Before being elected as an MEP in 1994, she was a teacher of modern languages and European studies, having spent several years as Head of Modern Foreign Languages at St. Michael's Catholic High School, County National Curriculum Co-ordinator for Modern Languages for Buckinghamshire Education Advisory Service and then an OFSTED inspector.
McNally is fluent in French, German, Spanish and has a good understanding of Italian. Her personal interests include learning languages and world music.
She is married with two grown up children and one grandson.
Her political interests in the European Parliament were in energy, renewable energy and environmental issues. She is a former trustee of the National Energy Foundation, a vice-president of the European Forum on Renewable Energy Sources (EUFORES) and was formerly vice-chair of the European Parliament's Energy and Research Committee. She also served as a substitute member of the Committee on Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities and as a member of the delegation for relations with the countries of South America and MERCOSUR.
She was an opponent of the Iraq war.
In 2003, McNally was awarded Chevalier in the Légion d'Honneur in recognition of her efforts to improve understanding between Britain and France and was appointed an honorary Doctor of Science by Cranfield University.
She was a member of the Transport and General Workers Union, the World Development Movement, Action for Southern Africa, the Socialist Education Association, the Labour Animal Welfare Society, Amnesty International, the Co-operative Party and the Fabian Society.