It’s one of the defining moments in Irish history. A tight-lipped, proud in defeat Padraic Pearse stands stiffly in front of an almost farcically relaxed General Lowe. It was Easter Monday 1916 and the leader of a disastrous uprising had surrendered unconditionally after just four days. It’s a good photograph but there is one thing very, very odd about it. There are three people but eight feet. Elizabeth O’Farrell was actively involved in the 1916 uprising and stood proudly by Padraic Pearse’s side as he delivered his surrender. However, the conservative media of the time didn’t think it was appropriate for a woman to be seen outside the home and erased her from the photograph, but left out – or left in – a tiny pair of details. Nurse O’Farrell’s disembodied feet remain in one of our best known historical photographs as a reminder of all our forgotten heroines.
This is the centenary of the year that gave us our trade unions. Led by James “Big Jim” Larkin, the workers organised and went on general strike for better pay and conditions. The employers then united and locked-out all of their unionised workers. The dispute went on for four months and the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU) is usually the only group to be credited for the events of 1913. But if behind every great man there is an even greater woman, it follows that behind every army, or union, of great men, there must be an army of greater women.
The Irish Women Worker’s Union (IWWU) was set up in 1911 with the aim of not only winning better working rights for Irish women but also of fighting for the right to vote and to improve women’s status. Within weeks of setting up, the IWWU was involved in a dispute over pay in Jacob’s Factory, one of Dublin’s largest employers. A key figure in the dispute was Rosie Hackett, at the time just 18 years old, who organised and galvanised 3,000 workers to come out in strike. The workers won the dispute but two years later Jacobs tried to force three young women to forsake membership of the IWWU and remove their badges. Their refusal cost them their jobs but arguably initiated the strike of 1913, as by the end of the day over 1,000 workers had come out in sympathy. Dockworkers then refused to handle any of Jacob’s “tainted” goods. It was this event that catalysed the general strike in 1913, showing that the workers would unite and stick together. And during the lock-out, a city of starving workers were kept fed and alive by women who manned soup kitchens in Liberty Hall – in fact, the general health of the average Dubliner improved during the strike despite the terrible hardship, on account of the soup kitchens.
One hundred years on from 1913, it’s time to remember our forgotten heroines, and give them the credit and the thanks we owe them. There is a campaign to name the new bridge over the Liffey after Rosie Hackett (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rosie-Hackett-Bridge-Campaign/109664749219687?fref=ts
) and an IWWU commemoration committee has been set up (www.womenworkersunion.ie
I wrote my play “Scabs” to remind people of how brave the striking workers of 1913 had to be, and of how much they suffered in the hope of winning better rights for their children. The play’s female character, Nora Casey, is both very much of her time and very much ahead of it. She is feisty and passionate, a leader with the IWWU. But although she is a strong and respected leader of women, she could never, due to her gender, lead men. At one point she asks a male trade unionist “So you don’t mind the women organising – as long as we’re organising a [soup] kitchen for the men?” Despite being brave and very intelligent, she works as a factory girl. Due to her gender and lack of class status, she had no other choice, apart from prostitution. She is a suffragette and prepared to take a stand for rights for her and her daughter, but her own family, even her female relatives, don’t support her. Nora fights for rights for her daughter, but her own mother wishes more than anything that Nora would stop “makin a show of herself on the streets.” Her husband, also a trade unionist, is utterly devoted to her but will never understand the desperation that drives her, simply because he can not comprehend how Nora’s gender has held her back and hurt her. She loves him, but she refused to take his name when they married, and is not afraid to talk back. Despite her love for her daughter, it’s hard to tell if she would have chosen to have children or not, had she been alive later when that choice was possible.
Nora Casey is not real. I made her up. But I made her up in the likeness of women like Rosie Hackett and Delia Larkin, women who weren’t afraid to stand up and speak out at a time when women were told to be silent. She is my tribute to the brave women whose faces and names have been forgotten, but to whom we owe so, so much.Naomi Elster Scabs runs from 4th-6th July in the Pearse Centre, Pearse Street, at 8.30 pm. Tickets are €10/8 and are available from the 10 Days in Dublin box office Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/292368224232739/ Follow Scabs_play on Twitter
At least 80,000 people killed. Children detained and tortured. Civilian populations targeted. Bread queues bombed. Rape as a weapon of war…
Each of these snippets is enough to make the blood boil. Unless we’ve heard them before… unless we’re warned that accompanying reports may be ‘unverified’… unless we’re too concerned with our own insular issues… unless these atrocities happen in one of those places where women wear hijabs and deaths are approximate numbers, devoid of names or faces.
