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*Clare’s current female elected representatives (l-r) Cllr Ann Norton, Mayor of Ennis Municipal District; Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy; Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne TD; Cllr Mary Howard; Senator Róisín Garvey; and Cllr Donna McGettigan; pictured with Madeleine Taylor-Quinn (centre), County Clare’s first-ever female TD. Photograph: Eamon Ward

Increased female representation at decision-making level will ensure more balanced decisions are made on a range of issues, an Ennis event to promote gender equality and diversity in local politics has heard.

‘Promoting Gender Equality & Diversity in Local Government’ was organised by Clare County Council in collaboration with See Her Elected (SHE) and was funded by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. The event was held in glór on Tuesday (May 17th) and was organised to support greater involvement by women from diverse backgrounds in local government.

Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne and Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy. Photograph: Eamon Ward.

See Her Elected programme is a rural strategy to address the under-representation of women in politics in rural Ireland. At the event, See Her Elected introduced its free online course for women in County Clare, ‘Introduction to Politics.’

26 per cent of county councillors throughout Ireland are female and there is a much lower percentage of female councillors in rural counties compared to more urban centres such as Dublin. Four of 28 councillors on Clare County Council are women, while two of Clare’s seven Oireachtas members are women.

Cllr Ann Norton addresses the crowd. Photograph: Eamon Ward.

A panel discussion at the event heard about the experience of Clare’s current local and national elected female representatives, Cllr Ann Norton (IND), Cllr Mary Howard (FG), Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF), Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF), Violet-Anne Wynne TD (IND) and Senator Róisín Garvey (GP).

Madeleine Taylor-Quinn (FG) spoke about her journey to becoming Clare’s first-ever female TD in 1981. Among the stories she recounted was being instructed to be in Dublin two weeks after giving birth to her first child. “My first child was only two weeks old when I got a call to say you better be in Dublin tomorrow to vote or the Government could fall”.

A panel discussion on ‘Gender Quotas and Gender Diversity’ included contributions from Bridget Casey, Clare Local Development Company (CLDC); Victoria Olukitibi, a voice for young people; Theresa O’Donoghue, Clare Public Participation Network (PPN); Ann Marie Flanagan, former local election candidate; and Elaine Dalton, Women’s Collective Ireland, Clare. Megan Reilly, from Women for Election, told attendees about the training programmes, events and mentoring supports that are available from Women for Election.

Madeline Taylor Quinn shares her experience of becoming Clare’s first female TD. Photograph: Eamon Ward.

Noeleen Fitzgerald, Director of Finance and Support Services, Clare County Council who was the first speaker, described the occasion as an “important event”. She voiced the local authority’s commitment “to supporting diversity and inclusion. Gender equality and diversity of representation benefits everyone. We welcome the opportunity to support initiatives that promote wider inclusivity and diversity in local decision-making structures and we are pleased to collaborate with See Her Elected on the work it is doing to empower women in rural constituencies to engage in politics.”

Dr Michelle Maher, Programme Manager with See Her Elected, said: “It is important to have a female perspective at decision-making level as this will ensure more balanced decisions are made on a range of issues which matter to us as women, whether that’s climate change, employment, parenting, care or violence against women, for example”.

Mayor of Clare, Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) stressed the importance of welcoming and encouraging people from all genders and backgrounds to engage in electoral politics “to ensure that we are truly representative of the people we serve. It is well known that women are under-represented in politics, and initiatives like this supported by government are attempting to address this imbalance. I look forward to seeing greater gender balance on the ballot paper and in the Council Chamber following the 2024 local elections”.

Cllr Donna McGettigan and Senator Roisin Garvey. Photograph: Eamon Ward.

See Her Elected is offering a free online course to women in County Clare, called ‘Introduction to Politics.’ The course runs on Zoom over two consecutive weeks on Monday, 23rd and 30th May, as a follow-up to the event. The classes will run twice on each date in a bid to fit into day-to-day life with a morning option from 11am-12:30pm and an evening option from 7:30-9pm. The free online SHESchool course is for anyone who wants to start to build up knowledge about what politics is and how politics works.

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