surprised many in her circle by marrying George McBride, a UVF veteran and Orangeman. They were linked by their common socialism however, and lived together for many years in Carlisle Circus.
Winifred Carney, ‘the typist with a Webley’ as she was characterised in stories of the Rising, died in Belfast in 1943, having continued to fight for her socialist beliefs throughout her life. She is buried in Milltown Cemetery.

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