Minister calls for an end to girls’ and boys’ schools

Co-education benefits young men and women, says Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

Minister for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said women’s rightsand the de-segregation of schools have to be “front and centre in our discussions about the centenary of the 1916 Rising”.

Minister for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said women’s rightsand the de-segregation of schools have to be “front and centre in our discussions about the centenary of the 1916 Rising”.


Minister for Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has called for an end to gendered segregation in schools.

Speaking at the annual soap-box for women’s rights, hosted by the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) to mark international women’s day which falls tomorrow, the Minister said gendered segregation in schools perpetuated gender stereotyping as seen in subject choices and sports played.

“Today should be the start of a conversation we have in Irish society to break beyond that obsession with gender-based education, that every school in the country should be co-ed, to benefit young men and to benefit young women so we don’t have the gender stereotyping that inevitably works its way into the workforce and into society in general.”

He said next year, “front and centre in our discussions about the centenary of the 1916 Rising, has to be women’s rights, has to be gender equality and we have to start a conversation about de-segregating education in Ireland.”

Minister Ó Ríordáin was one of over 30 people participating in the soapbox which saw speakers talk on a range of issues, including violence against women, changes to the lone-parents allowance and abortion, for three minutes each. The event was held outside the Central Bank in Dublin.

Sabina Higgins, to whom President Michael D Higgins is married, described as “tragic” the increase in gendered violence among young people.

“New media are being used to increase pressure on young people and cause abusive and bullying relationships. There is also a rise in non-consensual sexual activity among young people and this is very, very tragic.

“We need to help young people develop self-confidence, their sense of self-worth and their own authenticity so they can enjoy their leisure without intimidation,” said Ms Higgins.

Young single mother, Sarah Gorry (27) form Santry, Dublin was there with her daughter Ruby (5). She spoke about the difficulties of single motherhood with “almost no support” from family or the State. She said she felt blamed for leaving a relationship six months after her daughter was born.

“I was blamed for getting pregnant and was called lazy for not staying in the relationship.”

She would love to go out to work or to college but she could not afford to pay for childcare. “We live on €200 a week. It’s not easy. I am doing my best but I want to do more.”

Socialist Party TD, Ruth Coppinger said there was an economic war being waged on women “which we must all fight and must all oppose” in cuts to child benefit over the past five years and changes to entitlement to lone-parents allowance.

Tom Meagher, whose wife Jill Meagher was murdered on a night out in Melbourne three years ago, said women’s equality could never be achieved as long as violence against women was tolerated. He is Irish advocate for the international white ribbon campaign, a male-led campaign to end men’s violence against women.

“Men need to actively advocate for women’s empowerment. We need to stand against the structural violence that keeps women more vulnerable to poverty than men,” said Mr Meagher.

Independent TD, Clare Daly, called for the repeal of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution.

“We’ve had A, B, C, D, Y, PP. These aren’t initials. These are real women whose human rights and health have been violated by this State. And that crime as carried out on them by the same people who shed tears about the crimes carried out against women in our history, the so-called dark days of our past.”

Louise Bayliss of the Spark (single parents acting for the rights of kids) campaign said planned changes to lone-parents allowance due to come into force in July, represented a “gendered attack on women”.

From July 2nd, once a lone-parent’s youngest child reaches seven years of age, they will be moved onto job-seekers’ allowance. This will see some families’ income fall.

“Working lone-parents earning minimum wage rates doing 20 hours per week will lose 25 per cent of their income in July, for one reason. Their child turns seven,” said Ms Bayliss.

“Our children are facing poverty... I am so in favour of marriage equality, but there should be equality for those unmarried as well.”

Domestic worker Reynelde Mahlium, from the Philippines, called for women to join with the Labour of Love campaign, which seeks work permits for domestic workers and enforcement of employment rights for the sector.

“Our work is undervalued and underpaid,” she said. “We’re in a very vulnerable situation. Undocumented au pairs and workers hand-in-hand stand united for equality, recognition and justice.”