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Shirley Benton-Bailey B.A. 1998
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Tell us about yourself?

My name is Shirley Benton and I'm 34, married with two children. After completing an Arts Degree in Mary I, I went on to complete a H Dip in Systems Analysis in NUI Galway.  I then worked in the IT industry for ten years in NETg, Am-Beo, Yahoo! and Microsoft. I left Microsoft in 2009 to pursue my dream of writing full-time. I am now a full-time writer and a part-time freelance editor.


Tell us about your time in Mary Immaculate College?

I attended Mary I from 1994-1998, studying English and French to degree level (and Irish and Philosophy in First Year). It was a happy time, in a more innocent pre-Celtic Tiger era when society seemed less materialistic and every day was an adventure.


One memory that stands out in your mind from your time in Mary I?

I remember a magazine called Murmur was created in my time there (in fact, I still have a few copies of it lying around somewhere). I remember being quite impressed that people got up off their tail ends and created something completely new. Wired FM was also started up during my time in Mary I, and a group of us did a comedy drama called Bunlin SCR, broadcast during Ian McGlynn's show – that was a lot of fun!


A member of staff who had an affect or made an impression on you during your time in Mary I?

Florence O'Connor in the English department stands out the most for me for her lively lecturing style! I always loved David Blake's enthusiasm as well (Philosophy department).


What changes would you like to see within Mary I?

I think it would be beneficial for all concerned to tighten the links between Mary I and UL. From a student perspective, there was very little obvious or tangible contact between the colleges when I attended Mary I, and I always thought we could have used their resources more effectively. This might have changed since my time in Mary I though!

Oh, and a college bar would be nice! :)


Do you maintain a relationship with MIC today?

I keep up-to-date with Mary I news through the MIC website. As I now live in Dublin, I unfortunately don't get many opportunities to visit Mary I or to be involved in any activities that take place on campus for which alumni would be welcome to attend. Down through the years since my graduation though, I have on occasion strolled up to the college when I was in Limerick to see the changes in the campus. (It's funny to think that the Internet era was only kicking in around the time I finished my studies in Mary I, and computers really didn't play a big part in my Mary I experience at all. We used to handwrite our essays and there were only a handful of computers for the entire student population to use (these computers were located between Ceann Cora and the library). Slightly different to how things are now!)


What is your current occupation?

I currently work part-time as a freelance editor, and I also work full-time as a writer. My first book, Looking for Leon, is coming out on March 1st, published by Poolbeg.


What are the high points in your career to date?

Getting a publishing deal with Poolbeg in 2010 has definitely been the high point of my career so far. I had been writing in the evenings for many years whilst simultaneously working full-time, and getting published is a lifelong dream come true. Seeing the book in print and on the shelves will be even more of a high point!


What are your hopes/plans for the future?

I hope that the publication of Looking for Leon in Ireland will lead to publication abroad also. It would be amazing to see the book translated, particularly a French translation as I studied French in Mary I. I intend to continue writing full-time and am aiming to have a long career as a published writer.


If you were President of Mary I for a day what would you do?

I'd cancel all meetings and commitments and live the life of a student for a day. I would randomly pick a student's name and arrange to hang out with that person for the entire day, shadowing and mirroring everything on that student's agenda for that day. I would also make curry chips and cheese mandatory eating throughout the college for the day in question. When I attended Mary I, the curry chips were second to none, and cost practically nothing. Somebody in my group of friends had the brainwave of putting grated cheddar cheese on them one fine day, and thus a stable diet was created that was continued for three years. While we were away on Erasmus, the topic of curry chips and cheese was mentioned in every letter (for these were the pre-email days) that I and my friends wrote to each other in our various Erasmus destinations. Ok, it's hardly haute cuisine, but there was something about the curry in Mary I!


If you could quickly sum up your time in Mary I or have any advice for Mary I students what would it be?

If you think the college is lacking a particular group or society, start one yourself – don't wait for someone else to do it or assume that someone else will in time. Everyone can play a part in the college's vibrancy.

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