News Analysis

Tuesday 2 September 2014

I was naive to think number of women TDs would grow

Liz McManus

Published 04/09/2010 | 05:00

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'I haven't gone away , you know. . ." I say to a local Sinn Fein councillor when he shakes my hand and wishes me well. My day has been spent explaining to all and sundry. Just because I've announced that I won't be standing in the next General Election, I explain, doesn't mean I'm no longer a TD. Until election day I'll be working as hard as ever in my role as public representative.

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It's what I've been doing since 1979. First at local level, then at national level. Over 31 years there have been many changes, both good and bad.

In 1992 I was elected with a swathe of new women TDs. Our first experience was of being lined up on 'The Late, Late Show' and Gay Byrne asking us who was minding our children. Since then we've moved on, but I was naive enough to think that the number of women TDs would continue to grow. It hasn't. Because of barriers of culture, childcare, confidence, candidate selection and cash, female participation is still pitiful.

Today our percentage of women parliamentarians is worse than that of sub-Saharan Africa. Yet I am inspired by politics, by events that have been life-enhancing, even transformative in their potency: the end of apartheid in South Africa; Mary Robinson becoming President of Ireland; the signing of the Good Friday Agreement; the election of Barack Obama as US president.

These events were unimaginable to most people before they happened. All taken for granted now. There is a dynamic about politics that can be a force for great good and I believe social democracy harnesses that potential to expand opportunities, to secure popular rights, to create a fairer society.

Donough O'Malley understood that power for good when he introduced free secondary education.

As a progressive party, Labour can stand on its record. The Freedom of Information Act is just one example of how legislation can liberate people as well as serve them.

What is most disturbing to me is that it is now the younger generation burd-ened with unemployment, gargantuan mortgages and crippling debt.

They did not create the monkey on their backs, but they and their children will continue to carry it. It is vital that this generation has a central place in Dail Eireann in making the important decisions.

Liz McManus TD, Labour spokeswoman on communications,energy and natural resources

Irish Independent

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