Women in Irish Politics

women in dail

With International Women’s day here and the election just passed, I think it’s as good a time as any to take a look at some of the women that have affected politics in this country.

In the most recent election, just a few days ago, 35 women were elected to Dail Eireann to make up 22% of the seats. That’s more than any other election previously and it marks the largest increase from one election to another. It’s about on par with the world average but unfortunately, were still trailing behind Europe. It’s a bit better in the Seanad at 32% of the seats filled by women, above both the Global and Europeans averages. This could change of course when the members of the next Seanad are appointed, and while there’s still work to be done in this area we do seem to be taking steps in the right direction.

Women have had a huge impact in Ireland since before it became an independent state. Countess Markievicz played a huge role in the 1916 Rising and went on to become the first woman elected to both the First Dail and the House of Commons in Britain (She never took her seat though, letting Nancy Astor claim the title of the first woman to attend) in 1918, the same year that women got the vote in Ireland. Since then there has always been a woman in the Dail, although it wasn’t until 1981 that they were there in double digits.

countess markievicz

Countess Markievicz, the first woman in an Irish Parliment

In 1990, Mary Robinson was elected as the first ever female President of Ireland, becoming one of the most active Presidents the country ever had. After her first term, she took the position of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human rights, the second person and first woman to hold the position. Mary McAleese was elected in her place and was the first woman in the world to succeed another as President of a country.

mary mcaleese

Mary McAleese, president from 1997 to 2011

Like Robinson, she too was very active in her presidency and addressed a number of issues in justice and social equality, among others. She continued to be afterwards too, particularly during the Marriage Equality referendum.

Since the founding of the state so many years ago women have affected this country, and we’ve all benefitted greatly. Happy International Women’s day.