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Speech of An Taoiseach, Vótáil 100 Reception St. Patrick's Hall, Dublin Castle

 

Issued by the Government Press Office

A dhaoine uaisle!

Táim fíorchaoin buíoch daoibh ar fad atá i láthair trathnóna don ócáid speisialta seo – ár gcomóradh ar Vótáil céad bliain agus sinn ag cuimhneamh go háirithe ar Mná an Oireachtais agus an oidhreacht a d'fhág siad.

Thank you for joining me here at Dublin Castle this evening to mark an important centenary in the history of our parliamentary democracy.

In the campaign to win equal rights for women, many of the windows outside were smashed.

Tonight we are on the inside, looking out.

And the question we have to ask ourselves is: what other windows need to be smashed?
Because there are still glass ceilings, barriers still exist, and we have further to go.
So we must ensure we lay the foundations to enable true equality of opportunity for all in our society.
Over the past one hundred years, I think of the decisions we made when we excluded women or didn’t listen to them, and I think of how we might have done things differently, better or not at all. As a society, we are weaker when we exclude women’s voices.

In recent years there have been some real achievements, and I am proud of our leadership in Government on issues of gender equality and diversity.
We showed our commitment on a national scale with the marriage equality referendum, making a powerful statement about our values, and how we treat those who were historically marginalised.
We have passed progressive gender recognition legislation.
This year we removed the 8th amendment from our Constitution, in a campaign that was notable for its maturity, and the way we listened to stories which had previously gone unheard.
We have refined our laws in relation to consent with more work underway on the conduct of rape trials.
We are not finished yet. In fact, we’re only starting.
1. We have published a Gender Pay Gap (Wage Transparency) Bill requiring employers to publish information on the differences in pay between men and women.
2. We’ve established a Review Group to promote Gender Balance on State Boards, and last year 52% of people appointed to state boards under the Public Appointments Service were female. We have already exceeded the 40% overall target. Now I want us to aim for parity.
3. The Affordable Childcare Scheme will improve the availability and cost of childcare, will increase subsides for low income families and many middle income families will benefit for the first time. More and more, we need to see childcare as an issue for families – for men, children and women.
4. Gender quotas for candidates to Dáil elections is now at 30% and will rise to 40% in the next decade.
5. We will introduce an additional two weeks paid parental leave for both parents starting next year, because we believe both parents should have an opportunity to stay at home with their children. Both maternity benefit and paternity benefit will rise next March along with the working family payment, one parent family payment. The homemakers’ tax credit goes up too.
6. The passing of the Domestic Violence Act in May increases protections in law for victims of domestic violence and introduces a new criminal offence of coercive control. It sends a clear message that we do not tolerate violence against women and brings Ireland closer to ratifying the Istanbul Convention.

This year we marked Vótáil 100, now we have to look to the next 100 years.
And this requires imagining the kind of society we want to live in, and then working to achieve it.
Ensuring equality before the law and equality of opportunity for all – in our Oireachtas, on our boards, in the workplace, and at home – is the best way of honouring the hard-won achievements of 100 years ago.
The best commemorations are the ones that use the past to educate us about the present so we can work for a better future.
Democracy mattered to Irish suffragettes. Democracy matters to us.

Women make up over half our population, half our talent, half our expertise, they cannot continue to be our greatest untapped resource.
Gender equality is needed so that we can have real freedom for women and men.

Go raibh maith agaibh, mná na hÉireann abú!