The ‘Transition’ of Irish Women

Collette Mc Entee of Transition Monaghan sees the presence of women at the decision making table as crucial. “We are half of the population and so our representation should reflect this,” she says. Collette attended and reports on the ‘Irish Women 1916-2116 Past, Present and Future’ event that took place at the Garage Theatre on Friday last. The event was hosted by Monaghan 5050, a group that strives to bring equality and a greater presence of women in electoral politics.


Collette Mc Entee

In this year of commemoration this event focused on inviting us to revisit and rethink the role of women in our society. A panel of four speakers, Ruth Taillon, Claire McGing, Mamo McDonald and Noirin Clancy led the discussion.

Minister Heather Humphreys opened the event and as one of just 35 women of 159 TDs (22%), she highlights the imbalance of our Irish voice. Humphreys actively campaigns towards this projected 50/50 ratio and has been appointing male dominated roles to women such as Chairperson of the National Museum of Ireland to Catherine Heaney and employing females as her drivers (Each minister gets two drivers. Humphreys is the only one to employ females in this role).


2016 has been a commemorative year of the 1916 Rising and I feel more versed than ever on the events and its contributors. The year has also highlighted the inaccurate documentation of the female counterpart in the fight for Irish Independence. Ruth Taillon is the author of ‘When History Was Made: the Women of 1916’ (1996) which identified over 200 female contributors to the Rising and today, research continues with the figure over 300 and growing. Taillon looked back on 1916 and touched on the 1880s Suffrage movement to the Ladies Land League to familiar characters such as Maud Gonne and Jennie Wyse Power – female oppression deeply rooted in our past.


Gonne is an example of the inaccuracy shrouded over our female counterparts. Gonne actively took part and led the Inghinidhe na hÉireann, a radical Irish nationalist group from 1900-1914. However, how is she remembered? As W.B.Yeats’ muse. Our English curriculum in schools has this ingrained in our minds. Last year marked Yeats’ 150th birthday and the 21st December marks Gonne’s. Let’s celebrate that!

maud         Maud Gonne

Claire McGing, a lecturer at Maynooth University, delved into the role of women in politics. In 2012, the gender quota legislation passed and specifies that at least 30% of party candidates for general elections should be female and at least 30% should be male.  In 2019, the quota will rise to 40%. This quota echoes Ireland’s 2020 ‘energy targets’ plan with failure to comply resulting in financial loss. In this case, the political parties will risk losing half of their annual funding from the Exchequer under the Electoral Act 1997. At present, the Dáil has the most women in its history but female representation has yet to rise above 16%. Local elections are not included in this legislation. In local authorities there are few councillors who are women, especially in the more rural counties.


Taking us down memory lane, Mamo McDonald, a former ICA president and local legend, painted a vivid picture of life as a woman of the 1950s onwards. McDonald begun with a few lines that were below a picture that hung in her childhood home;


It’s the little things that count…

Big things are very little after all

fame, fortune, reputation

are as dead sea fruit

without the background of a happy home


Mamo McDonald

Her account supported all those tales my grandparents have recounted to me of their simple yet happy, difficult yet fondly recalled lives. It also highlighted how far we have come and how much quicker we can get there today. In this whirl of advancement, change is accelerating. Rather than cower in a corner ridden with nostalgia for the simpler times, let’s use it to our advantage. A world of equality is within our sight.

The morning concluded with a thought provoking forecast of 2116 by Noirin Clancy, a 5050 representative. Clancy works part time with Longford Women’s Manifesto Project and showed us a really evocative video set in 2116 which predicts an Ireland of equality – 60% women representatives in the Dáil (with a push to reduce this back to equalise the ratio), a crèche in place of the bar in Leinster House, a safer Ireland with nearly 0% domestic violence.


Today, it can be overwhelming to digest the current global upheaval characterised with accelerating climate change, the election of Donald Trump, technology advancements, Brexit and much more. Resilience and respect are key. As life and the world chugs on, we have to keep defending what we have already won. Respecting each other and our world will encourage our growth as a society and as a healthy, sustainable world.

‘It’s the little things that count…’ resonated with me as it’s becoming increasingly difficult to figure how I and Monaghan can contribute. Taking a small portion of the problem ourselves and working collectively will bring ideas to realisation. Monaghan is a little place but it counts.

Events in December can be found here

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