Tag Archive | Ireland

Historical Donegal Women

the power of positive thinking (2)

In this Women’s Lives Women’s Voices feature Historian Dr Angela Byrne from Donegal highlights the historical struggles faced by women here in Ireland. And she pays tribute to Rose Brogan, Ethna Carbery, Máire de Paor, Maureen Wall, née MacGeehin, Kathleen ‘Kay’ McNulty and Margaret ‘Pearl’ Dunlevy, inspiring historical women with Donegal connections. 

 


By Angela Byrne

This is a good time to reflect on women in Irish society in the past and in the present. The ‘Decade of Centenaries’ and its commemorations gave the people of Ireland an opportunity to re-examine the keystone moments in our national story. Remarkable figures emerged from the shadows as we heard new stories about the women and children of the 1913 Lockout and the Easter Rising. The volunteer-run Her story Project established a series of local and national events to provide a platform for telling Irish women’s stories. One of the great successes of the recent commemorations was the naming of Dublin’s newest bridge after the republican and labour activist, Rosie Hackett. This is the first of our capital’s twenty-one bridges to bear a woman’s name.


 

0194400c0c609b470d95a4db3335e62dIn 2018, we celebrated the centenary of what Catriona Crowe has called “the single greatest human rights achievement of the entire decade of centenaries” – the extension of voting rights to women on 6 February 1918. The Representation of the People Act enfranchised some 8.4 million women across Britain and Ireland – but only property-holders aged 30 and above. In 1922, the constitution of the Irish Free State extended the franchise to all Irish women and men aged 21 and over, but for a period of four years, younger and poorer women remained voiceless.

Women’s suffrage was won after decades of effort by campaigners like Anna and Thomas Haslam of the Women’s Suffrage Association, and the more “militant” Irish Women’s Franchise League (IWFL) established by Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington and Margaret Cousins. The IWFL brought much more public attention to the women’s movement because they refused to be confined by social expectations of women’s behaviour. Tactics ranged from petitioning to window smashing. In 1909, English suffragettes in became the first to use hunger striking as a form of protest, leading to the infamous ‘Cat and Mouse Act’ of 1913, which allowed the temporary release and recapture of hunger strikers in response to public objections to force-feeding. In 1912, the Irish Women’s Franchise League established its own weekly newspaper, The Irish Citizen, which ran until 1920. In its pages, suffragists of all political shades debated their differing interpretations of feminism.

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There was a rapid growth of women’s suffrage groups throughout Ireland. In Sligo Eva and Constance Gore Booth set up a branch of the IWSGLA. By 1914 there were 26 suffrage societies with almost 3,000 members. Although committed to the same aim, these societies often represented distinct social and political groups e.g. the Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise Association, Irish Catholic Women’s Suffrage Society, Unionist Women’s Franchise Association. The activities of these societies were uncoordinated. In 1911 Louie Bennett (1870 -1956) and Helen Chenevix (1880-1963) helped establish the Irish Women’s Suffrage Federation (IWSF) to link the suffrage groups together. The IWSF was non-militant and non-sectarian.


On 21 November 1918, the UK parliament voted in the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act. The act simply stated: “A woman shall not be disqualified by sex or marriage for being elected to or sitting or voting as a Member of the Commons House of Parliament.” Women aged over 21 now had the right to stand for general election. Just weeks later, on 14 December 1918, Constance Markievicz became the first woman to win a seat at Westminster. She abstained in favour of sitting in the First Dáil.

 

In her celebrated 1995 book The Prospect Before Her, the historian Olwen Hufton wrote that women’s absence from history pointed to “either a grave sin of omission or to a flagrant suppression of the evidence, and hence to a distortion of the record by historians of former times. Whether the omission was unconscious or deliberate, the result was the same: women, with a few notable exceptions, had been denied a history.” Let’s celebrate our suffrage centenary by continuing to challenge that denial, to give silenced women a voice.

 


Discover some of Donegal’s Historical Women

 

Please take the time to read further features written by Angela and discover more about Donegal’s inspiring historical women by clicking on the pictures below.


“I hope that these features will raise awareness of the richness of the lives of Donegal women in the past, shine a light on their achievements, and show how they overcame barriers to education and other obstacles. Reflecting on past lives can help us to contextualise current issues and to understand changes and continuities. With that in mind, this series will focus on past women’s struggles for equality, access to education and work, and social justice.”

