Candidate selection is also, of course, just one of five key barriers to female progress. A serious and radical programme of actions to make public life in Ireland family friendly will be needed and there is no sign that investment in this is contemplated. Significant numbers of the women who have made it into the male bastion of Irish politics have done so as part of political dynasties, while others toe conservative party lines and make no effort to bring about change for other women.
Some of our relatively powerless senators have been the strongest advocates of feminism – as well as Bacik, Senator Susan O’Keeffe has promoted the 50/50 campaign with its clear goal of having half of Irish politicians female by 2020. Katherine Zappone has campaigned for gay rights, including marriage.
The new generation of feminists has to deal with a government (like the one before it) which has ignored international warnings that women’s equality is central to economic growth and should not be compromised during hard times.
Women still earn less than men, and are rare in Irish boardrooms. Irish women still overwhelmingly have responsibility for childcare, elder care and housework, trapping many, particularly among the poor, in the domestic sphere.
Sexism has deep and tangled roots in our Irish culture, and there is also a strong sense today of feminist responsibility in a global context.
Migrant women in Ireland are part of today’s womens movement and have particular needs. As Mary Robinson highlights elsewhere in this supplement, climate change is impoverishing and displacing millions of women.
There are horrific levels of domestic and sexual violence here and around the world. We should be glad that there are young feminists biting at the heels of their more established sisters. All of their energy is needed, all of their passion, their necessary willingness to be subversive.