Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 8 May 2014
Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement
UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security: Discussion
Ms Orlaith Fitzmaurice:
To add to the presentation that Dr. Melanie Hoewer has given, specifically our work in Northern Ireland is very much informed by and aware of the need for the participation and representation of women in politics and in decision-making at all levels. Obviously, however, decision-making at political level is one of the most significant and one of the most transformative. On a pragmatic basis, we fund a number of projects in this area. For instance, we work with the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, which has a long-standing women's leadership programme in which the centre identifies women with strong leadership potential in the political and community sphere to whom it provides mentoring training. A particularly hopeful feature at present is the fact the centre is building a strong alumni network from past participants in the programme who can use their experience and, as they move along, can mentor some of the newer members in it. We also support a number of groups, some of which are fairly self-evident. There is a group called Women into Politics, which is the only non-governmental organisation, NGO, in Northern Ireland active in that space and we have been able to support it in previous years for the project work it is carrying out.
I just might say a word more broadly on the support the reconciliation fund can give. Our fund has the objectives of promoting reconciliation and reducing sectarianism in Northern Ireland.
It operates in Northern Ireland and the Border counties and on an east-west basis.
We are very much aware of the importance of women in both the political sphere and civic society. My experience, in meeting dozens of groups every month, reflects that expressed by Deputy Wall that many women in community groups are inspiring, impressive leaders and formidable, but they sometimes find themselves hampered by circumstances. Sometimes they believe their actions are more effective in the community sphere and feel, perhaps, a level of political disengagement where they consider entering into politics is not the way they can best make the changes that they believe they need to see in their communities.
We are open to applications from women's groups and try to support them as best we can. We are drawing up a new strategy for the reconciliation funds and the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, has stated he looks forward to consulting the committee on it. It is intended that within the strategy we will expressly identify UN resolution 1325 and its applicability in Northern Ireland. As part of this, women will constitute one of a small number of priority target areas. We hope to be able to expand our support for these groups in that way.