Rosaleen McDonagh – First Traveller elected to Aosdána

Congratulations to Rosaleen McDonagh, playwright, on her election to Aosdána.  She is the first Irish Traveller to receive this honour. Rosaleen says she is ‘delighted’ with the news and that her election came as a surprise.

“Poet, Michael O’Loughlin and writer Colm McCann nominated me.  It was never my ambition or on my horizon.  I imagine in the coming months and years more spaces and opportunities will be open to Travellers because of Ethnic Status.

“Although Ethnic Status does not alleviate or eradicate racism, it does give the possibility of respect in various different spheres, such as the arts,” says Rosaleen.

On the day of the statement in the Dail recognising Travellers as a minority ethnic group. ©Photo by Derek Speirs

“My plans are to finish pieces of work, such as a collection of poetry and a possible memoir, but I am more interested in playwriting,” she adds.


Rosaleen is originally from Sligo and is the fourth eldest in a family of twenty children.  She worked in Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre for ten years managing the Violence Against Women programme and remains a board member.

She is a regular contributor to The Irish Times and writes within the framework of a Traveller feminist perspective.

Rosaleen has a BA in Biblical & Theological Studies, an MPhil in Ethnic & Racial Studies & an MPhil in Creative Writing, all from TCD. She is currently a PhD candidate in Northumbria University.

Rosaleen also ran for election to Seanad Eireann on the Trinity College panel.


Rosaleen’s  work includes The Baby Doll Project, Stuck, She’s Not Mine, and Rings.  Rings was performed at VAS in Washington in June 2010. McDonagh was shortlisted for the PJ O’ Connor radio play Awards 2010.

Click on image to listen to podcast.

While in the United States with Fishamble, Colum McCann, Booker Prize winner, gave her the rights to adapt his 2007 novel Zoli for stage. In March 2012, Beat Him Like a Badger was commissioned by Fishamble to be part of the Tiny Plays for Ireland series.

In 2013/2014 she worked with Graeae Theatre, which focuses on accessible aesthetics,  on its Write To Play programme.  As part of this project, she spent two weeks on attachment in The Royal Court Theatre.

Her latest play ‘Mainstream’ was directed by Olivier award winner, Jim Culleton and performed in November 2016 as part of Project 50 by the New Play Company.   It featured her friend and fellow advocate and actor the late Donal Toolan, RIP.

The cast of ‘Mainstream’ by Rosaleen McDonagh.


The Arts Council established Aosdána in 1981 to honour artists whose work has made an outstanding contribution to the creative arts in Ireland and to encourage and assist members in devoting their energies fully to their art.