What does it say about us, ‘in this modern day and age when we have instant access to information that we as, citizens of the world, can look away as millions of people suffer’? This was the question posed by leading Syrian activist and campaigner for women’s rights Rafif Jouejati (1), speaking on RTE Radio 1’s ‘Drivetime’ on 22 May 2013.
Later that evening, she addressed a public meeting at the National Women’s Council of Ireland, chaired by Ellen O’ Malley Dunlop, CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (2). At this event, Rafif focused on the situation facing the women of her country. She spoke frankly about the prevalence of rape as a particularly chilling aspect of the Syrian war, telling the audience ‘if we don’t talk about the ugliness we become complicit’. The details were horrific: gang-rapes, often in front of family members, the insertion of metal implements or rodents into victims’ bodies. The sexualised torture not only of women of all ages, but also of children – both girls and boys – and of men held in detention. The frequent killing of victims, the incineration of corpses to eliminate evidence. The impact on survivors, within a society in which the stigma associated with rape often leaves victims afraid to talk about their ordeals.
Rafif also discussed other threats faced by Syrian women whose lives are at daily risk due to the fighting. She admitted that all sides had committed offences. However, she described how, from the outset of the initially peaceful uprising in 2011, the regime of president Bashar al-Assad has been responsible for the worst atrocities and human rights abuses. How, for instance, regime forces have used Scud missiles to attack residential neighbourhoods. Rafif stressed how the inaction of the international community has allowed such oppression to continue. In addition, she highlighted the plight of women and children who have fled Syria – the thousands living in refugee camps, often without adequate sanitation and nutrition.
Listening to Rafif was a personal challenge. Her words took me back to my days as a student activist while the war was raging in Bosnia in the 1990s. During this time, I met my husband – a Bosnian who had been seriously injured in Sarajevo and who was evacuated to Ireland for medical treatment. The current situation in Syria evokes many parallels with the Bosnian conflict, not least in the use of mass rape as form of terror. As the mother of three young Bosnian-Irish daughters, these resonances are all the more disturbing.
But how, as women in Ireland, can we respond to this assault on our sisters in Syria? Or should national issues be our main concern? Are feminists too Western-oriented to care? Do Syrian women not count? Can we, female ‘citizens of the world’, ignore their fate? These questions have plagued me since... ‘How to be a woman’ (as the popular book proclaims) and knowingly let this happen? What shade of feminism is deep enough to speak against war-time rape… in Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, or any other half-forgotten conflict? What can we DO? I can just share a few links to organisations which may be able to offer more concrete support, in particular, the Irish Syrian Solidarity Campaign. Some useful broadcasts and websites are also listed below. Perhaps, through raising awareness and taking action, we can make our own small responses to this crisis. Otherwise, Rafif’s assessment rings terribly true: ‘never again’ has become ‘oops it happened again’. Links:
Irish Syrian Solidarity Campaign Facebook Page,
Esperanza Audio report on the visit of Rafif Jouejati, RTE Radio 1 Drivetime radio show - Wednesday 22 May: Syria – ‘Rape as a Weapon of War,NWCI - Rafif Jouejati Visits Ireland,Dublin Rape Crisis Centre - Rape as a Weapon of War, Human Appeal fundraising cycle in aid of orphaned Syrian children - 6 July 2013,
Women Under Siege Project,International Rescue Committee - Syria Refuge Crisis. (1)Rafif Jouejati is the Director of the Foundation to Restore Equality and Education in Syria (FREE-Syria - an NGO dedicated to women’s empowerment ), an official representative of the Local Coordination Committee in Syria, an executive committee member of The Day After project: Supporting a Democratic Transition in Syria and a member of the emerging Syrian Women’s Network (see NWCI link) (2)Thank you to the NWCI for hosting this meeting and also to DRCC for showing their concern in relation to Syria and for all they have done to support victims of rape in the Balkans.
By Bronagh Ćatibušić
Bronagh Ćatibušić holds a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics and is a lecturer, a developer of language learning resources and an academic writer.
One of our supporters has written a letter to the editor of the Irish Independent:
"To the Editor of the Irish Independent,
While using your website for my daily news update a sub-heading on the menu took my attention.
