Ireland still low on female politicians – RTE Political Correspondent

back row, Senator Gabrielle McFadden, front row, Mary O’Rourke and Martina Fitzgerald

Thirty-five women were elected to Dail Eireann in the 2016 General Election, but that is still low by international standards, according to RTE political correspondent and author, Martina Fitzgerald.

‘It was the first time that they got over the thirty mark, and thirty-five were elected, and more women were either added to the ticket’ or were put through the selection convention, according to Martina, whose new Irish political book, ‘Madam Politician’ is now No. 1 in the Irish non-fiction hardback bestseller lists.

Speaking to David Flynn of, Martina said that now twenty two percent of Dail politicians are women.

“That is historic, but it is low by international standards in Britain and Europe,” said Martina. “2016 is now a starting point, and where the 1992 election had twenty women elected, the same number was elected five years later in 1997, so that was a false dawn. There is a concern that this could also be a false dawn.”

She talked about Josepha Madigan, Dublin Rathdown TD, who was put on the ticket under the gender quota ruling, still having to go out on the campaign trail and get elected.

“More than eighty percent of female politicians came through the local election route, and in cabinet there is still only four women Ministers,” she said. “Most of the women I interviewed are against gender quotas at cabinet, and some like Mary O’Rourke are against them full stop.”

Martina said that former politicians, Mary Coughlan, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn and Mary Hanafin were originally against gender quotas but they have all changed their minds, as they previously believed there would be more women in politics by now.

“Mary Hanafin said that she wouldn’t like to see them (the quotas for Dáil candidates) go beyond forty percent, which will happen in 2023,” said Martina. “More women have definitely come on board as a result of gender quotas and one of them is now a Minister (Madigan).”





Roscommon To Facilitate Presidential Candidates

Cllr. Tony Ward, Cllr. Ivan Connaughton, Martin Connaughton and Cllr. John Keogh at the AGM.

Roscommon County Council members said at their July meeting that they would consider candidates who wish to run in the future President of Ireland election, and would hold a special meeting in the coming weeks, if required.

Cathaoirleach, Cllr. Ivan Connaughton proposed that the council would facilitate the process of any interested party in the election. He was supported by the three South Roscommon Independent members, writes David Flynn.

“They could contact us, and come here and meet us to show their interest,” said Fianna Fail’s Cllr. Connaughton. “We have no meeting in August, but we may have to call a special meeting in September or earlier if required, in the interest of democracy.”

Independent Cllr. Tony Ward agreed, and said that President Higgins is doing a good job, but that is not the issue, and that there is a right to vote and a right to run. He recalled that seven years ago former councillors Tom Crosby and Jimmy Kenny proposed a candidate for the 2011 Presidential election. They chose Dana Rosemary Scallon at the time.

“It’s never a good thing to close down democracy, and there would be uproar if the 18 councillors here didn’t have to go before the people in 2019,” said Cllr. Ward.

Cllr. Paddy Kilduff said it’s good that democracy will prevail, and he was disappointed with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail supporting the present President, who was a Labour candidate.

“I hope that we give consideration to Sean Gallagher, and only for RTE he would be the President, and although he hasn’t declared yet, I would like to see him declare,” said the Independent.

Fine Gael member, Cllr. Liam Callaghan, said that he would not be blocking any person who “had the guts to put their name forward,”.

“This is a power we should implement and should facilitate,” said Independent, Cllr. Laurence Fallon.


Cllr. Frankie Keena Returns as Athlone Mayor

Fianna Fail Stalwart Challenged by Independent Member

The longest serving Athlone councillor, this week, took up the position of Mayor of the town for the 2018/19 year, and will be Mayor leading up to the local elections next May.

Mayor Frankie Keena, who has been a Fianna Fail councillor since 1995, was proposed and seconded by Fine Gael members, John Dolan and Tom Farrell, respectively. He was supported also by his Fianna Fail colleague, outgoing Mayor, Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke.   Mayor Keena was previously first citizen of Athlone in 1999 and 2014.

The Athlone Mayoral election had another candidate, Cllr. Ailish McManus, (Independent) who was proposed by fellow Independent, Cllr. Michael O’Brien, and seconded by Sinn Fein’s Cllr. Paul Hogan.

“In the interests of Team Athlone, I propose Cllr. McManus,” said Cllr. O’Brien.

“We haven’t had many female Mayors of the council, and the last one was former councillor Gabrielle McFadden, (2013) and before that was Sheila Buckley-Byrne, (2010) and it was many years before that there was Mary O’Rourke (1986) as Cathaoirleach,” said Cllr. Hogan.

