Thu 26 September 2019

Amy sees value in cross border networks

Amy Farrell recounts her recent Visit to the Dáil with over 80 participants from across NI and ROI border counties

"Spending time, and connecting with, women from both sides of the border creates a sense of community and commonality between women with a wide range of diverse backgrounds and from all different walks of life, enabling them to build relationships no border can impede."
Amy Farrell, Louth Chapter Member

“As a member of The Next Chapter Project for just over a year now, I have been afforded opportunities and experiences I never would have considered possible. One example is the recent visit to Dáil Éireann on  Thursday 18 September; where over eighty women from across the island came together to directly experience Irish politics.

Photo: Next Chapter particpants outside Dáil Éireann with Kelly Armstrong MLA. (Amy Farrell is front row, third from the left)

"As a recent graduate of political sociology, I have developed a deep interest not only in contemporary Irish politics but in issues regarding social justice and gender equality. Therefore, walking through the main entrance of Dáil Éireann, a building rich with history and opportunity, and the heart of Irish politics, is a moment I won’t ever forget.

"Eighty women from ten chapters across Northern Ireland and border counties gathered together and heard from influential women such as Catherine Martin TD, Fiona O’Loughlin TD and, Kelly Armstrong MLA. This gave all women present an opportunity to hear the motivations that led these women to undertake a path of political representation. Hearing Catherine Martin, TD and Deputy Leader of the Green Party, as well as Chair of the Oireachtas Women’s Caucus, was one of the highlights of the day for me. To not only hear her speaking, but to meet her and talk to her personally was nothing short of a privilege. It is easy to perceive politicians as unrelatable and disconnected from the people. Deputy Martin, however, illustrated to me that a politician can be warm and down to earth whilst also being incredibly inspirational, articulate and influential.  Women like Catherine Martin, Kelly Armstrong and Fiona O’Loughlin are role models to aspiring female politicians, the importance of having such role models in society is embodied in the phrase “If she can’t see it, she can’t be it”. Not only did I feel inspired to make a difference in the world, but it also began to seem more possible than ever before.

"As I listened to the words of encouragement and empowerment from the three speakers, one of the recurring themes was gender perspective, one of many political concepts I learned from the Capacity Building Training provided by The Next Chapter. A concept that emphasises the importance of the role of women in political life when it comes to making decisions and implementing policy changes that affect the lives of women and girls. The lack of such a perspective in Irish politics was apparent to me during Leader’s Questions.  From my time spent studying politics in college, I had become well accustomed to watching Leader’s Questions and examining debates in Dáil Éireann on both television and YouTube whilst researching for assignments.

"However, to sit in the public gallery and experience this first-hand taught me more than any amount of watching from behind a screen ever could. I was struck by the lack of women present in comparison to men. With vital issues being discussed such as housing, education, and health, I couldn’t help but wonder how I had never fully understood the importance, and striking lack of, gender perspective in our nation’s government in decision-making processes. It may only have been given a glimpse of Irish politics in action in this instance, however, it was enough to not only educate me further but to light a burning desire in me to see a better representation of the women of this country.

Photo: Networking lunch in the Members Provate Dinning Room with other Next Chapter participants. Amy Farrell is back row, third from the left.

"As we sat down to enjoy lunch together in the Members Restaurant, I had an opportunity to network with women from across the border and hear their perspectives on Irish politics and how it differed from their expectations. As someone from Dundalk living less than four miles from the border, being able to interact with women from across Northern Ireland and border counties and discuss matters of political and social importance was something I had never experienced and therefore was of immense value to me.

The day at Dáil Éireann was memorable for many reasons. Perhaps the greatest of these is that it made the actual building a very real place with very real people, instead of an unreachable and distant ideal exclusive only to the few. It brought a wide range of women from diverse backgrounds and age groups together, who shared one striking commonality; a desire to see more women making a difference in the world."

Thanks to Amy Farrell, Louth Chapter Member, for taking time to write this article.

Press release on The Next Chapter visit to Dáil Éireann click here

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.