Irish Mrs Brown's Boys actor Eilish O’Carroll shares moving coming out journey

On the RTÉ programme Keys To My Life, actress Eilish O’Carroll shared her journey from coming out to finding love with Marian O’Sullivan.

The picture shows Eilish O'Carroll (on the right) with Brendan Courtney (on the left) on Keys to my Life.

Eilish O’Carroll went on a trip down memory lane during an interview with host Brendan Courtney on RTÉ’s programme Keys To My Life. The episode explores her career, notably as Winnie McGoonan, Mrs Brown’s sidekick in the highest-rating TV show in the UK and Ireland, Mrs Brown Boys, written by her brother Brendan O’Carroll. Visiting her past homes, the Irish actor shared her journey of coming out as a lesbian when she was 40 years old.

At that time, she was happily married to her second husband and living with him and her sons in the UK. The Mrs Brown Boys star remembered finding out she was a lesbian.

“I met a woman, and I fell in love with a woman. I didn’t plan to, and that would have major consequences on my family and my life at the time.”

She further explained: “Neither of us were out. I mean, we were both straight women, both living a straight life. I’d never met a lesbian before in my life!”

Eilish O’Carroll progressively saw her feelings for her husband decrease as her love for the woman deepened. As she explained, she was struggling to accept her identity and to make a decision regarding her family. Feeling ashamed, she did not confide in anyone else but her husband, with whom she is still very close today, as he “was very, very supportive.”

Brendan Courtney took the actress to her old home in West Cork, where she moved in 1988 to hide after discovering her sexuality. There, she first spent a lot of time alone, reflecting on the impact her decision to leave had on her family and dealing with her guilt. Eilish explained that the loneliness came to outweigh the feeling of guilt, allowing her to go to Cork City to explore her sexuality. She thought to herself: “Look I need to come out. I need to, em, join the world of gay people.”

She also shared: “This is where I came out. Not only came-out-came-out, but it is where I came out to myself. You know, I’m hiding here and I’m feeling terribly guilty, because of all I have, you know, left behind, and all the impact that my decision had on my family.”

Eilish O’Carroll describes that as the time when she became an adult, accepting her identity: “My wall, I built it, I kicked it down.”



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The wall Eilish talks about in the documentary is linked to her struggle with her “inner homophobia” at the time, which she discussed in an interview on the Get Gossy With Grossy show back in 2020. She explained how discovering she was a lesbian led her on a dramatic and emotional journey, where she would face her inner demons.

On Keys To My Life, she stated as well: “My biggest problem was my conscience and my Catholic guilt.” These feelings explain why the actress felt the need to hide in West Cork for a while. Visiting her cottage with Brendan Courtney, she remembers wondering how a lesbian should behave, and what she was supposed to wear to fit in. She eventually found that sense of belonging, when she joined a support group for lesbians over 40, allowing herself to live her identity freely.

Today, Eilish O’Carroll is in a happy relationship with Marian O’Sullivan. On the RTÉ show, she shared her gratitude to have met her partner when she felt open and free, not having to introduce her as her “special” or “good friend” but saying: “This is my girlfriend”.



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The couple has been together since 2003, when they met at the Lesbian in Cork (LINC) Support Group. As Marian is a stage manager for Mrs. Brown Boys, both work together on the live show. Eilish shared that they separate their relationship from their work to keep both independent from one another. Even if Marian is Cork-based and Eilish has her home in Dublin, both spend a lot of time together on set.

The RTÉ programme also dives into Eilish’s childhood, her first marriage with an abusive husband, and into her relationship with her two sons. By visiting all her old homes, Eilish rewinds her career, which took off in her 50s.

Her brother invited her to join his sitcom Mrs Brown Boys, on which the actress has been since 2002. Now playing the iconic character of Winnie McGoonan, Eilish O’Carroll has been on each televised spin-off as well as on the stage show. The Irish actress also toured the UK and Ireland for five years with her one-woman show Live, Love Laugh, and was on Dancing with the Stars in 2019.

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