Gaffney, Gertrude (‘Gertie’,‘Conor Galway’) (d. 1959), journalist, was born in Middletown, Co. Armagh, and educated at St Louis convent, Carrickmacross. Under the pen name ‘Conor Galway’ she published several stories and one novel, Workers towards the dawn (1919). She was living in London by 1920, when she contributed occasional articles to the Irish Independent on Irish political demonstrations in the capital. She was also Dublin correspondent of The Universe and wrote for other catholic publications. In the late 1920s she returned to Dublin as the Independent's social correspondent, but left in the early 1930s to take up the editorship in London of the women's magazine Queen. In 1935 she was recruited as the Irish Independent's women's columnist by the newly appointed editor, Frank Geary (qv), who became a close friend. Her column, which was called 'I sketch your world', combined fashion and social gossip with political analysis; in the pre-war period she travelled widely on the continent, reporting on foreign news stories (such as the coronation of Pius XII) at a time when it was unusual for Irish newspapers to send out roving foreign correspondents rather than relying on agency staffers. She eulogised, in lavish and uncritical terms, the Irish Brigade, raised by Eoin O'Duffy (qv) to fight for Franco in 1936, after visiting them at their training camp; she later publicised the problems faced by many members on their return to Ireland and the controversy between O'Duffy and Patrick Belton (qv) over the fate of the funds raised on their behalf. Her commentary ranged across Europe; she was in Danzig shortly before the outbreak of the second world war and narrowly escaped being caught up in the fighting.
Gaffney was an outspoken opponent of the Irish constitution of 1937; she claimed that its articles on the role of women were inspired by Hitler (suggesting that Éamon de Valera (qv) harboured similar dictatorial ambitions), that they would drive even unmarried women out of the workforce, failed to take account of economic necessity as a cause of women's seeking work, and might ultimately call into question female suffrage. Her columns on the subject in the most widely read Irish newspaper appear to have played a significant role in stirring up female voters against the constitution. A series of articles by Gaffney in 1937 on Irishwomen's emigration to Britain caused a sensation and was subsequently reprinted as a pamphlet (Emigration to England: what you should know about it: advice to Irish girls (1937)). Drawing on contacts with catholic charitable organisations in Britain, it outspokenly denounced the problems faced by rural girls in Britain and the ‘unchristian’ behaviour of parents and priests who banished unmarried pregnant women to Britain; and it suggested that emigration from Ireland was due to the damage done to Irish agriculture by de Valera and the economic war, and to the inability of naïve women to appreciate the blessings of rural Ireland. It says something about the mental contortions of which 1930s middle-class catholic Ireland was capable that this chic lover of fashion and foreign travel was also an outspoken admirer of Father Peter Conefrey (qv); Gaffney repeatedly praised his attempts to make his parishioners satisfied with their station in life by teaching them to grow their own food, weave their own clothes, and substitute ceilidhs for the jazz allegedly favoured by Radio Éireann.
Her discussion of the problems faced by Irish servants in Jewish households in the East End of London can be seen as carrying anti-Semitic undertones. She was strongly anti-Zionist, and in the late 1930s published several articles comparing the Palestinian Arab revolt against the British authorities and Zionist settlers to the Irish war of independence, a parallel in which Haj Amin al-Husseini, mufti of Jerusalem, was the counterpart of Michael Collins (qv).
The second world war and its aftermath confined Gaffney to Ireland, and she does not appear to have recovered her former prominence. She harboured the unfulfilled ambition to write a history of Fine Gael, which would serve as a counterblast to The Irish Republic by Dorothy Macardle (qv). The Fine Gael archives in UCD contain Gaffney's correspondence relating to this project. Her column in the Irish Independent ceased in 1946, possibly because of ill health, though an article by her appeared in the Independent as late as 1957. She died in a Dublin nursing home on 8/9 December 1959. She was burried in the family plot in Middletown, Co. Armagh. She remained unmarried; the exact nature of her relationship with Frank Geary has been the subject of speculation. Gaffney's career raises questions about the role of popular journalism in influencing attitudes to women's lives, work, and leisure in mid-twentieth century Ireland, and about the role of women in right-wing politics, which might repay further research.