During Thursday’s statements on the referendum result, Fine Gael’s Kate O’Connell, who played a very active role in the campaign, referred to comments during the Dáil debate on whether the people should be allowed to vote on the Eighth Amendment.
"We heard much disturbing commentary in here over the last few months leading to the referendum campaign, suggestions that women were doing grand and that the head of Glanbia and the head of FBD is a woman and that the head of the National Transport Authority 'is a lady'. And I heard that the head of the Road Safety Authority is also 'a lady'.
“Well, good luck to them” declared Kate.
“What on earth was the point of using them as examples and as weapons against other women? Wouldn’t we look well in here if – speaking on a subject about men where they were directly suffering – we said: ‘Sure, the Taoiseach is a man and the Leader of the Opposition is a man and the President of Ireland is a man and the head of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is a man.
“So men are clearly doing grand . . . Imagine if we said that in this House?”
O’Connell, whose Dublin Bay South constituency returned the highest percentage of Yes votes in the country, felt some of the Dáil contributions “involved nods towards misogyny and prejudices that were not reflected in their own local ballot boxes. If people are feeling sheepish now, feeling out of step with their electorates, they should be.”
So who told the Dáil that Irish “ladies” are doing very well for themselves now and he wishes them all the best, but not at the cost of the Eighth Amendment?
It was Fianna Fáil's Kevin O'Keeffe, TD for Cork East and son of former Fianna Fáil minister of state Ned O'Keeffe, speaking on March 9th in favour of retaining the amendment and confirming he would vote against holding a referendum.
“Much was made of International Women’s Day yesterday and I commend all those who participated in the celebration – a hundred years voting, and that, and I too would acknowledge there’s many issues in relation to the women that need still to be addressed, but I do see things improving greatly,” he opined.
“Women’s representation in the Dáil is not great but I know from involvement in other sectors that there’s many great women at the fore of some of the major companies in this country, mainly Glanbia, FBD Insurances.
"I am on the Oireachtas transport committee. And who comes in before us? The head of the NTA, a lady. Who is head of the RSA, the Road Safety Authority? A lady.
“So, you know, don’t feel that we have been shy in acknowledging the role of women. Any women I deal with are able to fight their own corner. So I wish them the best. But what we have here is the foetus or unborn, who don’t have a say or a means of fighting their corner.”
Kevin cautioned against complacency by politicians trying to “rush” through a referendum “because people feel they can take for granted the electorate in various quarters – ie students. But I can assure you that there are many students who are against the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. So don’t anyone get carried away and think that they have any sector of society under control.”
Cork East voted 64.51 per cent Yes and 35.49 per cent No.
Thanks to the young people and, of course, the ladies.
A constitutional matter
Among the crowd in the courtyard of Dublin Castle last Saturday was a woman handing out After Eight(h) mints while a man in a Panama hat walked around holding a pen and a copy of the Constitution. It was open at the page containing Article 40.3.3 and he was inviting people to ink over the amendment, one word at a time.
According to Fianna Fáil's Stephen Donnelly in the Dáil on Thursday, "this Saturday, seven days after the result was announced, the Eighth Amendment will no longer exist in Bunreacht na hÉireann. Now it falls to us in this House to bring in the required legislation."
So here’s an idea for a handy Christmas stocking filler for the No voter in your life. Rush out now and buy a copy of the Constitution while Article 40.3.3 is still in it. It will remind them of the good old days.
But it’ll be nearer the end of the year before the updated version comes out. According to the Department of An Taoiseach, “work will commence on updating the popular edition of the Constitution as soon as the Bill has been enacted. The cost of the publication will remain at the current rate €2.54.”
With the legislation expected to pass in October or November, the printers will be able to rush out the new Bunreacht just in time for Christmas. It'll make a perfect stocking filler for all your Home2Vote and Together4Yes loved ones. It might even be a seasonal bestseller, up there with Harry Potter and the latest 50 Shades of Smut.
Available in all good bookshops.
And at €2.54? It’s a steal.
It’s a wrap
On Monday, the Taoiseach met South Korean prime minister Lee Nak-yon at Government Buildings. Lee is the first South Korean PM to visit Ireland in 28 years.
According to the South Korea Herald, Leo Varadkar expressed support for Seoul's efforts to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons and make lasting peace with North Korea.
The two leaders agreed to strengthen co-operation in trade and investment, education, job creation and international organisations.
“Lee, in particular, asked for the Irish Government’s support for South Korean cooks to get jobs in the European nation” reported the newspaper. “Varadkar said in response that he’s well aware of how talented South Korean cooks are and that his Government would consider relaxing visa and work permit requirements for foreign cooks.”
