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Monday 18 December 2017

Women's council chief resigns after Shatter refuses to reverse cuts

Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

THE head of the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI) last night resigned her position as she hit out at the Government's "scant regard" for women's rights.

Former journalist Susan McKay, who has been chief executive of the NWCI since May 2009, said her position was untenable following a 35pc budget cut.

State core funding for the NWCI was reduced by 35pc in the Budget to €350,000 in 2012. The Government said an additional €50,000 was made available from HSE budgets and significant money was also pledged from two philanthropic organisations.

Ms McKay said she offered her resignation to the board following a meeting with Justice Minister Alan Shatter who ruled out any change to the 35pc cut.

"I consider that the scale of this cut makes it impossible for me to do my job properly as chief executive of a national organisation striving to bring about equality for women," Ms McKay said last night, adding that the latest reduction had followed a series of cutbacks.

"The NWCI represents a diverse range of women's groups which do magnificent work in Irish society.

"It is my personal view that the Government has shown scant regard for women's rights and my resignation is a personal protest against this indifference," she said.

Clare Treacy, chair of the NWCI, said Ms McKay's resignation had been accepted with regret.

Paying tribute, she said Ms McKay had stimulated legislative change and worked vigorously to tackle inequality.

The Department of Justice last night refused to comment.

After the issue was recently raised in the Seanad, Mr Shatter said his department's funding had been cut by €100m for 2012 compared with 2011.

"The level of funding available to me for grants to a broad range of organisations is also reduced. Within that area we are dealing with not just the National Women's Council, we are dealing with groups like Women's Aid which provides protection for women who have been the victims of domestic violence," Mr Shatter said.

He said the decision was taken to give preference to groups providing services rather than those engaged in advocacy and research.

Mr Shatter said he recognised that the advocacy work of the council was important.

"At a time of huge financial difficulty it would be quite bizarre for me to provide less money to Women's Aid or the Rape Crisis Centre and provide more money to the National Women's Council," he said.

Irish Independent

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