Dr Angela Byrne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


About Dr Angela Byrne

Dr. Angela ByrneAngela Byrne is a historian specialising in migration and women’s history. She is Research Associate at Ulster University and, in 2018-19, was the inaugural DFAT Historian-in-Residence at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum. She is author of Geographies of the Romantic North (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), A Scientific, Antiquarian and Picturesque Tour: John (Fiott) Lee in Ireland, England and Wales, 1806–1807 (Routledge for Hakluyt Society, 2018), and many articles and book chapters on the histories of travel and exploration, the Irish abroad, and women in the sciences.

She has previously held lecturing and research positions in University of Toronto, University of Greenwich, Maynooth University, and the Royal Irish Academy, as well as visiting fellowships at Cambridge University, the All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature (Moscow), and the Huntington Library (Los Angeles). Her research is concerned with cross-cultural encounters and the experiences of women and migrants in the past.

 


NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network have had the privilege of Angela giving insight into the lives of historical  Donegal women over the past few years at past events, including most recently our 2019 Balance for Better International Women’s Day Event in March, where Angela gave a talk on the political life of Letterkenny local Kate McCarry, Donegal’s first ever elected female county councillor.

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NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network have had the privilege of Angela giving insight into the lives of historical  Donegal women over the past few, including most recently our 2019 Balance for Better International Women’s Day Event in March, where Angela gave a talk on the political life of Letterkenny local Kate McCarry Donegal’s first ever elected female county councillor.


NCCWN Donegal are always looking for women to share their stories and looking for women to write features on topics of their choice which we will profile as part of our Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices’ series, so please get in touch if you would like to write a feature.

Why so few Women in Donegal Politics?

Why so few women?

Did you know on the 6th April 1899 Ireland held its first county and rural district councils elections as set out by the enactment of the Local Government (Ireland) Act of 1898, an act which also gave women the opportunity for the first time to stand for election and a vote in these local elections?


120 years on local female political representation in Donegal stands at a mere 10.8% the highest it has ever been. Of the 37 County Councillors elected during the 2019 local elections, four were women. They include Marie Therese Gallagher (Sinn Féin), Rena Donaghey (Fianna Fáil), Niamh Kennedy (Independent) and Noreen McGarvey (Fianna Fáil). Noreen McGarvey was the only female councillor newly elected, the other three councillors were re-elected having won seats in the 2014 local elections when female representation stood at 8.1%.

With such low female representation the question arises why does Donegal not elect more women? People may say that’s just how democracy works or we shouldn’t be telling voters they should vote for a candidate just because they’re a woman. While these are valid points they do not get us closer to addressing the real problem that women are seriously underrepresented in Donegal politics. It also doesn’t address the issue of how can voters have an actual choice about who represents them when so few women are also not on election tickets. As a County is it therefore not about time we seriously evaluate how we both support and view women as our political representatives?

Working as a community sector organisation NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network knows Donegal has no shortage of talented capable women who would make ideal political representatives. So why did so few run or were identified by the political parties to stand?


The Reality

Women made up 20% (17 out of 85) of the 2019 Local Election candidates in Donegal compared with the 2014 figure of 13.2% (11 out of 83). These recent elections therefore did see a positive increase in the number of women running for local election which is really encouraging and great to see a range of women putting themselves forward, a trend we hope continues into the next local elections and beyond.

Seven political party’s ran candidates in Donegal, the three main parties; Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Fine Gael all failed to reach a 30% female party candidate ticket list, to follow on from the general election required quota target of females on their party candidate ticket, although it should be noted during local elections this is not a mandatory legislated requirement. While of the 29 Independent candidates women made up 17.2% of them.

party female candiates

Prior to the local elections 70.2% of Donegal Councillor seats were held by three parties, Fianna Fáil on 29.7%, Sinn Féin on 24.3% and Fine Gael on 16.2%. Post-election this increased to a combined 75.6%, with Fianna Fáil at 32.4%, Sinn Féin at 27% and Fine Gael at 16.2%.

 

For these parties to hold such a high percentage of local political representation but have low female representation raises a question over their commitment to reduce gender inequality and support women especially in rural Ireland. With continued low level of female candidates, these parties need to ask some challenging questions to actually address this situation. For example;

  • Analysing and working to remove potential barriers which may be restricting women’s participation and development within their party;
  • reforming the way candidates are selected or nominated?
  • Encouraging the men in their party to be more actively supporting women to build political careers, even if it means putting theirs on hold?
  • Encouraging more women to run and women themselves to challenge their party status quo?
  • For parties to look at implementing mandatory local election gender quota systems?

