Thursday 20 June 2019

Women TDs and senators given green light to breastfeed in Dáil and Seanad

Extra staff: The experience of Cavan TD Niamh Smyth helped sway the decision to give additional support to TDs on maternity leave. Photo: Tom Burke
Extra staff: The experience of Cavan TD Niamh Smyth helped sway the decision to give additional support to TDs on maternity leave. Photo: Tom Burke
John Downing

John Downing

Women TDs and senators may breastfeed their babies at Leinister House - including inside the Dáil and Seanad chambers.

That was the emphatic message from the Dáil chairman Seán Ó Fearghaíl, who said every effort must be made to encourage greater involvement by women in Irish politics at every level.

Mr Ó Fearghaíl said he also favoured quotas for women candidates, including in local councils.

He repeated an assertion he first made in March 2018 that he saw no obstacle to a TD or senator breastfeeding her baby at Leinster House, including inside either parliament chamber. He said various arrangements had been put in place to help support women Oireachtas members who were new mothers.

The Ceann Comhairle said following the experience of Cavan TD Niamh Smyth, it was agreed that women TDs on maternity leave should have an additional support staff member to help meet the demands of the job. He said other improvements included adoptive leave, and an on-campus crèche.

"We have given a direction that breastfeeding will be facilitated in the house and in the chamber," Mr Ó Fearghaíl said.

In a wide-ranging interview with Sharon Ní Bheoláin on RTÉ's 'The Week in Politics', the Dáil chairman agreed it was disappointing that women comprised just 22pc of parliament membership - while being 50pc of the general population.

"I think we need to see more women involved at every level of politics, at local government level, in the Dáil and in government," the Kildare South TD said.

But the Ceann Comhairle, who was the first holder of that office to be elected by a free and secret ballot of TDs, gave no indication of whether he would seek that office for another term. In line with established procedure, he will not have to contest the next Dáil election.

He said he had only decided on this occasion to seek the chairman's job some three weeks before he was elected. At the time the TDs were getting an unknown quantity but, if he stood again, they would be able to judge him on performance.

However, Mr Ó Fearghaíl said he would have to weigh family and other personal demands against seeking another term in the Dáil chair. The Ceann Comhairle said he was proud to preside over the Dáil centenary celebrations.

Irish Independent

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