Big House has big ideas for better future

Motions call for more women in public life and need to recapture the ideals of 1919

Broadcaster and finance journalist Margaret E Ward rejects the “wisdom” that radio and television audiences preferred male voices. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Broadcaster and finance journalist Margaret E Ward rejects the “wisdom” that radio and television audiences preferred male voices. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 


Motions calling for more women in the media and politics, for the banks to be made small and boring and for a reassertion of the original republican democratic ideals of 1919 were among those passed at the Big House Parliament over the weekend. Another, proposing that Arthur’s Day be made a national holiday was not.

The “parliament” was one of the main attractions at a new festival on the summer circuit, the Big House Festival at Castletown House in Co Kildare. Described by promoters as “a cultural carnival of arts, music, film and entertainment in . . . magical surroundings” the festival, which continues today, features offbeat theatrical and musical performances, food and drink and the parliament where speakers were invited to propose how they would like to change Ireland.

Broadcaster and finance journalist Margaret E Ward, who is from New York, moved to Ireland in 1995. “It has always puzzled me why people are afraid of women with an opinion,” she said. It was possible to listen to national radio stations for an entire day without hearing a woman presenter. She rejected the “wisdom” that radio and television audiences preferred male voices. “I’d like to see the research please,” she said.

Dr Brian Lucey, a finance professor at Trinity College Dublin, said the banking sector could learn from Danish banks, which were “small, boring, efficient and work like a charm”. The large banks should be made “more humble, more stable and balanced”.

Colm O’Gorman, the executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, said we were not ambitious enough in seeking to regain our financial sovereignty, pointing out how radical were the ambitions of the first Democratic Programme of the Irish Republic in 1919. It declared it was the “first duty of the Government of the Republic to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of the children, to secure that no child shall suffer hunger or cold from lack of food, clothing, or shelter, but that all shall be provided with the means and facilities requisite for their proper education and training as Citizens of a Free and Gaelic Ireland”.

This spirit preceded the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by seven decades, but we had lost that radicalism as a nation. “We need to talk about what we will do with our sovereignty once we get it back . . . We live in a notional republic.”