The incoming president of Macra, Elaine Houlihan, has said that it is “a huge honour” to become the second woman to lead the organisation.

On Friday (March 3), it was confirmed that the 27-year-old Limerick woman would become the 39th national president of Macra.

Houlihan, who is the current Macra Munster vice-president, was the only candidate to formally declare an interest in running for the top job in the young farmers and rural youth organisation.

To mark International Women’s Day today (Wednesday, March 8), Agriland spoke with new leader about her involvement with Macra and her goals for her upcoming two-year presidential term.


Houlihan comes from a small village called Athlacca, located around 26km from Limerick city. Her family has a beef farm where she still helps out part-time.

She has worked as a physiotherapist since qualifying in the Netherlands and is planning on continuing at least one day a week while holding the top role in Macra.

“I left Ireland after my Leaving Cert thinking that there was nothing here for me and decided to study abroad. It wasn’t because I didn’t have the points to do physio here in Ireland, I did. It was the fact that I had the same feeling that everybody else has now – there was nothing keeping me here.

“When I came back, Macra was the one thing that integrated me back into my community. I think that’s something that’s going to be massive for those that have moved abroad when they do come back.

“When I came back my friends had moved on. They weren’t living locally anymore. Things had happened that you missed in your community, even family wise.

“By getting more active in Macra then it really just embedded me in my community,” Elaine said.

“I think the one thing that people don’t actually talk about when they do move back is how lost you feel. Nobody wants to speak up and say that because nobody wants to admit that they did feel lost, or they are feeling lost currently.

“But there’s no there’s no point not talking about it because it’s organisations like Macra that will help you to integrate back in,” she said.


In 2021, Houlihan became part of an all-female vice-presidential Macra team following her election as Munster vice-president. The organisation’s national chair and vice-chair are also women.

The 2021-2023 Macra na Feirme President Team. L-R: North West vice-president Luna Orofiamma, John Keane, Munster vice-president Elaine Houlihan and Leinster vice-president Claire Gough

“We’re very kind of female dominant at the moment in Macra which is just brilliant to see and I think it’s important to show that for the younger generation,” she said.

Elaine admitted that becoming Munster vice-president was “a huge step up” from her previous roles as chair of Kilmallock and Limerick Macra clubs.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t really know what I was getting into,” she admitted.

“But I’m a firm believer that you kind of have to be uncomfortable to develop as a person.

“I think anybody that is even thinking about it, all I will say is the next time around put your hat in the ring.

“You have nothing to lose. It’s a brilliant experience. You’re going to take something from it regardless of the outcome of any election.”

Houlihan said that she “was holding out hope” for a presidential contest but when the deadline for nominations fell last week, she was the sole candidate.

“My family are still in a bit of shock. My poor mother was away on holidays when all this happened, so she arrived back to the place being bombarded with photographers from different newspapers. I think they’re extremely proud and I hope to do them extremely proud,” she added.


In 2007, Catherine Gowing (then Buckley) from Co. Cork became the first female president of Macra.

Elaine said that it is “a huge honour” to be the second woman ever to hold the role.

“It’s something that I haven’t really dwelt on too much at the moment, I think it’s really when I take office it will hit me a lot harder,” she said.

“It’s an absolute honor and privilege to be a female leading this [organisation], and I think it’s important to say that at the end of the day, gender shouldn’t define anybody in these roles.

“And for anybody that will or is turning around saying that a female voice could be weaker, I don’t think it will be.

“There’s some extremely strong females out there in the ag sector already and it’s to carry on the mantle of their work,” she said.


The incoming Macra president said that one of her main goals will be to focus on the membership of the organisation.

There are currently an estimated 10,500-11,000 Macra members in 170 clubs across the country.

“There’s been an exceptional job done over the last two years. Covid-19 had a massive knock-on effect to our organisation, along with every other organisation out there,” she said.

“I think the work that has been done is something I want to continue, but also increase. Covid-19 taught us how to live without a lot of things and I think it is to get people more active in Macra is going to be my huge thing with numerous national recruitment campaigns.”

Being a physiotherapist, Elaine is very passionate about physical and mental health, which is something she is eager to incorporate into her two-year term.

“I think we do an exceptional job with mental health, especially with ‘Make the Moove‘, but I want to bring in the physical health side because one of the best things to help any mental health issues is your physical health,” she said.

Houlihan is also planning to maintain Macra’s “extremely strong voice in the agricultural sector” by driving on the policy work already underway.

“I want to be a strong voice not alone just for the ag side, but also the rural living side,” she said.

“I think that’s a massive part of our organisation too because at the end of the day we have more non-farming members than farming members currently within the organisation. They deserve a voice as well.”

The Macra annual general meeting (AGM) will be in Carbery Macra region, in Bantry, Co. Cork on May 13, when Elaine Houlihan will officially take over from the current national president John Keane.

She paid tribute to the “phenomenal” work done by the Tipperary man over the past two years.

“It’s big shoes to fill, not just for me, but for anybody in the future because of what he has done for the ag side of the organisation,” she said.