Sunday 25 September 2016

'A woman as Taoiseach, we will have to wait and see' - 14 female ministers gather to celebrate Countess Markievicz

Greg Harkin

Published 16/07/2016 | 14:11

Former Tanaiste, Mary Harney, Tanaiste, Frances Fitzgerald T.D.and Minister for Justice and Equality, and Former Tanaiste Mary Coughlan, are part of a group of current and former female government ministers, that gathered at Lissadell House in Sligo, to commemorate the 89th anniversary of the death of Countess Markievicz.
Photo: James Connolly
Former Tanaiste, Mary Harney, Tanaiste, Frances Fitzgerald T.D.and Minister for Justice and Equality, and Former Tanaiste Mary Coughlan, are part of a group of current and former female government ministers, that gathered at Lissadell House in Sligo, to commemorate the 89th anniversary of the death of Countess Markievicz. Photo: James Connolly
Maire Geoghegan-Quinn talking to Mary Harney as part of a group of current and former female government ministers, that gathered at Lissadell House in Sligo, to commemorate the 89th anniversary of the death of Countess Markievicz. Photo: James Connolly
Tanaiste, Frances Fitzgerald T.D.and Minister for Justice and Equality, taking photos of the group of current and former female government ministers, that gathered at Lissadell House in Sligo, to commemorate the 89th anniversary of the death of Countess Markievicz. Photo: James Connolly
Former Tanaiste, Mary Harney, Tanaiste, Frances Fitzgerald T.D.and Minister for Justice and Equality, and Former Tanaiste Mary Coughlan, are part of a group of current and former female government ministers, that gathered at Lissadell House in Sligo, to commemorate the 89th anniversary of the death of Countess Markievicz. Photo: James Connolly

Fourteen of Ireland’s 17 female ministers met at the childhood home of the first at Lissadell House last night to mark the life of the country’s first ever woman in the cabinet Countess Markievicz.

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The dinner at the home of barrister couple Constance Cassidy and Eddie Walsh was held on the 89thanniversary of the death of 1916 Rising leader Markievicz.

Dinner guests included Tániste Frances Fitzgerald, 
Ministers Heather Humphreys, Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Katherine Zappone as well as former Ministers Gemma Hussey, Mary O’Rourke, Nora Owen, Niamh Bhreathnach Mary Harney, Síle deValera, Mary Coughlan, Mary Hanafan, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn and Jan O’Sullivan.

Only Joan Burton, who was on holidays, was missing from the historic get-together.

Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, the first woman minister since Markievicz when she was appointed as Gaeltacht Minister by Taoiseach Charlie Haughey in 1979, said the event was a ‘wonderful’ tribute to the life of Markievicz.

“Constance Markievicz was a constant in my life because I was always being introduced when I was a minister as the first woman minister in the cabinet and of course I had to point out that this wasn’t true,” said Geogheghan-Quinn.

The 66-year-old however bemoaned the fact there had been just 17 female cabinet ministers since the foundation of the State.

“We are still moving slowly in terms of women representatives in Cabinet,” she said.

Maire Geoghegan-Quinn talking to Mary Harney as part of a group of current and former female government ministers, that gathered at Lissadell House in Sligo, to commemorate the 89th anniversary of the death of Countess Markievicz.
Photo: James Connolly
Maire Geoghegan-Quinn talking to Mary Harney as part of a group of current and former female government ministers, that gathered at Lissadell House in Sligo, to commemorate the 89th anniversary of the death of Countess Markievicz. Photo: James Connolly

“If it went to a popular vote among the people, there would be more women in the top positions. The problem is getting ahead within the political party system in the first place.”

Tara Fegan, 12, from Lisryan, Longford, read a poem she composed on the life of the countess for assembled ministers.

Tanaiste Frances Fitgerald said it was “unreal’ that there have been only 17 female ministers in the history of the State.

“Things are beginning to change and with more women TDs we will hopefully see many more female ministers in the cabinet in future,” she said.

“As for a woman as Taoiseach, we will have to wait and see.”

Lissadell has become an important holder of many 1916 artefacts including Padraig Pearse’s last letter to his mother.

Home owner Constance Cassidy said: "Countess Markievicz fought for women's rights, national rights and the rights of the poor. If she were alive she would have been proud of her legacy, but probably very disappointed at how it took our country 60 years to appoint another woman minister."

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