Sunday 19 November 2017

Ladies of Leinster House earn place in history

Lise Hand

Lise Hand

A QUINTET of Oireachtas 'femmes formidables' assembled on the Leinster House plinth to unveil a photo which will shortly hang inside the building.

Four of the group are former members – former government ministers Liz O'Donnell, Gemma Hussey and Niamh Breathnach and former senator and Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness – and one is a serving senator, Ivana Bacik.

The photo on display was taken in the Dail chamber in December 2008 with all the former and then current women TDs and senators, to mark the 90th anniversary of the 1918 general election when Constance Markievicz was elected an MP/TD.

Now, almost five years later, the photo is set to hang among the myriad pictures of male politicians adorning the walls of Leinster House.

And with little having changed in the intervening five years in terms of the still-meagre amount of female representation in the Irish parliament, the women were in agreement that gender quotas were a positive step to address the imbalance.

"It'll be a game-changer," said former junior foreign affairs minister Liz O'Donnell. "There hasn't been any shift in the dynamics since I came into the House in 1992," she added.

Catherine McGuinness agreed: "It made sense to introduce quotas for the local elections, so candidates can start at the bottom and work their way up – and they're now more likely to get on a ticket where they have a chance of winning, instead of some dire place where they wouldn't have a hope in hell."

And where will the picture hang in Leinster House? "On a wall on the way to the bar," explained Ivana.

Perfect. The lads can't miss it, so.

Irish Independent

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