Oldcastle writer’s new novel inspired by young protesters

Former Meath Chronicle writer Bronagh Curran of Oldcastle is publishing a new novel next month. “The Good Activist” delves into the power of hero worship and the scars created by secrets and lies.

Published by Donegal-based Merdog Books on April 22, it tells the story of an 18-year-old girl from Cavan who finds much more than she bargained for when she moves to Dublin for college.

Bronagh is the daughter of Paula and the late Tommy Curran, former director of the Oldcastle Credit Union, and credits her mother with much of the inspiration for her writing.

Alumnus of Gilson National School and St Oliver’s Post Primary School, Bronagh has always loved books.

“I loved books and reading, but I never thought I could write one,” she said. “But I had in mind that I could adapt books for film or television.”

Because of this, she decided to take a media production course in college, fell in love with the journalism module, and particularly enjoyed writing feature films.

After college, Bronagh worked part-time for the Meath Chronicle for a year, and among those she interviewed was Navan-born actor Pierce Brosnan.

She then went to work for the Irish News of the World where she spent six years.

“The culture changed there after a few years and I wanted to get out of journalism. I rented a house in Kildare and slept with people’s dogs for a year, then moved from one job to another for a few years.

In 2011, Bronagh decided to start writing for young adults after noticing a gap in the market for that age group. His first book, a novel for young adults, “The Path of Totality” (In Het Spoor Van de Eclips) was published in the Netherlands in 2016.

Bronagh then took some time off to write and started working in dental practice administration and is now training to become a dental nurse.

“So now I have a reasonable and reliable job, so I don’t have to worry about making money and I can write in my spare time.”

The Good Activist is her first adult novel and will launch at Hodges ad Figgis in Dublin on April 22.

The hero of her new book is Maeve Daly, a product of her time, opinionated, impressionable and determined. But she is also the product of her upbringing, for half her life she called her teenage mother her sister and never knew her place in the family, let alone in the world. So when she finds The Clan, like-minded social and environmental activists, and a mother figure in their enigmatic leader Ferdia Cusack, her destiny is set on the path to destruction.

Bronagh was inspired to write history while observing protesters in government buildings.

She worked as an aide to Senator Marie Louise O’Donnell and in 2019 she got a bird’s eye view of Extinction Rebellion protesters as they gathered around Leinster House.

“Their passion was inspiring and contagious and I remember thinking, thank goodness for them. Thank goodness for today’s socially conscious, eco-conscious, selfless and courageous young people, the future is in good hands.” But then I thought about what could happen if all this unbridled enthusiasm for revolution was harnessed in the wrong direction, by the wrong hands. Could something with such obvious good intention be corrupted by a negative force? And that was the core of the idea for The Good Activist.

“And when I thought more deeply about why Maeve would be so susceptible to this indoctrination, I felt the secret lay in the lies and deep-rooted misogyny of rural Ireland,” she says.

Bronagh will host readings at Antonia Bookshop in Trim on May 5, Oldcastle Library on May 19 and Academy Books in Drogheda on April 30.