The aim of getting more women involved in politics in Ireland is unfinished business, according to Athlone-based Senator, Gabrielle McFadden, who is encouraging all women to get involved in representing their communities.
Speaking at a Royal Irish Academy seminar entitled ‘Representation, Gender and Politics: Past and Present’, Senator McFadden outlined how she had gotten involved in politics and spoke of her early experiences as a public representative.
1918 was the first time that Irish women were permitted by law to vote and stand in parliamentary elections, and last week’s conference was one of a number of activities to commemorate that anniversary. It was organised by the Vótail100 committee in Leinster House, of which Senator McFadden is a member, and it also looked at the changes that have taken place in that hundred years, as well as the challenges for the future.
“The conference heard from a diverse range of speakers with various perspectives and experiences, but the common theme that emerged was that although female representation had improved, there was no room for complacency and that much remains to be done,” Senator McFadden said.
“In the first Dáil there was only one woman – now we are at 22 per cent. Local and international research has shown that the topics debated and the nature of discourse changes as the percentage of women increases in a parliament.
“The challenge of making our parliament more representative and more diverse is one that will continue for quite some time. If there are structural or attitudinal barriers to the participation or election of women, we should all work to ensure that they are overcome and that the Oireachtas begins to more closely resemble society at large.”