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Senator Bacik asks for a debate on the Representation of Women in Politics

11 December 2008

Order of Business

Senator Ivana Bacik: I ask the Leader to arrange a debate on the representation of women in politics. It is appropriate that I renew my call this week given that we are celebrating the 90th anniversary of the first election in which women in Ireland had a vote. It is also the anniversary of the election of Constance Markiewicz as the first woman Deputy or Member of Parliament. It would be appropriate to hold a debate on this issue early in the new year. I thank all my colleagues who participated in Tuesday's event, which was a wonderful celebration of women's achievement and the Oireachtas. I also wish to express my gratitude to the Cathaoirleach and the Ceann Comhairle for their support. However, we should also note the low level of representation of women in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Only 13% of Deputies are women, although the Seanad has a better representation at almost 22%, or 13 women out of 60 Senators. It would be appropriate, therefore, to hold this debate in the Seanad. I acknowledge that the Leader has previously expressed support for this proposal.

I also ask the Leader for a debate on education cutbacks and the effect they will have on the sort of activities we have seen this week in the schools which participated in the celebration of this important anniversary. I spoke to a class of girls from St. Laurence O'Toole girls' national school on Sheriff Street in the north inner city, an area which has been in the headlines this week for all the wrong reasons. It was wonderful to see the enormous spirit of contribution and public service that the teachers demonstrated in hosting a week of events to commemorate Constance Markiewicz's election. They invited women politicians from all parties to address the students. We were given an enthusiastic reception and asked great questions by the girls. Teachers are often not given sufficient credit for this sort of extra-curricular activity. Unfortunately, these activities will diminish if the cuts in education are implemented.

I join Senator Fitzgerald in seeking a cross-party motion in support of Pamela Izevbekhai, who might be deported from Ireland. I hope she and her daughters will be able to stay in Ireland and most of us, from both sides of the House, have expressed support for her personally. It would be appropriate for us to have a cross-party motion of support for her in the Seanad and this would be a nice time to do it, given that we are commemorating this important anniversary for women this week.