50:50 launches in the North West – Senator Susan O’Keeffe

[Senator Susan O’Keeffe is now Chair of 50:50 North West. This is her report on the recent launch of 50:50 North West]

How great it was to launch 50:50 in Sligo for the North West. It was also great to have such an enthusiastic & interested attendance at the Clarion Hotel. (16 January 2012).
Great to have women linking together from Cork, Dublin, Donegal, Leitrim, Longford & Sligo – all keen to discuss the importance & need for women in political life

All the speakers approached the lack of women in politics & public life from a different stand point. But all came to the same conclusion – that it is undemocratic for representation to be majority male when the population splits 50/50!

I was delighted to keep the promise I made to 50:50 Group last summer to launch a group in North West –  and what a great group it is.

I took the opportunity of the Launch to say that this is the time to encourage more women into public & political life – not that women are better, or men are better,  but that
we are different & have a responsibility to stand together & work together on behalf of our country. We must get up together and seize the moment.

Rosaleen O’Grady
Mayor of Sligo, Rosaleen O’Grady opened the meeting.  She referred to the shortage of women as “democracy unfinished” and “systemic discrimination.

Noirin Clancy
Noirin Clancy, Women into Public Life, chaired the meeting. She stressed how important it is to have the debate –  and to include men & women in that debate.

Fiona Buckley
Co-founder of 50:50, Fiona Buckley travelled from Cork to inspire us about

    • how and why the 5050 Group started
    • how important it is for women to seize the opportunity & challenge.

She also explained the basics about the Gender Quota Bill (Electoral Amendment (Political Funding) Act).  This is due to be introduced in the Seanad on 2 February.
She stressed that the amendment is to put more women on the ballot paper – not to reserve seats for them in the Oireachtas. Ultimately the voters will choose.

Eilish Corcoran
Eilish Corcoran, Women’s Manifesto, talked about how women are “inspired” to do things, to get involved & to change things.  Eilish described how The Women’s Manifesto Project in Longford has changed the way the women involved view politics.

She pointed out that they had learned that “change is hard and it takes time” – but that encouraging women to understand, and get involved in local politics, was satisfying & worthwhile.

Helen Rochford Brennan
Chair of the Western Development Commission, Helen Rochford Brennan told her story about getting involved in public life. She said that women remain under-represented in public life. She stressed that it is up to women to be “the change we wish to see in the world.

Finola Brennan
Finola Brennan, National Collective of Community Based Women’s Network in Donegal, reminded us of the value of women at community level.
She said it is our responsibility to challenge “the boy’s network” at every level – from town council to the Dail – to ensure that women are part of the fabric of decision making.

Niamh Gallagher
Women for Election, funded by Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, was represented by Niamh Gallagher. She talked about how Women for Election aims to equip women in a practical way to take the step into politics – provide training & mentoring to women who have an interest in stepping forward – but are unsure about what a commitment to politics might mean.

Gemma Hussey
Former Senator, TD & Minister for Education, Gemma Hussey officially launched the group.  Gemma said 50:50 groups are setting up nationwide. They are an indication of

The frustration women feel at the vritual exclusion of women from national politics.

Gemma’s been involved with 50:50 since its establishment in 2010. She’s a great advocate of the role of women in political life. She was a founding member of the Women’s Political Association in 1971.

Gemma Hussey fully supports the pending legislation for gender quotas. However, she called on Minister Phil Hogan to extend the quotas to local elections in 2014.  She called on 50:50 to lobby the Minister to that end.

The night ended with a glass of wine and a pledge to work hard.

Note: The legislation on gender quotas is due to be introduced in Seanad Eireann on 2 February 2012 by Minister for the Environment, Community & Local Government, Phil Hogan.


Meeting in Cork on gender inequality in politics

The Cork 50:50 group cordially invite you to attend a Public Meeting in the Imperial Hotel, Cork on Monday 30th May at 8pm.

During the General Election campaign of February 2011…
the Cork 50:50 Group organised a Breakfast Meeting for the seven female candidates running in the Cork constituencies.

This Meeting served to highlight the under-representation of female candidates for the 31st Dáil. We were most grateful for the candidates’ attendance. Above all, we remain committed to advancing this very important equality issue.

Gender imbalance
– whether male or female – in any sphere of human activity does matter. Indeed, our democracy is incomplete while this imbalance persists. Fundamentally, gender imbalance in public life is a matter of social concern.

Our next meeting
How we seek to redress this imbalance is the purpose of our next meeting. The format of the meeting will constitute reflections by the female candidates who have been invited back to reflect on their experiences of running for Elected Office.

In addition, we are most grateful the Minister of State, with responsibility for Disability, Older People, Equality & Mental Health, Kathleen Lynch TD, is scheduled to attend & address the meeting.