A century on, women TDs make it to Dáil’s walls

Portrait of all 53 women in Oireachtas to be unveiled for International Women’s Day

Harry McGee

Political Correspondent

After 100 years women’s suffrage will finally get full recognition on the walls of Ireland’s parliament in Leinster House on Thursday afternoon.

Despite the election of Constance Markievicz to the first Dáil a century ago, the dozens of portraits on display on the walls of the Oireachtas are overwhelmingly of men.


This will be partly remedied on Thursday when a portrait featuring all 53 women in the Dáil and Seanad is unveiled in the House.

The portrait is by the Belfast figurative artist Noel Murphy, who also painted the large group portrait ‘The House will Divide’ in 2000 which featured all 108 members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

It will be presented by Mr Murphy to Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl, as part of the celebrations for International Women’s Day.

Mr Murphy’s painting also features four images of Countess Markievicz, one as a picture, and two as ghostly figures in the painting.

The artist, a graduate of the University of Ulster and the National College of Art and Design, told The Irish Times the inclusion of one of Ireland’s great historical and revolutionary figures gave continuity and a link to the past, and also “showed the passage of time”.

“Basically it unites the story of the First Dáil with the current Oireachtas. There are two elements that come together rather than it being simply a portrait of 53 politicians.”

The six-feet by five-feet portrait was the brainchild of Northern broadcaster and art connoisseur Eamon Mallie, who, along with his son Michael, has been making a documentary on women in the Dáil and Seanad. They have interviewed women TDs and Senators about female representation, including on issues such as why there has been no female Taoiseach or female minister for finance to date.

“I was very impressed by the calibre and independence of all those we interviews. What struck me is that they were very independent and were not hidebound by party dogma,” said Mr Mallie.

The documentary, which was made with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, is due to be completed in April.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times