Women's council chief quits over cuts


CHIEF EXECUTIVE of the National Women’s Council of Ireland Susan McKay has resigned in protest at cuts to the organisation’s budget and accused the Government of showing “scant regards for women’s rights”.

Ms McKay has been a trenchant critic of the Coalition since Government funding to the organisation, which is administered through the Department of Justice, was reduced by 35 per cent in December’s budget.

She met Minister for Justice Alan Shatter last week in the hope of persuading him to soften the cuts, but Mr Shatter “ruled out any reduction”, she said.

“I consider that the scale of this cut makes it impossible for me to do my job properly as chief executive of a national organisation striving to bring about equality for women . . . It is my personal view that the Government has shown scant regard for women’s rights and my resignation is a personal protest against this indifference.”

Speaking in the Dáil after the budget in December, Mr Shatter said he regretted he had no option but to reduce funding to bodies such as the National Women’s Council. He said the organisation had “now received considerable philanthropic funding to support its work” and he believed the reduced contribution from his department was adequate to enable the organisation to implement the national women’s strategy.

He said the reduction meant funding could be maintained, “in so far as possible”, for other bodies supported by his department “in providing frontline services tackling complex and difficult issues such as domestic and sexual violence and to organisations providing assistance to victims of crime”.

Ms McKay’s meeting with Mr Shatter took place on Thursday, January 19th, the evening before she was due to speak at a conference in Dublin Castle, How to Elect More Women, which was the brainchild of Minister of State for Equality Kathleen Lynch.

Ms McKay’s place at the conference was taken by her then colleague Eoin Murray. Ms McKay said she wished the council well “in these difficult times for the organisation”, adding that it represented a diverse range of women’s groups which did “magnificent” work in Irish society.

A National Women’s Council spokeswoman said she did not know what salary Ms McKay was paid by the organisation.

The council’s chairwoman, Clare Tracey, praised Ms McKay and said her resignation was regretted. “Susan conveyed to the board her reason for wishing to step down as chief executive rests with the decision by the Government in Budget 2012 to cut the core funding of the National Women’s Council of Ireland by 35 per cent,” Ms Tracey said.

Ms McKay is a former journalist and author. In the aftermath of the budget, she said the cut was out of proportion to cuts to other non-governmental organisations. Later, welcoming gender quota legislation, she complained about “a savage budget which targeted women and children and cut 35 per cent from the budget of the Women’s Council, Ireland’s national watchdog for women’s rights”.

A Department of Justice spokeswoman said last night €350,000 was allocated to the council in 2012, down from €528,000 in 2011.

She said it also received €50,000 from the HSE for this year and, in September 2011, secured funding from two philanthropic organisations amounting to €900,000 over three years.