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
We must speak up for ourselves. I welcome the delegation, although I have met some of them and had discussions before. I thank the delegation for the presentations and apologise for my late arrival, as I had a previous engagement.
I welcome the comments made by my colleagues on women and the role they can play not only in conflict resolution but also in public life and politics. We have spoken about gender quotas and I still have not fully made up my mind on the issue. Given the right opportunities and circumstances, women are well capable of being elected on their own merit, but one can see both sides of this major issue. As somebody who has only entered politics in the past three years, I find the biggest obstacle to be the co-operation required both within parties and - particularly for women - by others who help with the caring role at home. Traditionally, with no disrespect to men in politics, Members who live down the country may leave home on a Tuesday and not return until Thursday, and there must be people in place to look after children in the meantime. No matter what job we do, women will always have that caring role. That is not to say they have more right to it than fathers, but women have traditionally had the bonding role. Before women can take a position in public life, we must have structures in place in both society and the home to ensure there are supports to enable women work in that sphere.
There is a crèche for young children in Leinster House but there is no facility for people with children who have special needs. Once a child is a certain age, the care provider will not take him or her. Nevertheless, some people here need extra support, particularly if there is an emergency, for example. It is important that all frameworks and possibilities are taken into account to ensure the correct supports exist for people who want to participate in public life or politics.
Others have referred to the Justice for the Forgotten group and its excellent work. It has events scheduled this weekend to remember the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. I welcome the setting up of a new committee which is representative of all parties to support that work. I commend the Tánaiste on ensuring additional funding is available for the group in Glencree.
Coming from the Border area myself, I have had dealings with one of the groups funded under this programme which was involved in peace and reconciliation and conflict resolution in the Dundalk area. I attended a conference it organised just over a year ago. The group came to Leinster House and I hosted a meeting with it and various Oireachtas Members. The feedback from the group on the work it was engaged in was great. I note that 19 different courses have been undertaken, but what happens when they are finished? Some of the women I spoke to told me they had really enjoyed the courses and the cross-Border, cross-party, cross-religion experience. However, they expressed a concern that when the courses finished there would be nothing else to follow. Is there any follow-up for people to ensure that the good work that is done continues?