The meeting went very well for all concerned and the only thing that remained was the exchange of gifts. It seems prime minister Lee had earlier expressed an interest in the bodhrán. An interest probably ignited by the Green Army’s South Korean odyssey during the World Cup finals in 2002.
Lee’s Irish hosts were delighted with the bodhrán they acquired for their honoured guest, but just before it was about to be handed over a horrified foreign affairs official noticed it wasn’t gift wrapped. In South Korea, an unwrapped gift is seen as a terrible discourtesy.
With lighting speed, it was spirited away and duly trussed up in fancy paper.
Diplomatic incident averted.
Resurgent Social Democrats
Catherine and Róisín’s Purple Hearts are stacking up nicely in advance of the general election.
That’s what some of the young Social Democrat candidates and supporters have taken to calling themselves – the party has had distinctive purple livery since it was launched back in 2015.
Co-leaders Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shorthall have been busy doing the round of campaign launches in recent months and this week four women were added to the team. This brings their number of candidates to 20, 12 of whom are women.
“We might get into trouble with our quotas if things keep going like this,” quipped Murphy at the launch of Sinéad Gibney’s campaign in The Mellow Fig Café in Dublin’s Blackrock. Sinéad’s cousin, comedian Des Bishop, was MC at the launch.
Like many of the new recruits to the Soc Dem banner, Sinéad was very involved in the Repeal the Eighth campaign, canvassing door to door in her constituency with Dún Laoghaire Together for Yes.
From 2014 to 2016 she was the first director of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. Before that she built and led the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Google Ireland.
Also selected for the Soc Dems this week was Carly Bailey, who is standing in Dublin South West and was co-convenor of Dublin South West Together for Yes. She is a mature student at Trinity studying Law and Political Science.
Sarah Durcan got the nod for Dublin Bay South. She is the Global Operations Manager of Science Gallery International and had a background in theatre production and financial management. She played a role in the #WakingTheFeminists campaign.
Tracey Carey was the fourth quota-busting Soc Dem candidate selected this week. A businesswoman from Malahide, she will contest Dublin Fingal. In the past she has worked in TV production, run a small family business and also spent 10 years living on a boat and sailing the world.
Meanwhile, there is talk in Galway that Niall Ó Tuathail, a rising star in the Social Democrats, is on Fianna Fáil’s candidate wish list in the west.
According to political columnist Dara Bradley in Friday's Connacht Tribune, local Fianna Fáilers suspect that Micheál Martin is trying to woo Ó Tuathail to the side of the Soliders of Destiny. If that happens, Bradley predicts "civil war in FF in Galway West".
Apparently the party leader visited the city recently to address the chamber of commerce, but he didn't notify local kingpin Éamon Ó Cuív. He didn't alert local councillors either, leading to concerns among prospective candidates that he was sounding out the Social Democrat man.
Bradley points out that SocDem co-founder turned Fianna Fáil frontbencher Stephen Donnelly is close to Ó Tuathail, who masterminded his initial electoral success in Wicklow.
The software designer, who worked on health policy in London with management consultants McKinsey before moving to Galway with his Portuguese wife, was also a prominent Together4Yes campaigner.
However, in a series of tweets on Friday, Ó Tuathail dismissed talk of jumping ship.
“The easy way for me to get elected, to be minister for health someday, would be to join Fianna Fáil. But the only way to give Irish people the options for government it needs and deserves is to skip the shortcuts and put the work in to build @SocDems . . . ”
“ . . . I have been approached by FF multiple times to run for them since last election but it’s not going to happen.”
Comeback kid Billy
Finally, we hear Billy Timmins, who left Fine Gael over the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill in 2013 and went on to join Lucinda Creighton's Reform Alliance, which morphed into Renua, is 100 per cent back in the fold.
In the run up to the abortion referendum in May, Timmins, who ran for Renua in the last election and lost his seat, was selected in Wicklow at a convention chaired by Waterford’s Michael D’Arcy.
The news shouldn't bother political boy wonder and Minister for Health Simon Harris, whose leadership role during the referendum earned him many new admirers as he temporarily became, in the words of one young female voter last Saturday: "the nation's bae".
Timmins will be back on a familiar ticket with Harris and Andrew Doyle, the hard-working junior minister for agriculture. The former TD, who held a seat in the constituency for 16 years before his 2016 defeat, will have his work cut out for him as the east Carlow part of the constituency, which was added in 1997, was removed in the latest redrawing of the boundaries, taking away a chunk of his support base.