Mary White is a driven and passionate individual. Her vision is for an Ireland at peace with itself, one where there is mutual respect for one another’s differences and where those that are currently marginalized, whether through conflict or poverty, can experience human dignity. She has based her political career around Edmund Burke’s 1774 declaration that:
“…it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own.”
Mary was educated in St. Malachy’s National School, Dundalk, Co. Louth and at the Holy Family Convent National and Secondary Schools in Droichead Nua, Co. Kildare. She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics and Politics from UCD and a Higher Diploma in Architectural Technology from the Bolton Street College of Technology (now part of Dublin Institute of Technology).
Mary was born in Dundalk in 1944, the eldest of six children in her family. She is married to Padraic White, former Managing Director of the Industrial Development Authority of Ireland (IDA-Ireland). Padraic and Mary have one daughter.
On completing her Secondary school education, Mary won a scholarship sponsored by the Office of Public Works (OPW) to study Architectural Technology at Bolton Street College of Technology while getting on-the-job
experience in the OPW. She was awarded the Higher Diploma in Architectural Technology at the end of the 5 year programme. She pursued her architectural career in the OPW, Aer Rianta, and the then National Building Agency where for twelve years up to 1986 she was engaged in a wide range of social housing projects .
As an adult student, she attended UCD where she was awarded a BA in
Politics and Economics.
In 1986, when Ireland was also in a deep recession, Mary attended, as a local resident, a community initiative in Dundrum, Co. Dublin to encourage job creating enterprises in her area. It is there that she met Connie Doody who had started making gourmet handmade chocolates in her home and she decided to resign from her job and join Connie in the new enterprise. Both Mary and Connie went on to jointly establish Lir Chocolates with the primary aim of creating jobs in response to the recession. Mary saw at first-hand the positive impact getting a job has on a person. It is a matter of great pride to her that now, 26 years later, Lir Chocolates employ over 250 people in its ever-expanding premises in Navan and exports over €20 million a year.
Mary was elected to Seanad Éireann on her first attempt in July 2002 having been nominated by the Irish Exporters Association. She was re-elected in 2007 and 2011 on each occasion as the nominee of the Irish Exporters
She had already served an apprenticeship as an active contributor on a volunteer basis to politics in Ireland.
From 1993 – 1998, she was twice elected a member of the National Executive of the Fianna Fáil Party.
She has a passionate commitment to advancing the peace process in the North of Ireland. Before the Good Friday Peace Agreement of 1998, she led many groups of Dublin Fianna Fáil women to areas such as Drumcree and West Belfast. She has had meetings with ex-prisoners of both sides of the political divide in the North and has built up trusting relationships with both sides of the community.
In 2001, as Chairwoman of The President’s Award – Gaisce of Ireland, Mary was directly involved in making available for the first time, the right of young people in the North of Ireland to receive the medals of The President’s Award. President Mary McAleese of Ireland presented the first medals to the young people in Belfast in October 2001.
Mary has an abiding interest in the human rights of prisoners and has met prisoners in Ireland, north and south, and abroad in pursuit of this objective.
Mary has advocated new approaches to childcare provision, discrimination against our ageing fellow citizens, suicide prevention and mental health reform, women in enterprise, and climate change.
In 2014, she introduced legislation in Seanad Éireann which proposed that the father of a new born child can share the 26 weeks of maternity leave if the mother so wishes. The Government accepted the principle of the Bill.
In July 2015, she was the author/rapporteur of the “Report on Key Issues for female entrepreneurs in Ireland and for their participation in the Tech Sector” published by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.
Other Public Interest Experiences
- Member of the Dublin City Enterprise Board Evaluation Committee 1993 – 1997;
- Member of the Higher Education Authority of Ireland 1990 – 1995.
- Board of The National College of Art and Design 1993-1996
- Board Director of An Bord Bia – The Irish Food Board 1997- 2002
Publications by Senator Mary White
- A New Approach to Ageing & Ageism (June 2006)
- The White Report: A New Approach to Childcare (November 2006)
- What we can do about suicide in the New Ireland: Applying the benefits of experience and research to the prevention of suicide and to the support of the bereaved in Ireland (July 2008)
- Active Ageing and Quality Caring: A Fianna Fáil Policy Paper to Promote the Human Potential and Human Rights of our Older Irish Citizens (June 2012)
- Promoting Women Entrepreneurs in Ireland: Fresh Thinking on Employment Solutions (July 2013)
- Report on Key Issues for female entrepreneurs in Ireland and for their participation in the Tech Sector (August 2015)