(uploaded by Fiona Buckley on behalf of the PSAI Gender Politics SG)
At a conference in UCC in September (Moving in from the Margins: Women’s Political Representation in Ireland) organised by the PSAI Gender Politics Specialist Group and UCC’s Women’s Studies Programme, former Minister Gemma Hussey called for the establishment of an organisation to promote women in politics. The following is the text from her address:-
It is now time for Irish women to cut to the chase and get down to business. The disgrace which is the absence of women from Dáil Éireann has to be addressed with energy, skill and yes – a ‘sparkling anger’ (to quote Margaret McCurtain, aka Sister Benvenuta speaking twenty five years ago!).
There is no shortage of excellent research nationally and internationally to show how Ireland falls totally short in all the tables. It includes research on how other – enlightened – countries have tackled this issue. I happily congratulate those people in Ireland who have undertaken the work, many of whom are here today.
There is no shortage of reports and discussions – and certainly no shortage of verbiage from political parties about how much they would like to see more women.
Happily, neither is there any shortage of evidence internationally to show how much the body politic and the legislature are improved when it is the norm for women to be at or near equality in parliaments.
Our own disastrous performance over the last ten years when no women held key posts like Taoiseach, Minister for Finance, Financial Regulator or bank boss surely raises huge questions. We have seen a celibate male church which has no respect for women being discredited. All the heads of all the major bodies which were in power were men. Surely that must make women angry?
But, unfortunately, what is dramatically absent is focused sustained pressure from a dedicated single-issue organisation which has one aim and one aim only – to get a critical mass of women into Dáil Éireann.
The Women’s Political Association of the 1970’s and 1880’s was just such a group. With small teams of volunteers and no official resources, it concentrated on three things: 1) influencing public opinion; 2) pressurising the political parties, and – most importantly – 3) urging women to get in there and run. It provided support at a practical level when they did. All this was done on a shoe-string, and necessarily, on a small scale.
Result: From four women in Dáil Éireann, the numbers grew to more than twenty – slow, but sure. But we all know what happened….it all stopped after the election of Mary Robinson. Women allowed themselves to think that the work was done, that women’s journey to equality was over. We now know better.
Unless women take on the challenge as so many did in so many ways all those years ago, we are going nowhere on this issue. The time is right, and the need is essential, for an organization to promote more women in Irish politics.
You can follow the PSAI Gender Politics Specialist Group at http://psaigenderpoliticssg.wordpress.com/