Standing up to be counted: Women’s Caucus hold first working meeting

Caucus is about ‘making Ireland a better place to live for mothers and daughters’

Past and present female members of the Oireachtas gather for a photocall at Leinster House, to mark the occasion of the first working meeting of the Oireachtas Women’s Caucus. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Past and present female members of the Oireachtas gather for a photocall at Leinster House, to mark the occasion of the first working meeting of the Oireachtas Women’s Caucus. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

“Hold it,” shouted the photographer as a gaggle of his species tried to get the women on the plinth to stand still, smile and all look in the same direction, and at the same time.

The Irish Times counted 21 current and former female members of the Oireachtas, fresh from the first working meeting of the new Women’s Caucus, as they massed in front of Leinster House for a commemorative photo.

After a while, three more came up the rear. Then another two.

“How many are you supposed to be?” someone asked.

“Not enough,” Niamh Smith, Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, fired back.

“Oh, there’s another one,” observed RTÉ’s Martina Fitzgerald.

The committee ruminating on the eighth amendment had suspended proceedings so those who chose to could also come and take part.

Former Independent senator Mary Henry was there with Mary Wallace, former Fianna Fáil TD for Meath, and Ms Wallace’s son, Tom Gannon (22), a final year student in DIT Bolton Street.

Campaign

The two women recalled their 14-year campaign to get a creche in Leinster House.

“The next campaign is for carers,” said Dr Henry (77).

The caucus was about “making Ireland a better place to live for mothers and daughters”, said former Fianna Fáil senator Margaret Cox.

“It’s all about highlighting issues affecting women,” said former Fianna Fáil senator Ann Ormonde, adding that she was “not into this gender quotas thing”.

It is an issue for the caucus, however, as its chairwoman, Green Party TD Catherine Martin, explained, saying it was discussed along with the pensions gender gap at the first working meeting.

“This caucus is about delivering for women in a non-adversarial way,” she added.

Harassment

On the current spate of claims about harassment and inappropriate conduct inflicted on women, Ms Martin said the type of behaviour exposed was “not good enough”.

“That is not the way to behave and [men who did it needed to know] there will be consequences.”

The caucus secretariat is the National Women’s Council of Ireland and, of current and former Oireachtas members invited to attend the caucus, two Sinn Féin TDs, Louise O’Reilly (Dublin Fingal) and Imelda Munster (Louth), declined to attend.

“We hope they will opt in and support us,” said Ms Martin. “Their voices are being missed.”

By the time the photographers had finished, the group had swollen to 29 current and former representatives from a country of 4.75 million people, 51 per cent of whom are female.