Máire Geoghegan-Quinn was born on 5 September 1950 in Carna (50 km west of Galway city). Christened Mary, she was always known as Máire, the Irish version of her name.
Her father Johnny Geoghegan was a native of Oughterard, her mother Barbara Folan was teaching in Carna when they met, so the couple settled there. Her mother had to give up work because of the marriage bar.
Máire had a sibling, a younger brother who was 4 years her junior, born the year her father was elected as a TD for the Galway West Dáil Éireann Constituency.
Máire recalls her upbringing in what she describes as ‘a very political household.’ Her earliest memories of her father rising early to go to Dublin, he was away from Tuesday to Thursday.
Johnny Geoghegan entered politics as a Fianna Fáil Councillor, before being elected a TD in 1954 (for the 15th Dáil) for the Galway West Constituency. He was elected in the five subsequent General Elections, gaining ministerial office when Máire was 20 (as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Welfare, Joseph Brennan TD).
He served in Ministerial office until Fianna Fáil lost power in the 1973 General Election. By that time, the family had moved to Galway City – while Máire was attending Carysfort Teacher Training College (in Blackrock, County Dublin).
Her father was by then unwell, he had a heart attack and was hospitalised in 1973. Returning to the Dáil, Máire assisted him on Tuesday evenings and Wednesday afternoons with ‘getting the letters and representations out’.
When Johnny Geoghegan was unable to attend his constituency clinic, Máire would act for him, attending his clinic in the ‘Hole in the Wall’ pub (Eyre Street, Galway). Her father had a further two heart attacks, recalling later ‘we had warnings’ but it was still ‘a major shock’ and ‘traumatic’ when he died on 5 January 1975.
Máire’s secondary school education was through Irish, first in Carna and later as a boarder at the Mercy Convent, Cólaiste Muire, in Tourmakeady in County Mayo. There, she was a good student who contemplated studying medicine, and also became a skilled debater.
Her mother wanted Máire to be a teacher and she did, as she later recalled ‘exactly as she told me.’