These are all questions that need to be addressed if Donegal is to ever get closer to achieving a gender balance in political representation.


Electoral Areas

The Lifford/Stranorlar electoral area was the worst for female candidate representation with no women running in this area, while Carndonagh came top with 37.5%.

table female in LE areas

A number of women who were first time candidates also came close to winning a seat in their local electoral area. Eimer Friel (FG) in the Milford area missed out on the final seat by 110 votes just behind Ian McGarvey (IND) who was running for re-election. In the Carndonagh Area Marie Duffy (FF) missed securing the final seat by 292 votes behind Bernard McGuinness (FG) who was running for re-election. And in the Letterkenny Electoral Area Mary T Sweeney (Aontú) missed securing the final seat by 266 votes behind Manus Mandy Kelly (FF).

In the electoral areas were women did win seats, Niamh Kennedy in the Donegal area received the highest first preference votes and the highest overall vote count of the 19 candidates. Marie Therese Gallagher and Noreen McGarvey in the Glenties area secured the third and fourth highest first preference votes, finishing fifth and sixth in the overall vote count of the 13 candidates. And in the Buncrana area Rena Donaghey received the second highest first preference votes of the 11 candidates.

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An Equality Issue

“How can you inspire to be what you do not see?” women and girls need to feel that there is a place for them in Irish politics with the knowledge that their gender will not be a barrier to participation. With an overwhelming majority of politicians and decision makers currently being male, how can women feel like they have a place?  Donegal needs more female political role models. Women need to be seen and heard and girls need to have role models who will inspire them to become our future politicians and representatives of our communities.

Equal representation is a basic social justice, without it how can any policy or decision making process be equal or even sustainable when half the population has no input into the structures which makes the decisions. If Ireland is a society that wants to advance and develop sustainably it therefore needs to have men and women equally at the decision-making table.

Equal representation goes to the heart of how as a society we view gender equality, the social standard we set which shows and supports the belief that we are all equal, starting with those who represent us at a political decision making level. The question is how to we achieve this balance?


Moving forward

As a society we need to become better at supporting and encouraging women to engage and not undervalue what they can and do bring to politics. Over the years through the Donegal Women’s Network work and as a member of the 5050 group we’ve heard women say they’re either not interested in getting involved or running for election because it’s not for them. With others highlighting the barriers and challenges they have faced because they are a woman which includes the 5 Cs Confidence, Childcare, Cash, Candidate Selection and Culture, as identified in the 2009 commissioned report for the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Women’s Rights.

Another challenge to address is how do we support women who may feel they do not want to belong to a political party who may like to run as an independent, because there are unique challenges faced when running as an independent. All these challenges need to be researched, understood and addressed both socially and politically.

And while politics isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, we need to acknowledge that politics does impact all our lives whether we like it or not, be it our ability to access public services, health care, even down to getting those pot holes in your road filled, the list is endless. We therefore have a vested interested to engage and follow what’s going on, as a community we should promote this. It’s particularly important women recognise the diverse knowledge and life experiences they have to offer which goes towards supporting and creating a more equal society for both men and women.

While the road to achieving better equal political representation in Donegal may seem long NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network looks forward to working on addressing these issues through our membership with the 5050 Group a voluntary national advocacy group dedicated to achieving equal representation in Irish Politics.


Coming up

On Thursday 13th June 11am-1.30pm, we will also be joining a panel of guest speakers at the

 ‘Celebrating Donegal Women and 120 years of Local Government’ event in Letterkenny Museum, co-hosted by the National Women’s Council of Ireland and Donegal County Museum, celebrating the achievements of women in Irish politic and discussing the importance of women in politics, highlighting the experiences of women who enter political life and how we can support the increase of women in politics.

To register please follow this link

Donegal Invite

 

Sweet Treats for all this Easter?

easteregg_2868022bMost of us look forward to chocolate at this time of year, however, before we all get cracking on Easter celebrations, let’s consider the global supply chain – from  cocoa farming to the Easter eggs we buy for our loved ones, and choose to enjoy chocolate which is produced fairly without exploitation of others.

