Like JFK’s mom told David Frost: these women politicians can’t have it all
A book I started reading on holidays was the wonderfully-gossipy ‘The Kennedy Women’ by Laurence Leamer, who quotes David Frost asking the Kennedy matriarch Rose (JFK’s mom): “Your sons have gone into politics, but you wouldn’t particularly urge your daughters to go into politics?”
“Well I think their first duty is to their family,” Rose replied, “and I think it would be very difficult to do both”.
So I get back from my holidays to find the women TDs have been dropping like flies in Leinster House! Fine Gael’s Olwyn Enright (36), pregnant for a second time, is opting to spend more time with her family and Liz McManus (63) of Labour also announced last week she will be stepping down from the Dáil at the next election. McManus’ son Ronan, a councillor on Bray Town Council, is expected to be a candidate for the Labour nomination to run in Wicklow.
Enright, of Laois-Offaly and soon to move to husband Joe McHugh’s Donegal constituency, gave a revealing interview to my colleague Kathy Sheridan in which she said being a TD was not compatible with being a mother. (http://bit.ly/dj7SYh)
“And it’s not been challenged really. And – I know – here’s me walking off the pitch and not challenging it. But the way I see it is, I don’t want to have to explain to my children in years to come, ‘Well you know, it was really important for women that I stayed in there, so sorry about you.’ I had to decide my priorities, and my priorities are them at the end of the day.”
Well who could argue with that? (And who could fail to be moved by the simplicity with which Enright described the feelings of many a mother working outside the home when she revealed how unprepared she was for the intense desire to simply spend more time with her child. “I didn’t appreciate beforehand how strong it would be.”)
I was interested to read that Enright is now reviewing her attitude to gender quotas. I carried out a survey of all 23 women deputies last month asking: Should political parties be required to adopt quotas/gender targets in their candidate selection process? Enright was then one of the 14 against the proposal contained in a report from
the Oireachtas subcommittee on women’s participation in politics.
McManus has been a long-time supporter of such quotas. She now says she believes a younger generation “burdened with unemployment, gargantuan mortgages and crippling debt” should have “a central place in Dail Eireann in making the important decisions”.
So that would be people of, what, around Olywn Enright’s age, right? Drat.
Hey sisters, can you hear those whispers around the corridors of Leinster House? Sounds like they’re (still) saying: “You can’t have it all.”
(Incidentally, you can listen to Mary O’Rourke and Ivana Bacik battling out the gender quotas issue in entertaining style on BBC Radio 4′s Women’s Hour http://bbc.in/a2OuGP and my articles are here: http://bit.ly/adAqEB and http://bit.ly/a8Ze7v and http://bit.ly/cHb3wm)