Challenge to gender quotas - the saga continues

The biggest political bombshell of the last few days has been the legal challenge which is now being mounted to the legislation on gender quotas.

I always felt it would happen and now it has. Fianna Fáil activist, Brian Mohan, in Dublin is challenging a Selection Convention held recently in Dublin Central. Mr Mohan said, "My case is against Ireland and the Attorney General".

He is being represented by Michael McDowell, SC and Michael Ronayne, junior counsel and solicitors Fahy, Banbury & McGeever. I don’t know yet if they will be joined in this action by Pat O’Rourke and Cllr Seamus Butler in Longford.

However, it is a very strong move against the legislation. Michael McDowell (ex-Attorney General and ex-Minister for Justice ) is regarded as one of the best legal brains in Ireland. If he is taking it on it means there is substance in the claim.

Quite by chance I spoke with Michael Ronayne over last weekend. When I was in Cabinet with Síle de Valera some years ago, Michael Ronanye was an advisor to Síle, who was then the Minister for Arts.

The case is being taken on constitutional grounds to the High Court and through a fast track application.

It will be interesting to see how this develops. I always thought the legislation was faulty. It had been processed through the Dáil by Minister Phil Hogan, now the Commissioner in Brussels. Phil Hogan was also the Minister for the setting up of Irish Water.

The two members of the present Dáil who spoke strongly against the legislation when it was winding its way through the Dáil and Seanad were the Labour TD, Joanna Tuffy and the Independent TD, Maureen O’Sullivan.

Needless to say I am hugely interested in how this develops so will be keeping a good watching brief on same.

I told you last week I would tell you about my day in Waterford. Last Sunday week, when we were still in the throes of that beautiful mellow autumn weather, I went to a place called Portlaw in County Waterford to speak at a coffee morning for Councillor Mary Butler. Before I went I ascertained that she was not a ‘put on’ woman through the gender quotas. In fact Cllr Mary Butler went to the Convention with four other county councillors and she easily got the top spot.

Anyway, back to Waterford; we landed at about 12 noon to find some 250 people gathered in her sister’s home in Portlaw – men and women, old and young – all there for the cause of having Mary Butler elected to the next Dáil. It was such a beautiful fine day, the people had spilled out of the house into the garden, front, sides, and back. Mary Butler and I spoke to the full crowd. She is a fine candidate with a great Waterford pedigree and I wish her well.

Back to books. I believe Eamon Gilmore’s book is doing well in sales. I am not surprised that it stirred up so many issues within the Labour Party.

I have news of another book – over a year ago, Noel Whelan, Dr Brian Murphy, and I were joint editors of a book on Brian Lenihan Jnr called In Calm and Crisis. It got a great launch and from time to time we were told that sales were continuing at a good level. I went to Waterford and Galway on a sales pitch for the book.

We had asked 20 people to write 5,000 words on their acquaintance with and knowledge of Brian Lenihan. Some wonderful people responded.

The good news about it all is that we had decided to donate any royalties from the sales of the book to the Irish Cancer Society, bearing in mind Brian’s sudden, untimely, and early death from pancreatic cancer.

This week the three of us presented a cheque to Kathleen O’Meara of the Irish Cancer Society at the gates of Dáil Éireann for €19,000, which are the royalties from the sales to date of the book on Brian Jnr.

We were so delighted and so proud to do it in his memory.

Even now, four and a half years after his death, I still choke up talking, thinking, or writing about him. Brian was such a very special person and it is good to know that the Four Year Plan which he left behind has been followed faithfully by the present Government (except in a few instances ). This has resulted in the fine economic situation which the country is now experiencing.

I know full well there were huge heartaches for many along the way, but it is good to know that all eventually has come well.

Michael Noonan, the present Minister for Finance, has had a steady hand on the financial tiller since he came into office straight after Brian. It is my belief that it is he who is responsible for the good standing of Fine Gael among the electorate. My guess is that Fine Gael will seek to use him as much as they can during the forthcoming General Election.

So now, gender quotas being challenged, books being written, memories of loved ones being honoured, and so many other things make up the patchwork that is life.

Talk with you all again next week.

Slán go fóill,

Mary O’Rourke

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