That’s what friends are for

January 17th, 2023 7:05 AM

By Emma Connolly

Dr Tara Shine & Madeleine Murray, Changes by Degrees, sustainability consultants, Kinsale.

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To coincide with the traditional Women’s Little Christmas celebrations taking place throughout West Cork, Emma Connolly asked some local pals to share how important female friendships are in their everyday lives

‘It’s great to share ideas and make things happen’

Madeleine on Tara

‘Tara and I met while swimming in the sea. One day after a glorious swim around Sandycove Island where I live, I approached Tara on the slipway and the rest is history.

Tara was friendly, upbeat and happy to explore ways we could work together to create systemic change. I admired her ambition and loved that it matched my own.

I like that Tara is an unapologetic optimist. She’s also exceptionally kind, thoughtful and I trust her implicitly. She doesn’t take herself too seriously and that’s important when you work so closely with others.

We bring totally different skillsets to Change by Degrees. We laugh a lot; align instinctively on every business decision we take and work at a rate of knots. We have also never once had an argument – a difference of opinions yes, but never a fight.’

Tara on Madeleine

‘Madeleine is determined to upskill the decision makers of today and not leave the problems of climate change to our children. So, ours was a meeting of minds.

She is a doer. She gets things done and has amazing energy. It’s great to find someone that you can share ideas with and then make things happen.

She’s fun, professional and creative. She isn’t afraid of hard work and she is passionate about research, education and crating solutions that work. We sometimes work too hard and it’s always great to have a person in your corner telling you to stop, recalibrate or just cop on.’

Tara Constantine & Cork South West TD Holly Cairns.


‘You could say we met before we were born!’

Holly on Tara

‘Our mums went to the same prenatal class so you could say we met before we were born, just six weeks apart.

When we were kids, I was in awe of Tara she was extremely strong willed and fun. We became even closer friends in our teens in secondary school in Schull. We sat together in every class. I do still feel a bit bad for the teachers who had to deal with us!

I love how intelligent she is too. It is great to have a friend that you can talk to about anything and whose opinion you value as much as I value hers.

Perhaps the thing that I admire the most about Tara is what an incredible mother she is.

She is also a very organised person and I am the complete opposite. Life as a TD can be quite a whirlwind and Tara helps me navigate that. I appreciate that she has put up with my terrible timekeeping for so many years.

I love working with Tara. Especially our meetings on Mondays in Bandon where we catch up on what issues are coming into the office or what’s coming up in the Dáil.

It’s hard to find time for a social life these days so I really look forward to our lunch break on Mondays for the chats and a bit of normality.

As well as relying on Tara to manage my constituency office, I also depend on her for advice and support. It’s amazing to have someone I know so well and trust on my team. I would be lost without her.’

Tara on Holly

‘Our friendship is a very special one – you could say we have been friends since we were in the womb. Holly is someone I can be completely honest with about everything and I have absolute trust in her.

She has such integrity, I have such admiration for her and how much she has achieved and the standard she holds herself to.

Working together just works! Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and we complement each other very well in that respect.

We have a friendship built on trust and honesty which is so important in the role we have found ourselves in.

I think life can get in the way of a social life as we get older but there’s nothing like having a good coffee and chats which we still get to do from time to time.

Holly is a great person to cheer you up or calm you down depending on what’s happening in your life.

She is brilliant in a crisis and will drop everything if you need her.’

Paula O’Brien, public health nurse and musician and Siobhán O’Mahony, make up artist, Clonakilty.


‘We make time for each other’

Siobhán on Paula

‘Soon after my eldest son was born, I was out in Clonakilty one night and bumped into John O’Brien, who I knew from school.

John was with his wife Paula and I remember thinking how great she was. John actually thought Paula and I would get on well, and suggested she contact me, and I’ll forever be grateful for his suggestion.

Paula has many good friends, makes time for them all, and I know all of us feel so lucky to have her. She is so kind, wise and a solid, trustworthy person … with a wicked sense of humour too!

She’s also the most amazing singer and song writer, who can charm a room full of people the second she opens her mouth.

Recently I was at a gig where people didn’t know we were friends and the joy of hearing how in awe the audience were of her talent was amazing. I wanted to shout ‘she’s actually my friend!’

Paula on Siobhán

‘My first impression of Siobhán was that she had such a lovely presence, and that people seemed to gravitate towards her. The more I got to know her, the more I was in awe of her skills with people and situations. She can read a room in 0.5 seconds. She can read me in less time! One word on the phone and she can tell exactly how I’m feeling. She has the most generous nature I have ever seen in a person and is so creative. She’s an incredible make-up artist and takes great pride in bringing out the natural beauty she says everyone has. Hosting is another talent of hers. The first time I went to her home I was greeted by a cheese board that was like a work of art!

When my mum got her diagnosis of cancer, Siobhán was there to listen to me. When my mum died, she held my hand and quietly helped me to piece my life back together again. I can never thank her enough for that.

We are honest in our friendship and we help each other navigate the rough and wonderful waters of motherhood and relationships. Siobhán is an absolute diamond and I am so thankful to have her in my life.’

Josie McAuliffe and Theresa O’Donoghue, choreographers Strictly Bantry.


‘We’re like two jigsaw pieces ... perfect partners’

Theresa on Josie

‘I met Josie through our sons who are friends. We both grew up in South East London, and even attended the same Irish dancing school, but our paths only crossed in Bantry.

When I was asked to take on the choreography of Strictly Bantry I knew Josie would be the perfect partner to have on board. I was always told never to mix work and pleasure, but in our case this rule really doesn’t apply. Last year Josie had a very bad car accident. We had built up a routine of a morning, lunchtime and evening chat. That day I knew something was wrong, Josie wasn’t answering me. Later that day I got the awful news and as it was during Covid I was heartbroken that I couldn’t even go to her in the hospital. It was the hardest thing to sit back and not be able to help and protect her. When she asked me to do the Cork Women’s Marathon in aid of the Air Ambulance I didn’t hesitate. It was totally out of my comfort zone but I could think of nothing more deserving than to support Josie and be at her side giving back to a wonderful charity that really did help her in her hour of need.’

Josie on Theresa

‘Theresa and I are a bit like two jigsaw pieces that are useless on their own, but make a great picture together.

We are different, but somehow our differences complement each other. We are both strong minded women who like nothing better than to go against the grain. Friends first, we also work together, choreographing and planning shows like Strictly Come Dancing Bantry, as TJ Productions.

Our planning sessions take place in Theresa’s house where we dance around the kitchen table much to the amusement and occasional bewilderment of her husband James. I couldn’t work on Strictly with anyone else. Theresa teaches the ballroom dances, which suit her as she has an eye for detail and precision. I’m a bit more of a loose cannon and am drawn to the rhythms and flirtatious nature of the Latin and swing dances.

My strength is to see the whole picture. I can visualise how the whole thing comes together while Theresa is great at spotting the finer technicalities. I have great faith in our partnership. At our final dress rehearsal, we always look at each other in the eye, smile and say, “we did it”.’



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