A tomboy who adored sport, Karina loved watching war movies with her father. At 19, she worked in the Sports Complex in UCD, as a sports assistant.
After five months, and an initial rejection from the Irish Army, she was accepted, joining in 1981.
Karina loved the army – but hated the way women were treated – and given more menial roles.
“Some men thought we were there for their amusement. They’d knock on our door, wanting a party, and when we said ‘no’, they’d kick the door down.”
Karina defied the odds, and, serving in Lebanon, Eritrea and Bosnia, became the first woman to become a Senior NCO.
“It took 17 years,” she says, “But I got there.”
She retired at 50, and, since then has taken courses in gourmet cooking and horticulture, and has spent time caring for her sick mother, who died recently.
“And I volunteered for ARK in Dublin” she says. “I worked in cancer care reflexology and aromatherapy.”
Meanwhile, Karina had been keeping diaries.
“As one of the female pathfinders it was always my dream to write a book,” she says, “but I hadn’t once thought I would be a whistle-blower.”
That changed when she took part in Katie Hannon’s radio documentary, Women of Honour in 2021.
Who is Karina Molloy?
Date of birth: 1961 in Adara, Co Donegal.
Education: St Columba’s Comprehensive in Glenties, Co Donegal.
Home: “Mum’s house in Adara.”
Family: Partner of 15 years, Mark Conlon; 2 brothers and one sister.
The Day Job: “I’m going to do cancer care as a volunteer in Donegal Town.”
In Another Life: “At 21 I toured Australia alone. I’d love to pack up and more to Australia or New Zealand.”
Favourite Writers: Lee Child; Michael Harding.
Second Book: “This book was pared down; there’s another one in me.”
Top Tip: “if you’re telling the truth it will flow. Don’t overcomplicate it.”
The Debut: A Woman in Defence. (With Kathryn Rogers.) Hachette Books Ireland: €17.99. Kindle: €9.35.
This absorbing account of Karina’s service life makes for essential reading.
“I hope it will change the system, and that protection will finally come,” she says. “I don’t want anyone else to suffer what us females had to.”
The Verdict: Powerful, poignant, and shocking.
Published in the Irish Examiner on 4th February.
© Sue J Leonard. 2023.