Friday 22 March 2019

Women finally rising up: the new female politicians to lead change

Mary Lou McDonald
Mary Lou McDonald
Mary White
Kate O'Connell
Aine Collins
Liadh Ni Riada
Clare Daly
Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People: Helen McEntee
Mary Hanafin
Ann Phelan
Lucinda Creighton

John Drennan

A senior minister, whose gender we shall not reveal, once philosophically explained in a single sentence the difficulty of securing the attention of the members of Enda's old unreformed cabinet of Grumpy Old Men, when it came to children's issues.

You look around, and outside of Frances and Joan, it's hard to see anyone who might have ever changed a nappy.

In truth, the claim was a little harsh on the former Minister Ruairi Quinn who was believed to be quite progressive on such matters.

But, beyond Ruairi - and Simon Coveney who is believed to be well informed on the nappy front too - the cabinet contained quite a few individuals whose vision of women consisted of a declared preference for 'lovely girls' over the 'monstrous regiment' of feminist egalitarians.

The status of women is however, if only because of the perceived political advantages appearing to respect the ladies offers our political parties, beginning to change.

Enda is now pledging that, having been unable to find a single female Junior Minister in 2014, half of the Fine Gael wing of the next cabinet will be female.

As even Fianna Fail now frantically chase those damn elusive women who are the rising female stars who are poised to change the face of Irish politics.

Intriguingly some are already in office.

New Rural Affairs minister Ann Phelan, the first time Labour TD from Carlow Kilkenny, will for example play a pivotal role in the future of rural Ireland and Labour itself.

We all know about Mary Lou and Lucinda, but the soft spoken Ms Phelan may be the wild card that could save Labour.

When it comes to the future it is astonishing to think that Lucinda Creighton, so far has in her first Dail term been a minister, lost a ministry and is now setting up a new party.

How she fares in the last endeavour could affect Irish politics for a decade.

The Meath Fine Gael TD Helen McEntee has kept a somewhat lower profile but the expertise with which she has managed a traumatic entry into politics suggests she is one to watch.

Another understated TD who may yet go places is Aine Collins who hides a steel trap mind beneath a demure countenance.

By contrast, Clare Daly is certainly not one for hiding beneath a bushel.

She is however going to have to marry that capacity for drama and colour with practical alliance building skills if the Dublin North diva is to meet her potential.

On one level Mary Hanafin is hardly a newbie. She is though starting from the bottom again and if Micheal doesn't do the business she might be head girl yet in Fianna Fail.

Though Senator Mary White is not exactly a new girl either, she is seeking to run for the first time for the Dail.

How Micheal deals with Mary's unique qualities will be a real measure of his commitment to strong- willed women.

John Drennan's Guide to Politics - Spring 2015

The next election will change your life. In a special supplement with the Sunday Independent, John Drennan presents his guide to Irish politics.

Within Sinn Fein where Mary Lou resembles a one woman gender quota, many eyes will be cast upon the progress of new MEP Liadh ni Riadha.

Tossing Ms ni Riadha into Cork South Central might cause quite a few aspirant Taoisigh to flutter like pigeons who have seen a particularly sleek cat enter the political square.

When it comes to Enda's strike team of new aspiring female TDs, should the pharmacist Kate O'Connell get the nod in Dublin Bay South a fair bit of fluttering might start there too.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section