Before being elected as an MEP in 1994, she was a teacher of modern languages and European studies, having spent several years as Head of Modern Foreign Languages at St. Michael's Catholic High School, County National Curriculum Co-ordinator for Modern Languages for Buckinghamshire Education Advisory Service and then an OFSTED inspector.
McNally is fluent in French, German, Spanish and has a good understanding of Italian. She is married with two grown up children and one grandson.
McNally joined the Labour Party at the age of 16 and served as a Parish Councillor, a District Councillor on Three Rivers District Council (from 1970–1976) and County Councillor on Hertfordshire County Council (from 1986 to 1995) before being elected to the European Parliament. She represented the Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes constituency from 1994 to 1999 and the East of England constituency from 1999 until she stood down from the Parliament in 2004, saying that the regional constituencies were too large an area to represent and that no-one had "the foggiest idea" who she was.
Her political interests in the European Parliament were in energy, renewable energy and environmental issues. She is a former trustee of the National Energy Foundation, a vice-president of the European Forum on Renewable Energy Sources (EUFORES) and was formerly vice-chair of the European Parliament's Energy and Research Committee. She also served as a substitute member of the Committee on Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities and as a member of the delegation for relations with the countries of South America and MERCOSUR.
In 2003, McNally was awarded Chevalier in the Légion d'Honneur in recognition of her efforts to improve understanding between Britain and France and was appointed an honorary Doctor of Science by Cranfield University.
She was a member of the Transport and General Workers Union, the World Development Movement, Action for Southern Africa, the Socialist Education Association, the Labour Animal Welfare Society, Amnesty International, the Co-operative Party and the Fabian Society.
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- UK | England | 'Forgotten' MEP to stand down. BBC News (11 September 2002). Retrieved on 26 August 2011.
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- Iraq: how your MEP voted | World news | guardian.co.uk. Politics.guardian.co.uk. Retrieved on 26 August 2011.