Clicking on it, it brought me to a page titled ‘independentwoman.ie
As a 19-year-old Irish female I feel the need to question this website and its placement on the Independent website. The website includes celebrity news, fashion, beauty, diet and ‘Love&Sex’. I am sure there are many women who would love these topics but they are not for me. In relation to women I’m interested in women’s rights, women in business and in sport. None of this is featured on the website in front of me. If I had wanted to read the topics provided I would have clicked on Lifestyle.
I decided to investigate further and went to the Irish Times website. They have no such ‘Woman’ sub-heading . Any topics similar to what are on the Independent’s Woman website are placed under ‘Lifestyle’ – where I expected to find them.
I do not intend to completely write this website off as a sexist creation with no place in our society. I am merely questioning its place on the website and its intentions. I do like some elements of the website such as the articles written on relationships and feminism in celebrity culture but it is missing a more open view on women. Are women not interested in business and sport? If a man wishes to read about fashion, beauty, diet or even sex he must go on to ‘Women’s’ website or surf through the badly laid out ‘Lifestyle’ section. Where is the ‘Man’ website with all the masculine things men are only meant to read about like cars and sports?
I hope this letter makes you think of how the website is laid out or you even begin to rethink about how women are portrayed in your newspaper. We are not all hooked on Fashion and Celebs. Women are more complex than the sub-topics on your website.
Leaving Cert Student."
IN THE PAST fortnight, two significant contributions to Irish political discourse were made.
One was a column appearing in the Irish Times by Dr Eddie Molloy about the importance of organisational culture. The other was the repeated claims about what, and indeed who, should and shouldn’t be targeted in the next Budget. Neither phenomena have been understood in connection with each other, which is rather unfortunate, given that they are intimately bound by the idea of homogeneity in decision-making and some people’s capacity to make possible harmful or detrimental decisions on behalf of others.
Let me begin with the issue of organisational culture. Many of the failures of governance at public bodies, banks, and certainly in government departments, are to a large extent attributable to dysfunctional organisational cultures. Indeed, the ‘groupthink’, cronyism, lack of accountability and fear of critical questioning characterising Irish economico-political life are largely to blame for the disastrous financial mess we now find ourselves in, and the horrendous impact it is having on our living standards and general well-being.
What is interesting though, is that mainstream discussions of ‘groupthink’ – now quite a fashionable word – are devoid of any deeper analysis of the agents involved in thinking uncritically, uniformly, and often self-interestedly. Rarely is the linkage made between the homogeneity of the very people in decision-making positions, and the decisions they actually make. Is it really that surprising that decision-making bodies made up entirely of a small segment of Irish society – white, middle-to-upper-class, middle-aged and male – should result in conformism? The issue is not so much that members of this particular group can’t think critically, can’t be innovative, and can’t question, but rather that a uniformity of people in positions of power tends to result in uniformity of decision-making.
The research on women’s under-representation in politics, business and economic governance clearly shows us that lack of diversity in boards or parliaments correlates with lack of diversity in decision-making. For instance, there is a large body of work on the impact a ‘critical mass’ of women representatives has on policy, but also on the way in which politics is conducted. Studies on devolved parliaments show us that as the numbers of women have increased, the tone and style of political debate have become less adversarial and more constructive.
Also, policy priorities tend to change, with women having a significant impact upon social welfare provisions, such as childcare. This fact is hardly earth shattering given that women are still predominantly the primary carers for children in our societies. Importantly, though, it highlights a self-evident truth: different people have different priorities and concerns.The overwhelming presence of only one strand of Irish society in decision-making positions is not good
The crux of the matter is this: women and men, migrants and non-migrants, young people, old people, working-class people, upper-class people, disabled people, non-disabled people, lone parents, children, married people, people in civil partnerships, and the plethora of other diverse human beings forming this society – we all have differing life experiences, experiences that mean we bring with us different priorities and ways of looking at the world. The overwhelming presence of only one particular strata of Irish society in decision-making positions, though – be it in politics, the Civil Service, or banking – means that only one particular set of life experiences feeds into the decisions beings made.
That is not to say that the traditionally privileged group in question can’t stray outside of itself, to introduce women-friendly or youth-friendly policies, for example. It does mean that the systems and organisations historically propagated by and for only this very narrow strata of human being – of a certain class, sex, age, and ethnic background (in politics, even from certain families and professions) – maintain a culture that does not incorporate in equal measure the priorities of the rest of society.
