Local Sinn Féin Deputy, Sorca Clarke, has urged the Government to do much more to deliver gender equality, warning that many women still face unacceptable barriers to working after they have children.
Deputy Clarke warned the Dáil that gender quotas do little to improve the number of women in political office if structural inequalities remain which disproportionately impact on women.
Her comments came during a debate on the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality.
“We as legislators and as a society have a massive job of work ahead of us. We need to make changes to provide true gender equality and a truly equal society for all citizens of this State," she said.
“It’s not just urgent action that is needed, but co-ordinated and monitored action across an array of areas.
“On 23 May 2014 I was elected to Westmeath County Council. On 12 June, I gave birth to my fourth child. So I was 37 weeks pregnant when I was first elected.
“I’m not even going to get in to the comments that were made to me in the count centre on the night I was elected because I don’t believe in giving that level of misogyny more air than it received then.
“At the very first council meeting, I was actually due to be in hospital for tests but there was no mechanism for me to vote by proxy, in absentee or in advance, and that’s because of the archaic system of voting by a show of hands.
“The only advice that I was given is that I should have considered a judicial review. That wasn’t good enough seven years ago and it’s still not good enough today.
“While gender quotas are key to addressing female participation, unless we also address these systematic issues; those very illogical issues that are there, what we are essentially doing is wallpapering over a crack in the foundation.
“The reality is that in 2021 many women are expected to work as if they don’t have children but they’re expected to parent as if they don’t have careers.
“Without a genuine co-ordinated approach to gender inequality we are going to be having the same conversations the next time the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality reports. That would be failing the women and young girls of Ireland and those of us who are here in this parliament who are completely under-representative of those women."