Open main menu

Detta O'Cathain, Baroness O'Cathain

Detta O'Cathain, Baroness O'Cathain, OBE (surname pronounced oh ka-HOYN, born 2 February 1938, County Limerick) is an Irish-born British businesswoman and Conservative politician. Her parents were Caoimhín and Margaret (née Prior) Ó Catháin and she was born Margaret M. B. Ó Cathain in Cork.[1] She was educated at Laurel Hill Convent in Limerick, before earning a BA at University College Dublin and emigrating to England.

The Baroness O'Cathain

Official portrait of Baroness O'Cathain crop 2.jpg
Personal details
Born (1938-02-02) 2 February 1938 (age 81)
Political partyConservative


Business careerEdit

She has been a director of many companies. She served as non-executive director of Midland Bank from 1984 to 1993, of Tesco from 1985 to 2000, and of British Airways from 1993 to 2004. She served as managing director of the Milk Marketing Board of England and Wales from 1984 to 1989 and of the Barbican Centre from 1990 1995. She has also been a director of BNP/Paribas (UK) and Allders. In the 1993 New Year Honours she was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).[2]

Political careerEdit

Baroness O'Cathain made many appearances on the BBC's Question Time during the 1980s. She was made a life peer as Baroness O'Cathain, of The Barbican in the City of London on 21 June 1991[3] and sits in the House of Lords on the Conservative benches. She has served on a number of committees within the House, including the Constitution Committee and the Economic Affairs Committee. She currently sits on the European Union Committee, chairing the Sub-Committee on Internal Market, Infrastructure and Employment.

She is known for her socially conservative views, in particular her efforts to retain the ban on same-sex couples from adopting, and has taken on a leadership role against gay rights after the death of Lady Young.[4]

In 2004, Lady O'Cathain denied that her decision to step down from the board of British Airways was connected with a threatened boycott of the airline by gay rights group Stonewall.[5] Gay rights supporters took exception to what was described as her attempted "wrecking" amendment of the civil partnerships bill. She responded that her amendment was "nothing to do with homosexuals at all." In 2009, she proposed a law criminalising the possession of "extreme pornographic writings", similar to the recently passed law on images.[6][7]

In 2014, Baroness O’Cathain was selected to chair the House of Lords inquiry into civil use of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS)[1], devices commonly referred to as drones. The intent was to ensure that this technology was developed and used appropriately in the EU. In October 2014 the Baroness, who also sits on the Digital Skills Committee [2], was the subject of some note in the UK news [3] after she demonstrated her lack of awareness [4] of current technologies viz: Google Maps / Google Streetview.


  1. ^ Detta O'Cathain, Baroness O'Cathain The Peerage: A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain as well as the royal families of Europe
  2. ^ "No. 49212". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1982. p. 11.
  3. ^ "No. 52583". The London Gazette. 26 June 1991. p. 9777.
  4. ^ Kite, Melissa (17 October 2002). "Lords join forces to wreck Blair's gay adoption Bill". The Times. London. Retrieved 18 March 2010.
  5. ^ Waller, Martin (31 July 2004). "Untimely departure". The Times. London. Retrieved 18 March 2010.
  6. ^ "Amendment text (3 July 2009)". 3 July 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
  7. ^ "Tory Lady tries to give bodice-rippers the snip Stealing a leaf from New Labour's morality handbook". Retrieved 4 October 2013.

External linksEdit