This much is captured by the admittedly rare, but all the more important, analyses undertaken on the differing effects of economic policies on specific segments of Irish society. Research by Tasc, for example, on Budget 2011
shows us that cuts and tax hikes were imposed disproportionately on certain members of society. Their study found that people on lower income lost proportionally more than people on higher income, while lone parents lost 5 per cent of income compared to 3 per cent of income lost under the same budget measures for other households. Given that both of these groups – people on low incomes and lone parents – are made up largely by women, it is clear that women have been disproportionately affected by Budget 2011.The people excluded from decision-making are disproportionately bearing the brunt of austerity
In light of indications that inequality is on the increase in Ireland, we should ask ourselves why it should be acceptable that certain members of our society are more adversely affected by economic policies than others. We should additionally question why it is precisely the very people who are largely excluded from the decision-making structures of this country, who are also disproportionally bearing the brunt of austerity.
Finally, we should question why there is such scant information available on the differing impacts of economic measures on certain sections of society. Is this deliberate – an obfuscation of the unjust meting out of austerity? Is government worried that collation and publication of such information might draw attention to the privileging of certain groups over others?
The propensity for economic policies favouring or disadvantaging certain sections of society is a problem that is, of course, not just limited to the Irish context. Indeed, international best practice in Australia and Canada, for example, tries to mitigate such effects through the publication of shadow gender budgets alongside traditional budgets, and the provision of gender impact analyses or equality audits.
In its programme for government,
the current administration sets out is commitment to “forging a new Ireland that is built on fairness and equal citizenship”. In this spirit of equality and fairness, one would hope that the government will do its utmost to ensure its economic policies are gender and equality proofed, thereby avoiding the kind of disadvantaging of specific sections of society we have seen hitherto. Recognising that one’s position excludes the alternative life experiences of others is one step toward understanding the significance of the linkages between homogenous decision-making and exclusionary cultures on the one hand, and the capacity to make decisions on behalf of others (often with detrimental effects) on the other.
In the end, the answer to truly bringing about “fairness and equal citizenship” lies in the redistribution of power among the diversity and plurality that is our society. At the very least, though, we can demand to know how economic policies affect us differently.Dr. Clara Fischer holds a Ph.D. in political philosophy and feminist theory, and is a co-ordinator of the Irish Feminist Network. The network is currently inviting expressions of interest for a campaign on the introduction of equality audits and gender budgets. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cross-posted from The Journal, 16th July 2012
A RECENT GUARDIAN article
examined the current ‘explosion’ in feminist grassroots activism in the UK. New feminist groups are on the rise there, and the intensification of people’s engagement with the feminist movement is being attributed, to a large extent, to young women and men.
Pupils as young as seventeen are reported to have organised in protest against local shops selling magazines that objectify women. There is, thus, a newfound enthusiasm for feminism, spurred by the obvious inequalities that still pervade our so-called liberal democratic societies.
Ireland is no exception in this regard. Recent years have seen a resurgence in feminist activism in Ireland, with new groups like the Irish Feminist Network
, Cork Feminista
and Feminist Open Forum
forming a conduit for people eager to express their dissatisfaction with the status quo and willing to proffer alternative visions for the transformation of social and political structures. Groups focused on specific feminist themes have also sprung up, with the 50:50 Group
focusing on women in politics, for example, or Women on Air
concentrating on women in the media.
While Ireland has, of course, a continuous history of women and men advocating for changes in gendered power imbalances, and these new groups undoubtedly benefit from the insights and support of their activist forbearers, there is something unique about this particular moment in time which makes it conducive to oppositional political activism.
Mistrust and exasperationThe mistrust and exasperation people feel at the way the country has been mismanaged and brought to financial ruin, has in fact resulted in a general questioning of the wisdom of those in authority, and has ultimately spawned a climate relatively hospitable to a whole plethora of activists, who are not just content with accepting the current state of affairs.
Many of these critically engaged advocates believe that the correctives needed to redress the failings of those in charge are not being implemented – or that they are being meted out unfairly, making certain members of society pay more than others. They resist such unfair treatment at the hands of the powers that be, and bring different perspectives to problems that are frequently portrayed monolithically and in ideologically uniform ways.
Ireland’s activist groups thereby provide alternative analyses of the issues negatively affecting people, or indeed identify certain issues as being problematic in the first place.
