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Sport still considered the domain of men - Higgins


Olive Loughnane

Olive Loughnane

Fergal Phillips

Olive Loughnane

President Michael D Higgins has spoken of the "great responsibility" resting on Irish men's shoulders in the pursuit of gender equality.

Mr Higgins hosted the annual International Women's Day reception in Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday, with 100 Irish sportswomen in attendance.

The President acknowledged Irish sportswomen's struggle to attain the same level of recognition as their male counterparts.

"The world of sport is still considered by many to be chiefly the domain of men," he said. "Women's sport is regarded as playing a secondary role, their achievements being lauded momentarily but often failing to sustain long-term public interest or receive appropriate support."

Mr Higgins continued: "It is inconsistently acknowledged that the pursuit of gender equality involves, at the most fundamental level, men as well as women.

"Men continue to hold most of the senior positions within our sporting organisations and therefore, it is men who bear a great responsibility . . . to advance equality in policies and practise."

The President credited some of the landmark sporting achievements of Irish women, such as Katie Taylor's fifth world title and the Irish women's rugby team's defeat of New Zealand, as changing the national perception of women's role in the sport.

"Your sporting achievements [have been] a source of great celebration, motivation and pride to your fellow citizens. In doing so, you have made an important contribution to the cause of equality."

But Mr Higgins stressed that there were still "many areas where respect for the rights of women remains an aspiration rather than a reality".

The event was attended by 28 members of the Cork Ladies' Gaelic Football team, race walker Olive Loughnane and Niamh Briggs of the Irish women's rugby team.

Musicians Mary Coughlan and Mary McPartlan provided musical entertainment.

"I don't think of the people here today as sportswomen," Ms Loughnane told the Irish Independent.

"We are sportspeople who just happen to be women. We should be judged on our performance on the pitch, track, or field - not our gender."

Irish Independent