Local Fine Gael Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, launched ‘A More Inclusive Politics for Westmeath’ in the surrounds of the Westmeath County Council on Monday of this week.
Designed to increase the participation of women and people from diverse or minority backgrounds in the next Westmeath local elections in 2024, Deputy Burke hoped that the launch of ‘A More Inclusive Politics for Westmeath’ would have a positive impact and encourage representatives from the target groups to contest the local authority elections in two years time.
“I am delighted to be present for yet another crowning achievement for the inclusion of women, minorities, and people from diverse backgrounds in local government. Our Department has allocated funding for proposals for projects that have the potential to achieve this outcome, and I am delighted to see that Westmeath County Council have taken the initiative and made good the well-deserved funding that they have secured for their project. I am excited to see the positive impact that this project will have, and I look forward to working with Westmeath County Council on future proposals that they may submit to the Department.
“They have developed a project video alongside award winning videographer Noel McIntyre which helps to relay the structure, layout, and organisation of the Council, as well as the experiences of some of the serving members on Westmeath County Council, most notably the project committee featuring Cllr Aoife Davitt, Cllr Emily Wallace, Cllr Hazel Smyth, Cllr Louise Heavin, Cllr Frankie Keena and Cllr Frank McDermott. This video offers advice and encouragement for those looking to get involved,” Deputy Burke commented.
A collaborative project booklet was also developed with Dr Michelle Maher from See Her Elected (SHE ), which is a rural programme that has been leading the way in addressing the under-representation of women in local government.
Dr Michelle Maher, the Programme Manager with See Her Elected said it was a pleasure to work with Westmeath County Council.
“They are leading the way with such a comprehensive project to achieve more diversity in politics in Westmeath. Since the first woman was elected to Westmeath County Council in 1967, there have only been a further 13, i.e. 14 women in total. This means that women in Westmeath have been persistently under-represented in local politics and it is encouraging to see the current Council being so proactive in wanting to bring about change”.
SHE was established in 2019 and is funded by the Department of Housing, Local Government, and Heritage. Deputy Burke has been involved with the programme since 2020 and has overseen some of its major successes, such as the achievement of winning the ‘European Innovation in Politics’ award in the democracy category in December 2021.
Dr Michelle Maher added that it is important to have diversity in local politics as decisions made by our Councils affect where we live and work and spend time.
“Bringing the experience of women into the council, the experience of having moved here from somewhere very different and with a different ethnicity; or being a young person, of navigating life in Westmeath as someone with a disability or as a Traveller. Think of the value of that experience to decision-making, and the value of the learning from each other that could happen in the Council chamber with everyone working towards a common goal for Westmeath” Dr Maher added.
The project video and booklet will aim to provide practical advice, encouragement, and guidance for those looking to run for election in 2024, or for those seeking to support potential candidates in the upcoming local election.