Haughey launched directory of women

Sat, Dec 29, 2012, 00:00

STATE BOARDS:A directory of women who could potentially become members of State boards was launched by then taoiseach Charles Haughey in 1982.

At the time, 10 per cent of government appointees to State-sponsored bodies were women. The Talent Bank, produced by the Council for the Status of Women, included female academics, psychiatrists, barristers, teachers, civil servants and architects willing to sit on boards.

It was officially launched by Haughey who said it would be a “great advantage to have” when making appointments. But some women accused him of “trying to get away with a lot of waffle” and paying “lip service”, according to newspaper reports at the time.


Frustration with Haughey was reflected in letters in the Department of the Taoiseach archive, including one written in June 1982 asking him to consider appointing a woman from the talent bank to the board of the Inner City Development Committee.

A draft reply to the letter stated: “Many of the women suggested come under the heading of teaching or women’s matters, or interested in children’s rights.”

While these areas might be of relevance, “an architectural dimension” or “experience in the area of urban renewal or community development” would be of “considerable relevance”.

The letter that actually issued, from Haughey’s private secretary Seán Aylward, made no reference to the headings the women came under. It said the list was “most useful” and Haughey was committed to appointing suitable women.

‘Shock and anger’

A second letter from the council in July 1982 registered the organisation’s “shock and anger” at Sr Stanislaus Kennedy being dropped from a health board. It had followed a woman being dropped from the board of RTÉ and new appointments at AnCO being all men.

A letter from the council in August said it had contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs about an EEC committee vacancy, to be told it was already filled.