Carney, Winifred (‘Winnie’) (1887–1943), trade unionist, feminist, and republican, was born Maria Winifred Carney 4 December 1887 at Fisher's Hill, Bangor, Co. Down, youngest child among three sons and three daughters of Alfred Carney, commercial traveller, and Sarah Carney (née Cassidy; d. 1933). Her father was a protestant and her mother a catholic; the children were reared as catholics. After her birth her parents moved to Belfast and separated during her childhood. Her father went to London and little more was heard from him; her mother supported the family by running a sweetshop on the Falls Road. Winifred was educated at the CBS in Donegall St., Belfast, where she became a junior teacher. Independently minded, she later worked as a clerk in a solicitor's office, having qualified as shorthand typist from Hughes's Commercial Academy. In her early twenties she became involved in the Gaelic League and the suffragist and socialist movements. She had a wide range of cultural interests in literature, art, and music, had a good voice, and played the piano well.
In 1912 she took over from her friend Marie Johnson (qv) as secretary of the Irish Textile Workers' Union based at 50 York St., Belfast, which functioned as the women's section of the ITGWU and was led by James Connolly (qv). Her pay was low and irregular but she and her colleague Ellen Grimley (qv) worked with great enthusiasm to improve the wages and conditions of the mill-girls, and Carney managed the time-consuming and tedious insurance section of the union. During the 1913 lockout she was active in fund-raising and relief efforts for the Dublin workers. Many of those connected with the ITGWU were drawn into the republican movement and she was present at the founding of Cumann na mBan in Wynn's Hotel, Dublin (2 April 1914). A close friend of Connolly, she joined the Citizen Army (she was a crack shot with a rifle), and became his personal secretary. She appears to have been completely in his confidence and in full agreement with his revolutionary aims. On 14 April 1916 he summoned her to Dublin to assist in the final preparations for the Easter rising, and for the next week she typed dispatches and mobilisation orders in Liberty Hall. She was the only woman in the column that seized the GPO on Easter Monday, 24 April (although several others arrived later). During the rising she acted as Connolly's secretary and, even after most of the women had been evacuated from the GPO, she refused to leave and replied sharply to Patrick Pearse (qv) when he suggested she should. She stayed with Connolly in the makeshift headquarters at 16 Moore St., typing dispatches and dressing his wound, and attending to the other wounded men. After the surrender (29 April) she was interned, first in Mountjoy and from July in Aylesbury prison, and was released 24 December 1916. In autumn 1917 she was Belfast delegate to the Cumann na mBan convention, and was appointed president of the Belfast branch. In 1918 she was briefly imprisoned in Armagh and Lewes prisons. She stood for Sinn Féin in Belfast's Victoria division in the general election of 1918 (the only woman candidate in Ireland apart from Constance Markievicz, (qv)), advocating a workers' republic, but she polled badly, winning only 4 per cent of the votes. Afterwards she was very critical of the support she had received from Sinn Féin. In 1919 she was transferred to the Dublin head office of the ITGWU, but did not get on well with colleagues such as Joe McGrath (qv) and William O'Brien (qv) and returned to Belfast after a few months. She was Belfast secretary of the Irish Republican Prisoners' Dependents Fund (1920–22). She became a member of the revived Socialist Party of Ireland in 1920 and attended the annual convention of the Independent Labour Party in Glasgow in April 1920.
Never deviating in her hope for the establishment of Connolly's workers' republic, she opposed the treaty, and sheltered republicans such as Markievicz and Austin Stack (qv) in her home at 2a Carlisle Circus, Belfast. On 25 July 1922 she was arrested by the RUC and held in custody for eighteen days after ‘seditious papers’ were discovered in her home. She refused to recognise the court and was fined £2. She was critical of partition and the social conservatism of Irish governments after independence and remained in Belfast, concentrating on helping the local labour movement. She refused to accept a pension for her part in 1916, relenting only weeks before her death. In 1924 she joined the Court Ward branch of the Northern Ireland Labour Party and was active in the party's radical wing promoting republican socialism. In discussions with colleagues she always praised Connolly and defended the 1916 rising, but was modest about her own part in it and never revealed what she knew of its planning; she also shared Connolly's distrust of James Larkin (qv). Some regarded her as rather austere and sharp-tongued, but close friends spoke of her kindness and charm, and praised her strong personal and political loyalties. She continued to work for the ITGWU in Belfast and Dublin until September 1928, when she married George McBride. McBride (1898–1988), a protestant, was a textile engineer, staunch socialist, and NILP member, who had joined the UVF in 1913 and fought in the British army (1914–18). They lived at 3 Whitewell Parade, Whitehouse, Belfast, and, despite their disagreements about Irish nationalism, their marriage was very happy; they had no children. In about 1934 Carney joined the small Belfast Socialist Party, but her health was deteriorating and she took little active part in politics. She died 21 November 1943 in Belfast and was buried in Milltown cemetery, Belfast.