Seanad debates

Monday, 8 March 2021

International Women's Day: Statements


10:30 am

Photo of Mary FitzpatrickMary Fitzpatrick (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Minister, Deputy O'Gorman. Truly blessed is he among women today. We are delighted to have him. I also welcome my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, and thank her for joining us for this discussion on International Women's Day.

I am very proud and delighted to stand here today. It is a huge honour for me. As I have often said, I live closest to Leinster House, but it has probably taken me the longest to get elected. Every day when I get here I take great pride in taking my place among all of the women and men. It is a huge honour. On my way here, I pass the Countess Markievicz plaque on North Frederick Street and there is a bust of Countess Markievicz in Leinster House. She is an iconic woman in Fianna Fáil history and in our country's history. We can all own her. It is in her shadow that we all try to aspire to make some small contribution.

On a personal level, I thank all of the women in my life. I come from a long line of very strong women who faced very significant challenges but did so always with great courage, resilience and heart. I am so privileged and I never forget that. I thank all of the women I have met in my life outside of my family who have been a friend, be that in New York when I was starting out and had nothing or in Dublin, in politics and in my professional life. I have always operated in male-dominated environments. We live in a male-dominated world; it is a fact of life. Many men have been a friend to me too and I acknowledge that. I also acknowledge the support of my husband and sons and my dad as well.

International Women's Day has been celebrated since the early 1900s. It started with women in New York city demanding better pay, better working conditions and the right to vote. We have come a long way, but we still have a long road ahead of us. It is great that the first citizen of Dublin city is a woman, Hazel Chu, that the Leader of this House is a woman and also that the leader of the Fianna Fáil group in the Seanad is a woman. There is still so much we need to do to achieve equality.

Today, I think also of all of the women with whom I come into contact as a public representative. As public representatives constituents often come to us at a moment of crisis. There are many women - I accept there are also men in this situation but it is largely women - who are victims of the housing crisis that still grips our country. For all of those women, I challenge all of us and the Government to use our time in office to tackle the housing crisis. The Government has an ambitious and radical plan, but we need to work collectively to deliver a radical change in terms of the State's role in the provision of housing so that there is a sustainable supply of social and affordable housing provided such that every person in our country will have a place to call home. It is only when one has looked into the eyes of a mother, a father or an individual who does not know where he or she, or his or her family, is going to spend the night that one can see and experience the anxiety and fear that nobody living in our society should have to endure.I ask the Minister, as the Government representative here today, to remind the members of the Cabinet that women need to believe and will support this Government when it is ambitious and radical in its efforts to tackle the housing crisis. I do not only mean using public lands to deliver social and affordable housing, but also championing the right to housing and taking forward the proposal for a constitutional referendum to insert the right to housing for all of our citizens in our Constitution.

I thank the Minister for the work he has done so far in trying to provide some justice to the survivors of mother and baby homes. I ask him to redouble his efforts. I know he is moving forward by giving the survivors justice through access to their birth certificates and an opportunity to reclaim their identities. He needs to continue his efforts, as I know he knows, because all of those women and survivors are depending on him. I wish him courage. He has all of our support in his work.


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