Women’s council says rally is ‘one moment of protest’

Minister says it is ‘regrettable’ no female Government TD or Senator had been invited to speak at the rally on women’s equality

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI)has said a forthcoming rally represents “one moment of protest” after a Minister said it was regrettable that no female Government TD or Senator had been invited to speak.

A rally calling for “political leadership and action on women’s equality” is to take place outside the Dáil on March 5th. Among the speakers are Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, Labour TD Ivana Bacik, Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall and People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith.

Female members of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party have criticised the council over their exclusion from the rally, with Minister for Justice Helen McEntee on Wednesday saying the situation was “regrettable”.

However, the council said it was “mandated to represent the views of our members across Ireland to achieve true equality for women and girls”.

“This work involves bringing people together and working alongside Government, but sometimes it also includes protest and calling out Government inaction,” it said.

“We engage with Government politicians every day and have had numerous events every year where Government Ministers are opening the event and Government TDs and Senators were speaking on panels. This is one moment of protest, and we hope all politicians, including those representing Government parties, attend and hear what needs to change for women.”

Ms Smith said she believes the rally should go ahead as planned, and described as “sinister” references made by Fine Gael Senator Regina Doherty about the council’s funding.

Ms Doherty told RTÉ radio that she took issue with an organisation that is largely State-funded, and with a mission statement to empower women, deciding to exclude some women. She described the decision as “juvenile” and “counter-productive”.

Ms Smith called on Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to clarify that there would be no issue with the organisation’s future funding.

“This is deeply undemocratic that Government TDs feel they can bandy around such comments and try to subject any NGO to such pressure.”

Ms Bacik said she agrees with the cause of the rally, and “as a long-standing feminist campaigner I support the work of the NWCI and other civil society groups advocating for women’s rights”.

“It is a matter for NWCI who they invite to speak at their events,” she said.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

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