Higgins hosts event to honour Irish sportswomen on Women’s Day

President praises female sports stars as role models and says they deserve more coverage

Members of the Irish Women’s Hockey team pictured at Áras an Uachtaráin where they met President Micheal D Higgins and his wife Sabina to celebrate International Women’s Day. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/THE IRISH TIMES

Members of the Irish Women’s Hockey team pictured at Áras an Uachtaráin where they met President Micheal D Higgins and his wife Sabina to celebrate International Women’s Day. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/THE IRISH TIMES

 

The profile of women’s sport in Ireland has never been higher. Katie Taylor, Stephanie Roche, the women’s rugby team and the Cork ladies Gaelic football team are among those chipping away at the monopoly that men seem to have on the public perception of sport.

President Michael D Higgins hosted a reception to celebrate Irish women in sport at Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday afternoon and more than 100 of Ireland’s finest sportswomen turned up.

The President told them it was appropriate on International Women’s Day that they be honoured and they were proving to be role models for young Irish women taking up sport. As a result, the number of Irish women participating in sport once a week was now up to 43 per cent, he said.

However, he said it was regrettable that women still struggled to achieve the same coverage in the media or recognition as their male counterparts.

Secondary role

He also said many women were discouraged from participating in sport because it was regarded as “unfeminine”.

Among those who attended was Olive Loughnane, who is set to have the silver she won at the 2009 Athletics World Championships in Berlin upgraded to gold. The Russian winner of the 20km walk, Olga Kaniskina, was disqualified after failing a drugs test.

Loughnane said women’s sports stars have “done ourselves a lot of favours” by being successful and high-profile.

She said her eight-year-old daughter had asked, “Do boys box as well?” when told that Andy Lee was Ireland’s newest boxing champion.

The two most successful Irish women’s teams of recent years, the Cork senior ladies football team and the Irish rugby team who beat the world champions England a few weeks ago, were both at the reception. Last year, the Rebelettes made history by becoming the first women’s team to win the RTÉ sports team of the year. The award was in recognition of their unprecedented achievements in winning nine All-Ireland titles in 10 years.

Team captain Briege Corkery said it was a “fantastic honour” to be invited to celebrate International Women’s Day at Áras an Uachtaráin. She is one of Ireland’s most decorated sportswomen, having won eight All-Ireland medals in football and six in camogie.

Corkery said it was not just the media’s fault that women’s sport was not more high profile. “Women should support women more,” she said.