As the 50th Annual Mary From Dungloe International Festival is in full swing, is delighted to profile each of the young women taking part in the competition.

Each ‘Mary’ will be introducing themselves here and sharing their story ahead of the 2017 Mary from Dungloe Crowning Cabaret. This special anniversary event will be live broadcast for the first ever time by Donegal Daily, along with Jacksons Media TV. On Sunday August 6th, viewers all over the world can tune in as host Daniel O’Donnell announces the 50th Mary from Dungloe.

You will be able to see the live show online via Donegal Daily’s Facebook page, which can be viewed on your computer, mobile device and streamed on your television.

The Marys are taking part in a week jam-packed with wonderful events across Dungloe and Donegal. They have all taken time to reflect on the festival and tell us what it personally means to them.

Our first Mary to share her experience is Dublin Mary, Caroline McGrotty, who is 28 years old and calls Dungloe her home.

What Mary from Dungloe means to me

I grew up in Dungloe and we moved to Dublin in 2001 when I was 12, where my Mum was originally from, so the Mary From Dungloe Festival has always been a big part of my childhood. I have returned to the Festival many times over the last few years and always admired how confident and beautiful the Marys look throughout. I always wanted to be a Mary but kept putting off even considering it because of my weight and disability. But when I realised that this was the last year I could apply, I just had to do it. Otherwise I would have regretted it my whole life!

I’m Deaf, use Irish Sign Language (ISL) and I’ve been heavily involved in the Deaf community for many years. I suppose one of the reasons why I applied was because I wanted to show people that even though you may have a disability, face challenges and barriers, you can still can be a Mary! It’s time for us all to embrace diversity and the great variety of people we have in our society today. Hopefully it will encourage other women from all backgrounds to apply!  

The highlight for me so far has been the tremendous support I’ve received from my extended family in Scotland and Dublin, my friends and my work colleagues in AHEAD (Association for Higher Education Access & Disability). I’ve been promoting the Festival non-stop since I was selected to be the Dublin Mary – and really enjoying it! I recently featured in an article in the RTÉ Guide as I work on the RTÉ News and Weather as an ISL presenter, I was published in the Sunday Independent and a production company crew has been following my journey in search of dresses for the Festival. The programme is due to air in the autumn on RTÉ 1 on Sunday nights at 8.30pm.

The support I have received from various organisations, many of whom are charities, has been truly overwhelming. They have been kind enough to contribute to the sign language interpreter fees for the Festival. When I was selected, I immediately wrote letters and sent many, many, many emails requesting sponsorship to ensure that I and the many members of the Deaf community, who are travelling from far and wide to Dungloe to support me, will have access to the Festival in our own beautiful and expressive language – ISL.

It’s incredibly important for all citizens to be a part of the community where they can attend and enjoy social and cultural events but unfortunately due to lack of funding provided by local county council and government for such things, Deaf people are often left out and do not have access to events like the Mary From Dungloe Festival. This can lead to social isolation which is a huge issue for Deaf people who live in rural areas like Dungloe.

I would like to say a huge thank you to the organisations who have helped contribute to ensure that the Deaf community and I can participate and enjoy the Festival to the full, just like everyone else. I believe that it will be the very first Festival in Ireland that will be accessible in Irish Sign Language! They are; Bridge Interpreting, Dublin City Council, DeafHear, Deaf Village Ireland, Catholic Institute for Deaf People (CIDP), Sign Language Interpreting Service (SLIS), Irish Deaf Youth Association (IDYA) and the Council for Irish Sign Language Interpreters (CISLI).

What I am most looking forward to about the Crowning Cabaret is standing up on that stage and doing my interview, which will be live-streamed all over the world, in the language I am most comfortable in – Irish Sign Language, and showing people that it’s ok to be different. Be yourself! Embrace diversity!

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Caroline’s hashtag is #Caroline4MFD – follow this on social media for updates from her during her journey.


Don’t forget, this week Donegal Woman and Donegal Daily are celebrating the Mary from Dungloe International Festival with an amazing competition, click below to find out how to win three wonderful Irish hotel breaks and €1000 spending money.

COMPETITION: Win 6 nights B&B plus €1,000 to celebrate the Mary from Dungloe!