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Junior minister Bertie Ahern sent to combat sexism complaints

BERTIE Ahern was sent out to defend the government's role in supporting women in society following accusations that it was not doing enough to fill public appointments with females.

Women's place in society was a controversial issue in 1982 with the Council for the Status of Women voicing their "shock and anger" over a woman being replaced by a man in a public appointment.

The council wrote that July to Health and Social Welfare Minister Dr Michael Woods registering their disapproval at social campaigner Sister Stanislaus Kennedy being dropped from the South Eastern Health Board.

"We are extremely concerned that, once again, a woman has been replaced by a man in a public appointment," the council wrote.

"This, despite Fianna Fail's promises of commitment to women."

Dr Woods was told that recent appointments to the RTE Authority saw a woman being replaced by a man, the new AnCO (training body) appointments contained no women and now Sister Stan had been replaced by a man on the SEHB.

"This not only lacks commitment to women but also appears to be establishing a pattern of excluding women from new appointments to public boards."

Two months earlier, junior minister Bertie Ahern was forced to defend the government's stance on women in society after a lobby group protested over the portrayal of women as sex objects in the media.

CASE – the Campaign Against Sexual Exploitation – was concerned about the use of women's bodies in the media "for amusement and titillation and to sell everything from cars to chocolate bars".

Mr Ahern told CASE he had been asked to respond to their letter on behalf of the Government and the Fianna Fail Party.

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He said the government had consistently tried to ensure that women participated fully in all aspects of community life on an equal basis with men. But he pointed out that legislating to set advertising standards was extremely difficult and the government felt voluntary self-regulation was the most effective means of tackling the problem.

Recent research had indicated that the treatment of women in advertising was changing to reflect more accurately the true role of women in society.

"It is to be hoped that future trends in advertising will continue this pattern," wrote Mr Ahern.

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