Today marks the centenary of Countess Markievicz being appointed Secretary for Labour and a member of the executive – making her the first woman to hold a ministerial position in Great Britain and Ireland, and the first female Minister in Western Europe.Countess Markievicz was one of the two women who stood for election in Ireland in 1918, the other being Winifred Carney, and she was the only woman elected in Britain or Ireland. Born into a life of privilege, she was presented to Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace in 1887. However she chose instead to pursue art, theatre and political causes including women’s suffrage, socialism and Irish republicanism.By 1911 she was a member of Sinn Féin and was arrested while protesting against the visit to Dublin of King George V. Madame de Markievicz, as she sometimes styled herself, supported the striking workers during the 1913 lock-out and organised soup kitchens to feed the poor of Dublin. She fought in the 1916 Rising as a member of the Irish Citizen Army, and was second in command at St. Stephen’s Green. On her release from prison in June 1917 she continued to work with Sinn Féin.She was back in prison at the time of the 1918 election but won over 65% of the votes and became the first woman elected to the House of Commons. She was still imprisoned when elected to the House of Commons, and celebrated the historic win from her cell, where she received a letter from 10 Downing Street inviting her to attend the state opening of parliament, addressed “Dear Sir…”. However, she never took her seat in Westminster. Constance Markievicz was released from Holloway Gaol on 10 March 1919 and along with the majority of Sinn Féin TDs elected was absent from the first sitting on 21 January 1919 due to her imprisonment. Before returning to Dublin, she visited Westminster to look at the peg reserved for her in the MPs’ vestibule. It was located next to that of Sir Edward Carson. She went on to become a dedicated Teachta Dála and speaking in the Dáil Éireann Debate on Thursday on 2 Mar 1922, ‘That a decree be passed having for its object the admission of Irish women to the Parliamentary Franchise on the same terms as Irish men,’ which lowered the voting age for women to 21 years on the same terms as men, Markievicz said that:
I rise to support this just measure for women because it is one of the things that I have worked for wherever I was since I was a young girl. My first realisation of tyranny came from some chance words spoken in favour of woman's suffrage and it raised a question of the tyranny it was intended to prevent —women voicing their opinions publicly in the ordinary and simple manner of registering their votes at the polling booth. That was my first bite, you may say, at the apple of freedom and soon I got on to the other freedom, freedom to the nation, freedom to the workers. This question of votes for women, with the bigger thing, freedom for women and opening of the professions to women, has been one of the things that I have worked for and given my influence and time to procuring all my life whenever I got an opportunity. I have worked in Ireland, I have even worked in England, to help the women to obtain their freedom. I would work for it anywhere, as one of the crying wrongs of the world, that women, because of their sex, should be debarred from any position or any right that their brains entitle them a right to hold.
One of the main events of the year marking Countess Markievicz, was the presentation by Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl of a portrait of Markievicz to Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow on the 19 July last year. The Vótáil 100 committee were in attendance for the presentation in the Speaker’s House in Westminster and on that same day we visited the grave of Constance’s sister Eva Gore-Booth in Hampstead Heath. The presentation was the first formal recognition by the House of Commons of Markievicz being elected as the first woman MP, albeit not taking her seat. The picture, which is a photographic reproduction of a 1901 oil painting of Markievicz owned by Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, went on public display in Parliament’s ‘Voice and Vote’ exhibition until 6 October when it was transferred to Portcullis House for public display.
It was a pleasure to launch the National Print Museum seminar: "Protest through Print: Women's Suffrage and Print Media Centenary Seminar" as part of the excellent exhibition Print, Protest and the Polls.
I highly recommend visiting the exhibition before it ends next month.
More information available on the Print Museum's website https://www.nationalprintmuseum.ie/print-protest-and-the-polls-the-irish-suffrage-campaign-and-the-power-of-print-media/
Trinity College Dublin organised an event last week 'Meet the Candidates', where all 16 #TCDSeanadElection candidates were given 4 minutes each to speak to the audience. It was also live streamed on Periscoope TV for anyone who couldn't make it.
I took the opportunity to run through my Trinity life, my legal career and my Seanad record. Here are my 4 minutes - #VoteIvanaBacik No.1
Senator Jillian van Turnhout lends her support for my Seanad Election campaign!
Children's Rights advocate and 'Politician of the Year 2015', Senator Jillian van Turnhout lends her support to Ivana Bacik who is running for the Dublin University Panel in the Seanad Election 2016. #SE16 #TCDSeanad #UseYourVote
A huge thanks to Jillian for her endorsement! It's been an enormous pleasure and honour to work together over the past 5 years and I have no doubt we'll get the opportunity to work collaboratively again in the future. Many thanks, Ivana.
From the Archives: Hot Press - When Hotpress met Ivana Bacik, 2012
This article is look back on my previous interviews but more importantly talks about the sad and tragic death of 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar. Paul interviewed me as thousands were gathering at government buildings to show their disgust and outrage.
From the Archives: Hot Press - HP Interview: Ivana Bacik, 12 May 2004
More from the archives and more from Hot press magazine, with links to several articles in the same year. This time unlike my 1997 interview I have entered my hat into the political election arena and ran in the hugely contested European elections of 2004. A disappointing year as it was the same election we lost the Citizenship Referendum.
From the Archives: Hot Press - 'Bacik to Basics' 23rd July 1997
Here is an article from 1997 courtesy of 'Hot Press' magazine, highlighting some of the starting points of my political activism and before entering the politcal representative arena, little did I know?! But I've revived this piece as it captures the essence of why I got involved in politics in the first place - to make a difference, to put equality on the agenda and keep it there! It frustrates me greatly of course that 27 years later and we're still fighting for abortion rights, but we must not give up till women stop dying or being forced into heartbreaking, potentially dangerous and vulnerable positions due to the lack of free, safe and legal access. I hope you'll give me your No. 1 Vote and I assure you I'll be campaiging hard to Repeal the Eighth Amendment as well as other existing inequalities.