Seanad debates

Wednesday, 6 March 2024

International Women's Day: Statements


10:30 am

Photo of Maria ByrneMaria Byrne (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister for coming to discuss this all-important issue. I also thank Senator Currie for sharing time.

I wish happy International Women's Day to everybody present and especially to my female colleagues. We will celebrate the day on Friday. International Women's Day stated in 1909 in the USA. That is quite a long time ago and the day has been celebrated for many years.

The Minister in his speech referred to how far we have come in terms of gender equality and addressing gender-based violence. I pay tribute to organisations in Limerick like ADAPT House, which is 50 years in existence. Certainly it was far before its time. There are so many organisations that are now looking after people who have suffered from gender-based violence but ADAPT House started 50 years ago to look after people who were then called "battered wives". While it is not correct to call somebody that term now, that is how its work started. It is incredible the amount of work and care that the people working there provide. There is also Thomond House and the Southill inclusion hub in respect of domestic violence. I want to highlight those three organisations as they go above and beyond the call of duty to look after women.

The Minister referred to the fact that we have come a long way in terms of things like breastfeeding. Limerick was the first breastfeeding city in Ireland and I compliment the council at the time that drove that project. I agree that we have come a long way but we still have a long way to go.

As for women in politics, when I was first elected in 1999 there were three females out of 21. There is now six women out of 40 but that is still not enough. The number is too small. In terms of the general election, the percentage of female Deputies has increased from 30% to 40%. There are no quotas for local authorities and perhaps that is something we should consider.

I compliment the Minister present and the Minister for Justice on the amount of work that they have done on the whole area of sexually-based violence. I say that because it is an area that was brushed under the carpet for many years and people were not looked after.

In respect of women's health, there is now a perinatal unit in most maternity hospitals. I was in the maternity unit in Limerick but it is so small that it is the size of a boxroom and is used to hold filing cabinets. The hospital has not got the space to develop proper facilities. We need to give these areas proper attention.

In respect of women in politics, maternity leave has been introduced but it needs to be introduced in the Dáil for us to encourage more females to participate in politics. I know that the Minister is committed to such provision and we need to see it happening sooner rather than later. Many females have so much to contribute but they feel that they are at home, supporting their families, which prevents some people from putting their names forward to stand for election.

Finally, Senator McGreehan referred to women in sport. Last weekend, I watched the indoor athletics competition. Sarah Lavin from Limerick broke two personal bests and the women's relay team did very well. Certainly there are many inspirational females who inspire young people who are coming along behind them. In terms of Ireland, we have so many inspirational females that we now have a greater percentage of females on boards. While the number needs to increase more I note it has started to move in the right direction. I am going to return to the subject of women in politics. When I was running for my first time, I met a man at a doorstep who told me he could not vote for me because I was a woman and would not know what to do. We have come a long way from that. It actually did happen. I want to see us progress further. I thank the Minister for his commitment today.


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