McCafferty was born in Derry, Northern Ireland, to Hugh and Lily McCafferty, and spent her early years in the Bogside area of Derry. Although her family were not wealthy, she had a comfortable upbringing and entered Queen's University Belfast (QUB), where she took a degree in Arts. After a brief spell as a substitute English teacher in Northern Ireland and a stint on an Israeli kibbutz, she took up a post with The Irish Times.
In 1990, McCafferty won a Jacob's Award for her reports on the 1990 World Cup for RTÉ Radio 1's The Pat Kenny Show. McCafferty lives in Ranelagh, an area of Dublin. McCafferty published her autobiography, Nell, in 2004. In it, she explores her upbringing in Derry, her relationship with her parents, her fears about being gay, the joy of finding a domestic haven with the love of her life, the Irish writer Nuala O'Faolain, and the pain of losing it.
In 2009, after the publication of the Murphy Report into the abuse of children in the Dublin archdiocese, McCafferty confronted Archbishop Diarmuid Martin asking him why the Catholic Church had not, as a "gesture of redemption", relinquished titles such as "Your Eminence" and "Your Grace."
“Moral gatekeepers of the documentary wrongly ask if Nuala [O’Faolain] was bisexual? A trivial detail like gender would never have prevented Nuala from loving another. Nuala was sexual, I was irresistible. Readers, we loved each other.” Nell McCafferty, Irish Times Letters.
Nuala O'Faolain (1 March 1940 – 9 May 2008) was an Irish journalist, TV producer, book reviewer, teacher and writer. O'Faolain was engaged at least once, but she never married. In Are You Somebody?, she speaks candidly about her fifteen-year relationship with the journalist Nell McCafferty, who published her own memoir, Nell. From 2002 until her death, O'Faolain lived much of the time with Brooklyn-based attorney John Low-Beer and his daughter Anna. They were registered as domestic partners in 2003.
Nell caused a controversy in 2010 with a radio declaration that the then Minister for Health Mary Harney was an alcoholic. She has very rarely featured on radio or television in Ireland as a commentator since, despite being ever present in those media from 1990 onwards, but she has been featured on a number of recorded shows since.
The Irish Times wrote that "Nell's distinctive voice, both written and spoken, has a powerful and provocative place in Irish society."
Nuala O'Faolain (1 March 1940 – 9 May 2008) was an Irish journalist, TV producer, book reviewer, teacher and writer. She became internationally well known for her two volumes of memoir, Are You Somebody? and Almost There; a novel, My Dream of You; and a history with commentary, The Story of Chicago May. The first three were all featured on The New York Times Best Seller list. Her posthumous novel Best Love, Rosie was published in 2009. O'Faolain's formative years coincided with the emergence of the women's movement, and her ability to expose misogyny in all its forms was formidable, forensic and unremitting. However, O'Faolain's feminism stemmed from a fundamental belief in social justice. Unlike most commentators, who maintain a detached, lofty tone, O'Faolain, placed herself at the centre of things, a high-risk strategy that worked because of her broad range of erudition, worn lightly, her courage and a truthfulness that sometimes bordered on the self-destructive.
O'Faolain was born in Clontarf, Dublin, the second eldest of nine children. Her father, known as 'TerryO' was a well-known Irish journalist, writing the "Dubliners Diary" social column under the pen name Terry O'Sullivan for the Dublin Evening Press. She was educated at University College Dublin, the University of Hull, and Oxford University. She taught for a time at Morley College, and worked as a television producer for the BBC and Radio Telefís Éireann.
O'Faolain described her early life as growing up in a Catholic country which in her view feared sexuality and forbade her even information about her body. In her writings she often discusses her frustration at the sexism and rigidity of roles in Catholic Ireland that expected her to marry and have children, of which she did neither.
O'Faolain was engaged at least once, but she never married. In Are You Somebody?, she speaks candidly about her fifteen-year relationship with the journalist Nell McCafferty, who published her own memoir, Nell. From 2002 until her death, O'Faolain lived much of the time with Brooklyn-based attorney John Low-Beer and his daughter Anna. They were registered as domestic partners in 2003.
O'Faolain split her time between Ireland and New York City. She had been diagnosed with metastatic cancer and was interviewed on the Marian Finucane radio show on RTE Radio One on 12 April 2008 in relation to her terminal illness. She told Finucane, "I don't want more time. As soon as I heard I was going to die, the goodness went from life".
On 9 May 2008, it was announced that O'Faolain had died during the night. In 2012, RTÉ announced a major new documentary on her life.
Are You Somebody?: The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman by Nuala O'Faolain
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; Second Edition edition (February 17, 2009)
Amazon: Are You Somebody?: The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman
"You don’t want the book to end; it glows with compassion and you want more, more because you know this is a fine wine of a life, richer as it ages."—Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes
One of nine children born into a penniless North Dublin family, Nuala O’Faolain was saved from a harrowing childhood by her love of books and reading. Though she ultimately became one of Ireland’s best-known columnists, her professional success did little to ease her loneliness and longing for a deep connection to the world. Are You Somebody? distills her experiences into a wisdom that can only come from an obstinate refusal to shrink from life.
This commemorative edition of her landmark memoir celebrates O’Faolain’s remarkable life and work with a new foreword from Frank McCourt as well as additional archival materials. Strikingly vivid and starkly emotional, Are You Somebody? is, like O’Faolain herself, a singular example of courage, honesty, and bold living.
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