One hundred years ago this month, women in Britain and Ireland were allowed the right to vote, and in the UK general election of December 1918, the first woman was elected to the House of Commons - the Irish Republican revolutionary, Countess Markievicz.
In line with the Sinn Féin policy of abstentionism, Markievicz did not take her seat, but her achievement as the first woman to be elected in Ireland or Britain stands, to the point that the Tory government in Britain confirmed in January that it plans to hold an events to commemorate Markievic’s election. In February, Dáil Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, will gift a copy of a portrait of Countess de Markievicz to the British House of Commons. other events are planned in Westminster for the summer and December.
A century of female suffrage will be marked in Galway by Sinn Féin, which will hold an event outside the AIB Bank on Shop Street, on Tuesday February 6 at 1pm, where members will symbolically hand out 100 flowers to members of the public.
“There are many Irish revolutionary women and suffragettes who played key roles during the revolutionary period, such as Mary Mac Swiney, Anna Wheeler, Anna Haslam, Kathleen Lynn and Eva Gore-Booth,” said Galway city councillor Mairéad Farrell and SF Galway West oifigeach oideachais Brendan Duffy. “One in particular, however, Hannah Sheehy-Skeffington, along with her husband Francis and Margaret Cousins founded the Irish Women’s Franchise League which focused on securing women’s suffrage within Home Rule which absolutely helped bring about full women’s suffrage in 1922.”
Meanwhile Galway Sen Alice-Mary Higgins, along with Sen Ivana Bacik and Ceann Comhairle, Seán O’Fearghail, this week launched the Houses of the Oireachtas’ programme to commemorate a century of suffrage.
“Our Vótáil100 programme will celebrate the lives of the women most closely involved in the campaign leading up to legislative reform and who courageously fought for women’s emancipation,” she said. “We will celebrate Countess Markievicz, the first woman elected to the British Parliament at Westminster, but who never took her seat. She was also the first female TD and cabinet minister to serve in the Dáil.
“Women have played a vital role in the formation of the Irish State yet their contribution has often been overshadowed by those of their male counterparts. In 2018 we will shine a spotlight on these courageous women and hopefully encourage and inspire more women to become politically involved.”
Events are planned to take place in Dublin in Leinster House, Seanad Éireann, the National Museum of Ireland, the National Library of Ireland, and the National Gallery of Ireland. See www.Oireachtas.ie/Votail100
Both Cllr Farrell and Sen Higgins said women remain under-represented at Leinster House, with women making up 22 per cent of the Dáil, in contrast to the EU average of 28 per cent. Sen Higgins said: “Much more needs to be done to bring women forward in politics.”