Chocolate and Human trafficking

Most of the chocolate we buy is produced from cocoa grown in West Africa where farmers can earn less than $2 a day. This in turn can result in farmers resorting to child labour and slavery to keep their prices competitive in the global market. This drive to keep cocoa prices low is fuelled by multinational companies and consumer’s desire and expectation of low cost chocolate. In the West, chocolate has become a low cost everyday item, often produced at the expense of other humans.

Human Trafficking is a form of modern day slavery. It is a crime which violates human rights. Thousands of children are trafficked to harvest cocoa beans. Children as young as 5 are forced to work long hours, in dangerous conditions with no pay and no access to education. Impoverished families in Ivory Coast, West Africa can be duped by traffickers into believing their children will earn money and receive education if they work on cocoa farms, some children are abducted from neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali- two of the poorest countries in the world. Some children will never see their families again.

What is being done to combat child labour and human trafficking in chocolate production?

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) works in partnerships with multinational companies aiming to combat the worst forms of child labour. Whilst many of the major chocolate manufactures are working towards combating trafficking and child labour in the supply chain, only a small percentage of products have a guarantee that the chocolate is fairly produced without human trafficking and child labour.

What we can do here in Donegal ?

Join the campaign to put pressure on chocolate manufacturers to guarantee all chocolate is fairly produced, and find out where in Donegal you can buy chocolate such as “Fair trade”- visit WWW.stopthetraffik.org

Human Trafficking is a crime which can take place anywhere, including areas such as Donegal, where recent arrests were made following reports of human trafficking and labour exploitation here Letterkenny.

We all have a role to play in being alert to the possibility of trafficking crimes and to report any concerns to Crimestoppers:  Tel: 1800 25 00 25, E-mail: Blueblindfold@garda.ie, www.blueblindfold.gov.ie.

The most common forms of trafficking are for: sexual exploitation and  forced labour.

Some of the barriers to potential victims of trafficking escaping :

  • Not knowing how to access help
  • Fear of retaliation by the traffickers to the victim or their family back in their home country.
  • Fear of deportation due to undocumented migrant status or passports/documents being withheld from the victims by traffickers or others.
  • No English- victims may have little or no knowledge of the local language.

Some of the signs of human trafficking- (for further info. see www.blueblindfold.gov.ie):

  • Women or men living in groups in poor conditions and working very long hours.
  • Women or men dependent on their employer for all their basic needs such as food, accommodation and transport.
  • Women or men living in the same place as they are working.

In The Long Run :- Ending human trafficking ‘one step at a time’

“In the Long run” is a Belgian based Oasis project, where a  team of runners, who have travelled over 1,000km along a major international human trafficking route, aim to  raise awareness about the issue of human trafficking, and provide information to communities about the issue of human trafficking.

The Donegal Anti Human Trafficking Group is welcoming the “In the Long Run” team to Letterkenny on 30th March 2016. Donegal YouthCouncil will be hosting an event and have invited the “In the Long Run” team to highlight the human trafficking issue.

 For more information see: ‘Donegal Anti-Human Trafficking Group’ on Facebook and ‘In The Long Run‘.

This feature was written by Catherine Brown as part of our Women’s Lives series to raise awareness to the local and global crime that is human trafficking. 

Where do Donegal 2016 General Election candidate’s stand on equal representation in Irish Politics

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NCCWN Donegal Women’s Network as a member of the 5050 Group North West carried out a questionnaire survey in order to collected general election candidates views on equal representation in politics, we received 15 responses with 11 full responses. Please click on a candidates picture to read their response:

Donegal Candidates who responded to the 5050 North West questionnaire

Thomas Pringle Pearse Doherty Paula Flanagan Pat Cope Padraig MacLochlainn Cordelia Nic Fhearraigh Frank McBrearty Jr Gary Doherty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Mooney

 

Donegal Candidates who confirmed their support for 5050 and/or equal representation

Paddy Harte

Paddy Harte, Fine Gael; stated “Once elected, I will do my best to support your cause”

Niamh Kennedy

Niamh Kennedy, Independent; stated “of course she supports equal representation”

 

 

 

 

 

Sligo-Leitrim Candidates who responded to the 5050 North West questionnaire

Chris MacManus Marie Casserly

 

 

 

 

Sligo-Leitrim Candidates who confirmed their support for 5050 and/or equal representation

Susan OKeeffe

Susan O’Keeffe, Labour; stated “as a founder of 5050 North West of course she supports the group and women equal” representation.

Bernard Sweeney

Bernard Sweeney, Independent; stated “he supports 5050 and has written about this issue on his website”