Friday 30 September 2016

Kenny's position on Eighth is 'not good enough' says FG's rising star

Published 08/03/2016 | 02:30

Independent TD Joan Collins, former Rose Maria Walsh, National Women’s Council of Ireland Orla director O’Connor, new FG TD for Dublin Bay South Kate O’Connell, Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan, new FF TD for Mayo Lisa Chambers and Labour Senator Ivana Bacik at the event. Photo: Peter Houlihan
Independent TD Joan Collins, former Rose Maria Walsh, National Women’s Council of Ireland Orla director O’Connor, new FG TD for Dublin Bay South Kate O’Connell, Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan, new FF TD for Mayo Lisa Chambers and Labour Senator Ivana Bacik at the event. Photo: Peter Houlihan

"It's not good enough." That's the verdict of Fine Gael's rising star Kate O'Connell on Taoiseach Enda Kenny's call for a citizen's convention to discuss the Eighth Amendment.

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She was one of a group of women politicians from across the political spectrum who gathered yesterday in Temple Bar.

They were united on the issue of the amendment, which gives equal status to the life of a mother and an unborn child. They all want it gone - even if the exact form of abortion law that would replace it is up for debate.

"I know it's not good enough [what] Enda Kenny said about this constitutional . . . whatever - but this is a major step for him," Ms O'Connell told those gathered at the National Women's Council of Ireland event.

"I'm not making allowances, but this is somebody who's gone from completely not discussing it at all," she said.

Ms O'Connell later said she wasn't disappointed with Mr Kenny's position given the distance he has come on the issue. "I mean I wish he were completely pro-choice but he's not. That's the nature of politics," she said.

Ms O'Connell is not in favour of a "snap referendum", which could be lost, but said women of child-bearing age in Ireland should get "the opportunity to vote on something that affects their lives".

She was joined at the event by Fianna Fáil's Lisa Chambers, Labour Senator Ivana Bacik, Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan, Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy, Independent Joan Collins and AAA/PBP's Bríd Smith.

"I think we've kicked the can down the road long enough," Ms Chambers said, adding that politicians had to be respectful of those who held an opposing view or "they may never come on board".

Ms Boylan said: "We need a referendum ASAP on this."

Ms Murphy recalled voting against the amendment in the 1983 referendum, adding: "I haven't changed my mind since."

With 35 women returned to the Dáil - the highest number ever - sexism and gender quotas were among the items that came up for discussion.

"Mad stuff" is how Ms Chambers described some of the remarks she encountered on the election trail in Mayo - and she's not wrong. "When is he putting the ring on your finger?"; "You've got great photographs - that'll help you"; "You look great up the poles, ha ha ha," were some examples.

She said such comments didn't come up every day but that "you grow a thick skin".

Ms O'Connell - a mother-of-three - was asked: "Who's at home minding the children?"

"You feel like saying, 'I gave them a can of powder and a kettle and said get on with it yourselves'," she said.

Ms Boylan told of how she was on the receiving end of remarks on social media referring to her partner, the newly elected Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin.

"You're very lucky that you have this person to make you tea and toast and write your lines for you," she was told online.

"I'm like, 'Hang on a second. I got elected before him'," she said, adding that those behind sexist comments should be "called out".

Ms Bacik said the increased number of women elected was "a real testament to the success of gender quotas".

Of course, it didn't go down well everywhere.

"Oh are you a gender quota candidate?" was another question Lisa Chambers faced. "No, I've actually been working in politics for the last six years and I went through convention like everyone else," she said. "Well surely you can't support quotas, then, because you didn't need it," came the response.

Sometimes you can't win.

Irish Independent

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