Eighty-five women from across the country attended a special conference hosted by the Longford Women’s Manifesto and Longford Women’s Link in Backstage Theatre last week. The conference, Paths for Women into Politics and Decision Making, examined practical ways in which women can better participate in political life. Representatives from the main political parties were present on the day and they outlined ways for women to become involved in political life. Everything from the cost of joining a political party to the reality of how to get elected was discussed on the day.
Local speakers at the conference included Co Longford Mayor, Cllr Sean Farrell and Longford Town Mayor, Cllr Peggy Nolan as well as Longford Leader Editor Sheila Reilly. Both of the Longford Mayors gave an insight to the reality of working in local politics with Cllr Farrell outlining his own path to election including his failure to get elected on his first time out.
Cllr Nolan’s message told the audience: “Stop over-analysing, stop picking” before telling them to just “step up to the plate”.
This message was reiterated a number of times during the day.
Guest speaker Ailbhe Smith, Co-Covenor of Feminist Open Forum told the conference that the surfeit of men in political life meant that there were too few women.
“It is unequal, unfair, unjust and undemocratic,” she told the conference.
Other speakers on the day included Sinn Fein councillor Rose-Conway Walsh who spoke of how to develop networks in the community and how to utilise those networks. She also spoke of the importance of finding a political party to suit your ideology, telling the audience it was like ‘finding a shoe that fits’. Tess Murphy of Longford Women’s Link analysed the proposals for local government reform and highlighted the opportunities they present to women who are considering running for election.
In the afternoon, representatives from the main political parties each outlined the ways in which women can gain access to and become involved in political life. Speakers included Eamon Ryan, Leader of the Green Party, Sean Dorgan, General Secretary of Fianna Fail, Regina Doherty, Fine Gael TD, Caolfhionn Nic Dhonnabhain Director of Politics 26 Counties Sinn Fein and Kirsti Hannify, Equality Officer with the Labour Party.
The event was hosted by Longford Women’s Manifesto, an innovative programme based on a model of engagement between women and local decision-makers in County Longford.
Speaking after the conference Tara Farrell, Deputy CEO Longford Women’s Link remarked on the positivity and determination evident at the event. She added that Longford Women’s Manifesto, the leading group of its kind in the country, plans “ to continue our engagement with political structures locally and continue to liaise with national parties to link with other Manifesto groups around the country.”