Hundreds of people gathered outside the Dáil today calling for the Government to take immediate action to address women’s rights and inequality.
The rally, organised by the National Women’s Council (NCW), called for rapid progress to address issues such as the gender pay gap and the under-representation of women in decision-making and business.
“Women are also calling for a new National Maternity Hospital fully owned and controlled by the State so that we can guarantee it will deliver women’s health needs into the future,” NWC director Orla O’Connor said.
“We are here today to call for significant investment in tackling the high costs of living and crucial public services, including childcare.
“Our current system does not work for women. We have some of the highest childcare costs in Europe and some of the lowest paid childcare workers. A public not for profit childcare model will ensure access to quality, affordable childcare for parents and decent pay and working conditions for early years educators.”
The rally started with a moment’s silence in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
Speakers included Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and Labour TD Ivana Bacik.
Ms McDonald called for solidarity with Ukraine during her speech and said Ireland must be “a force for peace, demilitarisation and disarmament globally”.
She said women will also demand changes here.
“We demand our right to be safe; safe on our streets, safe in our homes, and we demand the right to refuge and protection where we are in danger everywhere in Ireland,” Ms McDonald added.
During her speech the Sinn Féin leader was heckled by two women during who chanted “hypocrite” and “Maria Cahill”.
Ms Cahill was raped as a teenager by a senior IRA member and has criticised Sinn Féin’s calls for action on gender-based violence, and how she was treated by the party.
Labour TD Ivana Bacik was introduced to the crowd as the woman likely to be the next leader of her party. She also expressed solidarity with Ukraine and said she would be protesting outside the Russian Embassy after the rally.
She said today’s event showed Irish women stood with others globally “suffering day-to-day violence and enduring discrimination and abuse”.
Ms Bacik also said she was committed to the removal of sexist language from the constitution as chair of the Oireachtas committee on gender equality.
No Government representatives spoke at the rally but TDs and senators, including Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill and Green Party senator Pauline O’Reilly, were among those watching on.
Other speakers included Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary Patricia King used her speech to highlight the dominant role men play in making key decisions, in business and in the justice system. She said their human rights need to be respected.
“Tragically and shamefully, in the 21st century in a rich and prosperous Ireland women continue to experience the violation of these rights,” Ms King said.
“Women are raped, women are murdered they are sexually assaulted, they are stopped, they are physically and mentally abused in their own homes. They are harassed in their workplaces. So far, Successive Governments have not delivered satisfactory solutions to these issues.
“Women are grossly under represented in nearly all spheres of influence, including at Cabinet level where women only have a 25pc presence,” Ms King said.
“Women account for just under 23pc of Oireachtas members and just under 24pc at local authority level. When we look at our business community, 87pc of our chief executive officers are male.
“This is the reality for women in this country and it is wholly unacceptable, if we are to achieve gender equality it needs to be addressed urgently.”