Women's role in community, public and political life brought to the fore in cross-border event
The ‘Women – Champions of Peacebuilding’ visit to Irish Government Building and Dáil Éireann on Wednesday 18 September was the latest peace and reconciliation event as part of The Next Chapter project.
Over 80 women from the 10 Chapters across Northern Ireland and the border counties in the Republic of Ireland visited Dáil Éireann to meet with invited members of the Irish Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, attend Leader’s Questions and spend time with each other at a cross community and cross border event. The Chapters joined together at the start of the day by travelling on shared buses from across the counties.
The visit was hosted by Catherine Martin TD, Chair of the Oireachtas Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, TD for Dublin Rathdown and Deputy Leader of the Green Party in partnership with Irish Rural Link, who are delivery partners of the Next Chapter, alongside Politics Plus and NICVA. Other speakers included Fiona O’Loughlin TD and Kellie Armstrong MLA, Deputy Chairperson of the Northern Ireland Assembly Women’s Caucus.
Photo: (L-R) Sinead Dooley, Deputy CEO Irish Rural Link, Fiona O’Loughlin,TD, Catherine Martin TD, Chair of the Irish Women’s Parliamentary Caucus and Kellie Armstrong MLA, Deputy Chairperson Northern Ireland Assembly Women’s Caucus.
Introducing the event, Sinead Dooley, Deputy CEO of Irish Rural Link, explained that the visit to Dáil Éireann was part of a series of events that the participants have undertaken as part of The Next Chapter project. Ms Dooley emphasized the importance of women on the Next Chapter project gaining access to a wide range of females in senior positions in community, public and political life and that meeting Deputies from the Irish Women’s Parliamentary Caucus would highlight the work so many have undertaken to ensure that the voices of women are heard at all political levels.
Photo: Sinead Dooley, Deputy CEO Irish Rural Link
This was the second chapter wide Peace & Reconciliation event as part of The Next Chapter project, following an event in Parliament Buildings, Stormont, which marked International Women’s Day on 6 March 2019. This visit provided an insight into the involvement of women in government in Dublin, as well as the role and function of the government and parliament.
Deputy Catherine Martin, Chair of the Irish Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, said that she was delighted to host ‘Women Champions of Peacebuilding’, a celebration of women across our island working together to make a difference and thanked Irish Rural Link for organising the event. Participants had the opportunity to gain a real and clear understanding of how grassroots activism is linked to elected office, learn from Deputy Martin’s experience, understand the challenges they face and learn how the Irish Women’s Parliamentary Caucus operates as a cross party group promoting and supporting the role of women in political life.
Photo: Catherine Martin TD, Chair of the Irish Women’s Parliamentary Caucus
Deputy Martin explained that the women who make up the Irish Women’s Parliamentary Caucus come from many different walks of life and although they have a range of political views, they all agree on the need to ensure that more women come forward into public life, be it in their local community or here as parliamentarians.
Photo: Fiona O’Loughlin TD
Fiona O’Loughlin TD welcomed Kelly Armstrong MLA, Sinead Dooley and 80 Next Chapter women from cross border communities to the Irish Government Building and discussed issues including equality in public life and the impact of women supporting peace and making the difference.
Photo: Kellie Armstrong MLA, Deputy Chairperson Northern Ireland Assembly Women’s Caucus
Delighted for the opportunity to attend the event, Kellie Armstrong MLA, Deputy Chairperson of the Northern Ireland Assembly Women’s Caucus spoke of her experience as a female elected representative and expressed that there is no point in women being more visible in Politics if they do not represent women when they get there. Ms Armstrong also explained that the Northern Ireland Assembly Women’s Caucus have been considering a gender strategy for Northern Ireland, gender budgeting and support for women to be able to represent women’s issues.
After the morning session participants moved to Dáil Éireann to attend Leader’s Questions to see first hand how debates operate and hear the key issues of the day being discussed on the floor of the Dáil.
As guests of the Irish Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, Next Chapter participants enjoyed a networking lunch in the Dáil Éireann Members Private Dining Room with the Caucus Chair Catherine Martin TD and other special guests. Next Chapter participants made use of the opportunity, talking with women from across the 10 Chapters, making plans to reach out to other Chapters for future events and reflecting on the experience of the day together before their return journey home.
Photo: (L-R) Next Chapter staff - Claire Rushe, Regional Co-Ordinator, Liz Beaton, Communications Lead and Mirjam Bader, Project Manager
The Next Chapter project is run by Politics Plus, working in partnership with the Northern Ireland Community and Voluntary Association and Irish Rural Link. This project is funded by the European Union’s Peace IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Match-funding for The Next Chapter project is provided by the Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.