1994 - 1997



'I can remember being up in Ballymun school the day I got elected and the sheer unadulterated joy of the people who had worked for it. It was the first time in my life that some act of mine was causing such great pleasure to so many people.'

Úna Claffey, The Women Who Won. The Attic Press, 1993.

Political Career timeline:

  • Member, Dublin County Council, 1979.
  • North County C’tee Dublin County Council, (Chairperson 1980-81).
  • Elected to 22nd Dáil, for Fine Gael, Dublin North, June 1981.
  • Front Bench spokesperson on Overseas Development Aid, 1982.
  • Elected to 23rd Dáil, for Fine Gael, Dublin North, 1982.
  • Elected to 24th Dáil, for Fine Gael, Dublin North, 1982.
  • Chairperson, Joint Committee on Co-operation with Developing.
  • Countries, October 1982-January 1987.
  • Elected to 25th Dáil, for Fine Gael, Dublin North, -1987.
  • Member, Executive of Trocaire, 1987-9.
  • Elected to 26th Dáil, for Fine Gael, Dublin North, 1989.
  • Member, Dail Committee on Procedure and Privileges, 1981-87, 1989.
  • Front Bench spokesperson on Foreign Affairs 1989-92.
  • Member, British Irish Parliamentary Body, 1991- 92.
  • Elected to the 27th Dail, for Fine Gael, 1992.
  • Chairperson, Fingal Committee of Dublin County Council 1992-3.
  • Front Bench spokesperson on Health 1992-93.
  • Deputy Leader of Fine Gael, March 1993.
  • Front Bench spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, 1993- 94;
  • Minister for Justice, 1994-1997.
  • Elected to the 28th Dáil, 1997.
  • Front bench spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment, 1997.
  • Member, Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business, 1997.

Nora Owen, c1979
Nora Owen Collection
Nora Owen, 1981
Nora Owen Collection

Nora Owen, elected Deputy Leader of Fine Gael, 1993
Nora Owen Collection

Senator George Mitchell, United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland who chaired multi-party
talks with Dick Spring, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Nora Owen, Minister for Justice, 1996
Nora Owen Collection

Nora Owen- a volunteer at the Special Olympics in 2003, where she met Nelson Mandela.
Nora Owen Collection

Minister for Justice

Nora undertook a major programme of criminal law reform including:

  • Constitutional amendment leading to the Bail Act, 1997.
  • The Criminal Assets Bureau Act, 1996, the Disclosure of Certain Information for Taxation and Other Purposes Act, 1996 and the Proceeds of Crime Act, 1996 which were designed to prevent criminals benefitting from crime.

She also commenced an unprecedented prison-building programme, designed to provide 800 prison places.

Other legislative highlights included:

  • The Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act, 1996 allows for detention for up to seven days of suspected drug traffickers, and restrictions on the right to silence.
  • The Children Act, 1997 protects children against abuse and outlaws child pornography and trafficking in children.
  • The Sexual Offences (Jurisdiction) Act, 1996, which deals with child sex tourism, was a Private Member’s Bill which was accepted subject to extensive amendment

Minister for Justice

Minister for Justice Nora Owen and Deputy Mary Flaherty

Nora Owen Minister for Justice

Left to right Senator George Mitchell, United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland Chaired Multi Party Talks in 1996, Dick Spring, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Nora Owen Minister for Justice.


Nora was born in June 1945 to Jim O’Mahony and Kitty (née Collins). Her parents met and were engaged within two weeks of their meeting in 1937. Nora’s father had been born in England and he had come to live in Ireland as his father was a customs official when Ireland was under British rule. Jim’s grandmother was the actress Elizabeth Potter. He had small parts in a number of films made in Ireland in the 1940s including Captain Boycott. His sister Nora (whom Nora was called after) was also an actress most famous for playing Godmother in the RTE children’s series, Wanderly Wagon.

Nora’s mother, Kitty Collins, was originally from west Cork and was a grand niece of Michael Collins.

Nora was one of six children. Five sisters and a brother. Nora was four and a half years old when her father died. The eldest Mary (Mary Banotti) was just 10. Her mother was a widow at 38. A Bank employee her father only left her mother with a small pension. A domestic science teacher she was able to go back to work in the College of Catering, Cathal Brugha Street.

At the age of five, Nora, along with her sisters, was sent to boarding school in Wicklow - the same school that her mother had attended.

Nora subsequently went to University College Dublin and studied chemistry, obtaining a BSC and a diploma in microbiology. She became an Industrial chemist.

Married in 1968

Nora worked as a quality control chemist in Sword Laboratories where she met her husband Brian. They married in 1968.

In 1961 Nora joined Fine Gael. In the 1970s she was active in local politics and was a volunteer and later secretary of the Malahide Information Centre, 1976-80. Nora was also a member of the Malahide Community Council and the Ard na Mara Residents Association where she lived, and on the editorial committee of Malahide News.

Her mother encouraged her to stand for election. Although her mother's family had been involved in politics, this was not something that was discussed, and Nora said of that time 'politics was waiting to happen to me.' In 1979 Nora was elected to Dublin County council. In 1981 she was elected as a TD.

Member of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary body

Member of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary body (Formed in 1990 as a link between Houses of Parliament and Houses of the Oireachtas.)

Left to Right

Síle de Valera, Nora Owen, Mary Harney and Liz McManus

Nora was a TD until 2002.

After politics she became a broadcaster.

She presented a number of programmes for TV3 including Midweek.

She is a Volunteer involved in many charities.

She is a grandmother to Milo, Lucy and Alfie.

Nelson Mandela and Nora Owen

Nelson Mandela and Nora Owen, who was a volunteer in the Special Olympics, 2003

Nora and Brian Owen

Nora and Brian Owen with two of their grandchildren, Summer 2018