However the Fine Gael/Fianna Fail alliance held and continued to run Athlone Municipal District council, as it has done since 2014. The four councillors voted for Cllr. Keena as Mayor and Cllrs Hogan, McManus and O’Brien voted for Cllr. McManus.

Cllr. McManus called the situation “disingenuous,” but gave best wishes to Mayor Keena for the coming year, writes David Flynn.

Mayor Frankie Keena was co-opted to Athlone Urban District Council in 1995, following the death of Senator Sean Fallon. In 1999, Cllr. Keena won a seat to Athlone UDC, and held the role until the 2004 elections, when he lost his seat, in Athlone Town Council (formerly UDC) but won a seat on Westmeath County Council on the same day. He was re-elected to the county council in the 2009 elections, and when the council changed again in 2014, Cllr. Keena was simultaneously elected to the county council and the new Athlone Municipal District.

Cllr. Ailish McManus was co-opted to Westmeath County Council and Athlone Municipal District in 2016, following the election of former councillor Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran to Dail Eireann.

The Fine Gael councillors also proposed and seconded Fianna Fail’s Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke as Deputy Mayor, and he was supported by Mayor Keena.



Yes or No, have your say

By Morgan Fagg – Guest Blogger

The Marriage Equality referendum in 2015 made history around the world and the Irish diaspora was active online and even returning to Ireland to have their say. As another referendum rapidly approaches us, Morgan Fagg looks back at the Irish community’s response, in the heart of Spain.

Around the world, people voiced their opinions and excitement and here in the capital of Spain, a few people gathered together to show that they cared. The event was called Send the Love Home and a few years on, I am sure I won’t get in too much trouble for talking about that referendum.

Sending the Love Home:

I had heard about the Send the Love Home campaign event that was being held in Madrid and decided to show my support, I was far from my hometown of Athlone yet far from alone with over 50 people from all over Ireland gathering for the event.

The idea was that the group would gather and take pictures in the shape of a heart and we were all encouraged to wear green.

I put a few Saint Patrick’s Day items in my camera bag and cycled down to Buen Retiro, a beautiful park with a very large pond, located near Madrid´s city centre. I decided to bring my camera as you never know when a photographer can’t make it or hasn’t been fully organised.

Ireland´s attitude towards gay rights had changed enormously since Norris v. Ireland, when David Norris successfully charged that Ireland was in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to respect for private and family life. Almost two decades later, it was clear from the large colourful crowd that people were coming out to show their support for the LGBT community.

Some G.A.A. friends saw me with my camera bag and asked if I was the photographer but before I had time to explain that I wasn’t, the organisers were asking “who´s got a camera?”

I got off my bike and took out a novelty green tie and leprechaun hat to hand to some friends. The group organised themselves in the shape of a heart and I took off on my bike to the other side of the pond to try and get some photographs.

Returning out of breath, I decided it was best to try to take the pictures from a rowboat and carefully jumped the barriers and got into a tourist’s paddle boat.

An Italian couple held our Vote Yes signs, with pride and two cailíns rowed over to see what was happening with all the Irish flags.

They may have been in the same rowboat but the two girls were a Yes and a no vote as one girl was just visiting Madrid and her friend had lost her vote, when she, hmm, took the boat.

The Italians, the Irish girls and a grandfather and his grandson in another rowboat, all took signs which were written in three languages, Tá, Yes and Sí.

At one stage our flotilla nearly flooded as the abuelo and his grandson got too close to a fountain.

We never asked them their opinion on changing the President´s age from 35 to 21 but appreciated all the Spanish support we could get.

I had to be careful not to get my camera wet and also to watch out for those trilingual signs as Sí, Yes and Tá looked too much like the Spanish word for nap, si-es-ta. Tired of our Spanish Armada, it was time to get back on dry land where I took some green hair dye from my magic camera bag for one last photograph.

One of the organisers Clodagh Daly and a girl from Northern Ireland Kathryn Warke ended up in a very patriotic photograph, a tricolour of green, blonde and orange as Ultan O´Cinneide did an incredible hulk impression with the green hair dye.

Ireland made history around the world in the last referendum and there will be many more exciting referenda in the future so even if you have crossed the pond, have taken a boat or lost your vote.

Voting is essential to our democracy, get involved whenever possible and have your say.

Even in a foreign land, you are never far from friends and a feeling of home, let’s enjoy our democracy. The upcoming referendum is particularly sensitive for those who have had to travel to England or abroad in the past and an emotive issue for everyone else.

For the upcoming referendum, it is difficult to wear silly hats and gather in a public park but be respectful and try to enjoy, making new friends and being politically active, climbing poles and canvassing in the rain and we will continue to send the love, from Spain.

Morgan Fagg is an English teacher in Spain and an amateur photographer with experience with Local Elections, National Elections and the 2011 Presidential Election.