Seanad debates

Monday, 8 March 2021

International Women's Day: Statements


10:30 am

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent) | Oireachtas source

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire inniu agus guím Lá Idirnáisiúnta na mBan sona air agus ar gach duine eile anseo. Tá faitíos orm anois toisc gurb iad an tAire agus mé féin the only men in the room today.

We say we choose to challenge. I want to talk about a woman called Maureen Quigley, who chose to challenge. She was born in 1924. Senators can search all the history books they wish, but they will not find her. She raised eight wonderful daughters to be strong courageous women who set about challenging life every day of their lives. She was a woman who showed her daughters how to turn a 1 lb can of Heinz beans into 1.5 lbs of beans by pouring in half a can of water. She was a woman who showed her charity when five Traveller children turned up at her door one evening. As they were waiting for her to get some bread for them, they looked through the door and saw the television. They said, "Can we see the moving pictures, Missus?" She brought them in, sat them down and gave them their tea. She did that every day so that they could watch "Seoirse Agus Bartley" and "Dáithí Lacha". When the news came on they knew they had to go home.

Maureen Quigley was my mother. I grew up in a family of 11. All of us idolised my father. My mother was the engine room. We took it that she was there.

She never missed one occasion in my life. She turned up for my instigation as an altar boy. She was there when I went into the boy scouts and the FCA. When I joined the British Army, she came to my passing out. When I passed out in the Army, she was there. When I got my degree, she was there. She was never missing at any time in my life, and I never put any thought into it.

Shortly before she died I had the privilege of arriving in the nursing home on my own one day. She was sitting on the bed. She sat up with a big smile. She asked me what I was doing there. I said I came down to visit her. I said that on the way down I had thought about something and she asked what it was. I said I thought about the extraordinary influence she had had on my life. I said I would never have done anything but for the strong silent motivation that she provided for me and my brothers and sisters. She said, "Stop that now, stop that". Yet, she did. She drove all of us on to do wonderful things. If my father or mother had known I would be standing here today, I am unsure what they would have make of it.

The second woman I want to talk about is a girl called Rebecca. Rebecca is my daughter. I am so in awe of her that I cannot begin to tell Senators. That is not forgetting my wife. My wife of course was the strong woman behind my daughter. My daughter, Rebecca, was struck with cancer of the tongue at 19 years of age. What should have been a wonderful career path for her has been damaged by constant setbacks with health. She could have had a setback one day when I would go to meet her in a hospital or wherever she would be. She could be in tears. I would then go in the following day and she would be sitting up in the bed determined to get back to life. She has lived that way every day since she was 19 years of age. She is now in her 40s. Good God, I love and respect her courage and strength.

We may talk about choosing to challenge but not everyone is going to be able to challenge for equal pay or equal rights. I want to talk to the mothers who chose to give up a career and stay at home to make their children the best they could be. I want to respect them. I wish to God the State would respect them and treat them properly, because we do not treat them properly.

I want to remember the women who had children on their own. This will come up here soon. I am referring to the right of children to have their birth certificate. I have to say that I know some women who had children when they were young and single. They were castigated by society and left that behind them.Of all the Ministers, the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O'Gorman, has a huge challenge ahead of him because some of those women do not want to be known; they do not want their private lives ever to be opened again. My heart goes out to them today and, equally, to the children they brought into the world.

In this House we have a huge responsibility. We should not be discussing equal pay; that should have been resolved years ago. I admire all of the women in this House. I do not like all of them, but I admire all of them. They are wonderful, strong people. I hope that the Leader of the House is correct and we will see a huge increase in the number of female Members of this House. As a teacher, I worked in a women-dominated society for over 20 years. I never really found one that I could not get along with. Great women deserve great support. I thank the Acting Chairperson, Senator O'Loughlin, for allowing me some latitude on time.


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