FF counts on 1916 icon to attract female candidates
FIANNA Fail is invoking the name of iconic 1916 revolutionary Countess Markievicz in its efforts to recruit more women.
The party has named its women's Dail candidate recruitment group the "Markievicz Commission" and party leaders have persuaded Professor Yvonne Galligan (pictured below) of Queen's University Belfast, the leading authority on gender in politics, to chair it.
The party is stepping up its efforts to meet the requirement to field at least 30pc of women candidates in the next general election or lose a chunk of taxpayer funding.
The commission membership includes Dublin Senator Averil Power, a vocal critic of the party's failure to attract and promote more women candidates.
In the run-up to the May 23 local and European elections she was rebuked by party leader, Micheal Martin, for publicly pointing out that only 17pc of the party's local candidates were women. In counties Longford and Louth there were no women candidates, and in five counties the figure was as low as 10pc.
In her critique of Fianna Fail's poor effort to field more women candidates, Senator Power also said Countess Markievicz was the only female leader whose portrait hangs in Leinster House.
She said the woman who became Europe's first-ever government minister cut a "lonely figure" amid all the male politicians who are honoured to have their portraits in parliament.
Other women members of the "Markievicz Commission" include Senator Mary White, Fianna Fail's only other women Oireachtas member, as well as party activists Laura Reid, Gillian Coughlan and Emer O'Donovan. The other members are TDs Sean Fleming and Dara Calleary and party general secretary Sean Dorgan.
A party official said the commission will make specific recommendations on how to encourage women to become involved in the party at all levels. "In particular it will make practical suggestions on how women candidates will be selected for the general election," the official said.
Countess Markievicz was a leader of the Irish Citizen Army in the 1916 Rising. Though sentenced to death in 1916, she was given a reprieve and later elected to the First Dail in 1919, becoming Europe's first female cabinet member, serving as Minister for Labour until 1922. She was a founder member of Fianna Fail in 1926 and won a Dail seat for Fianna Fail just before her death in 1927.