Dublin Castle gathering celebrates ‘an age for women’

On eve of International Women’s Day, former minister Mary O’Rourke says women put off politics by adversarial nature of profession

Ireland’s top business women celebrate International Women’s Day at Dublin Castle. Pictured speaking  is Mary Kennedy. Photograph: Suzanne Thompson Circus Photography

Ireland’s top business women celebrate International Women’s Day at Dublin Castle. Pictured speaking is Mary Kennedy. Photograph: Suzanne Thompson Circus Photography

Sat, Mar 8, 2014, 01:00

LISA BLAKE

Political

parties are failing to attract female election candidates because some women don’t like the adversarial aspect, former Fianna Fáil minister Mary O’Rourke has said.

The 76-year-old quipped on the eve of International Women’s Day at the University of Limerick that even Fine Gael “as great as they are” were having difficulties getting women to join the party.

“I would think that women don’t like the adversarial. They’re looking at the Dáil at night and they’re shouting and roaring and insulting, and horrible things are being said to people. I think the women are saying I don’t want that life,” she said.

Juggling minister
The retired TD was giving a talk about how she juggled life as a politician, wife and mother while serving as a minister in several cabinet roles. The former minister for education and health said some women were not prepared to put in the legwork.

One of the country’s most prominent anti-quota voices also reiterated her stance on gender quotas in politics. “Is there not something basically insulting about quotas for women to be TDs?” she asked the audience.

In Dublin Castle, Mary Fehily-Hobbs, the president of Network Ireland, which represents women in business, the professions and the arts, said the day was “a celebration of what is possible, what is within our reach and what is part of the narrative”.

‘Age for women’
“Make no mistake – this is an age for women,” the attendees at the event to mark Women’s Day were told.

There was an intake of breath when she quoted Alexander Arefyev, the Russian men’s ski-jumping coach at the recent Winter Olympics, who said he didn’t agree with women in the sport because they “have a different purpose – to have children, do housework, create a family home”.

“Thankfully, just as the Luddite textile workers in 19th century Britain failed to stem the rising tide of human and technological advancement, those resisting change – like the Russian ski-jump Luddite in this century – will become lost to history,” she said.

Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland Orla O’Connor noted a “groundbreaking” study on violence against women and again called on the Government to sign and ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women.