Sunday 21 December 2014

Mayor denies Freedom of Dublin award has sexist bias

Published 09/03/2014 | 02:30

Maureen Potter outside the Gaiety in 2000. Picture: Collins
Maureen Potter outside the Gaiety in 2000. Picture: Collins
Mother Teresa

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Oisin Quinn, has said there is no "sexist bias" in the selection process for the Freedom of the City – despite only five women being included in the 83 recipients of the honour since 1876.

As International Women's Day is celebrated around the world, Cllr Quinn moved to explain the lack of female award winners on the list.

He said it would be unfair to draw a conclusion of sexism given the fact that the list goes back to a time when women couldn't vote.

He also pointed to the fact that the award isn't given out on an annual basis and so could give a "skewed" impression of a gender bias.

"I don't know what was going on in the minds of councillors back in 1876.

"But if they were choosing people from the areas of politics and so on then logic would tell you that the chances were that they would have been choosing from a pool of more men than women," he said.

"I suppose when you look back on the list in the earlier period, it is reflective of the times.

"It was a different era altogether, women didn't even have the vote back then."

But he said: "It's certainly not right to give the impression that there is some kind of system where men would get favour; and I just think it is hard to draw conclusions from an award that is given out sporadically, and not on an annual basis.

"If you want to get a more realistic look at men and women who are being honoured by the city, it would be worth looking at the civic awards because they are given out on an annual basis and only started in 1989."

The award of Freedom of the City of Dublin acknowledges the contribution of certain people to the life of the city. It also bestows honour to important visitors to Dublin.

The five female recipients of the award to date are Michiko, empress-consort of Japan, Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu (Mother Teresa of Calcutta), humanitarian Aung San Suu Kyi, English suffragist Lady Margaret Sandhurst and Maureen Potter, actor and comedian, who is the only Irish woman who has been recognised for her contribution to the city.

The Lord Mayor nominated and City Council approved a further two awards for 2014: Brian O'Driscoll and Father Peter McVerry.

"I have complete confidence that we don't need to introduce a quota system for the Freedom of the City. We do not have a sexist bias to the way we go about our business," Cllr Quinn said.

"In 100 years time it will be a lot different. I have absolutely no doubt that the balance will be rectified."

Sunday Independent

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