In a society where political decision-making still rests in the hands of a largely uniform and unrepresentative body of politicians, and where the news media
regularly excludes large swathes of people, it is essential that Ireland’s activist groups voice not only dissent, but also proffer creative solutions that will result in a more just, equitable and therefore stable Ireland. Feminist activist groups are doing precisely that, and are thereby contributing to a more vibrant civil society, which comes complete with demands for increased accountability and transparency.
While the momentum for change is palpable, we should not underestimate the challenges feminists still face. It is precisely the entrenched nature of issues surrounding women’s objectification in the media, denial of reproductive rights, or lack of affordable childcare – to name but a few – that is driving people’s (re)engagement with the feminist movement, but that also highlights the enormity of the task at hand.
The ‘silent majority’In some cases gender inequality is perpetuated by hugely powerful industries, such as the fashion and beauty industries, and in others, it stems directly from political decision-making that disempowers women and children in particular.
In order to be maximally effective in working toward increased gender equality, feminist activist groups need to build upon their momentum by capturing the spirit of the ‘silent majority’ . That is, the very people who are affected by the issues – for gender inequality affects us all – but who may not be willing to express or act upon their negative experiences. Given the years of backlash against feminism, and its portrayal of feminists as hairy-legged men-devouring monsters, this is a tall order for a reinvigorated movement, but one that is nonetheless achievable.
The environmental movement, which similarly saw its members reduced to tree-hugging hippies, has managed to make the green agenda palatable to the mainstream. Indeed, political parties are now eager to proclaim their ‘green’ credentials, and being concerned with issues of environmental sustainability is no longer looked upon as a radical or outlier position, but rather as the norm.
Building upon its achievements thus far, the feminist movement can and must now follow suit by rearticulating social and political norms, thereby making gender equality the new standard of normalcy. We have already begun to do so by achieving gender quotas, for example, or by getting tangible commitments by government on the issues of sex trafficking
and reproductive rights
In a climate that is hospitable to proposals for wide-sweeping change, and where people are questioning traditional understandings of social and political issues, what could be more normal than the normalisation of gender equality?
Dr. Clara Fischer
Cross-posted from thejournal.ie, Thursday 10th May 2012
Today marks not only the 101st International Women’s Day but also the day on which the Irish government misses the deadline to implement an EU Directive on parental leave. In a special guest post Deirdre Hosford puts forward the case for reform and argues that we in the feminist movement can turn this failure into an opportunity and put the issues of gender equality, choice and work-life balance for families back on the political agenda.
Today, on the 8th of March 2012, the Irish government will miss the deadline for implementation of an EU Directive on parental leave
, which would have extended the period of unpaid leave available to men and women in Ireland from 14 weeks to 18 weeks. Ireland sought a derogation from this deadline, which gives us until March 2013 to implement the directive, owing to ‘the Government’s very heavy legislative agenda’
Clearly, extending the parental leave rights of our citizens in line with EU policy is not high on the political agenda.
But there is a way that this failure could be turned into an opportunity, one that the Irish feminist movement should grasp with both hands. In response to a parliamentary question
from Joanna Tuffy TD on the issue of paternity leave, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Alan Shatter recently discussed the implementation of the EU Directive and stated that:
- My Department is currently working in consultation with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on the consolidation of all existing family leave legislation into one Act. This will also provide an opportunity to examine the scope for improvement in current provisions in the area of maternity, adoptive, parental and paternity leave.
Enter the feminist movement, with our list of reforms in one hand and a megaphone in the other.
Women in Ireland currently have a statutory minimum entitlement of 26 weeks’ maternity leave, together with 16 weeks additional unpaid maternity leave. Maternity benefit is payable by the Department of Social Protection if the employee is covered by PRSI and she may also receive maternity payments from her employer, depending on the terms of her employment contract.
Paternity leave, on the other hand, is not recognised in employment law in Ireland and employers are not obliged to grant male employees special paternity leave, paid or unpaid, following the birth or adoption of their child.
Both parents currently have an equal, separate entitlement to unpaid parental leave of up to 14 weeks in respect of a child up to 8 years of age.
A recent report
by the ESRI into ‘Households and Family Structures in Ireland’ demonstrated the yawning and ever-widening gap between parental leave policy and the reality of family life in Ireland.
The report showed that, for a growing number of young couples, the woman has higher educational qualifications or occupational classification than her partner. Among couples of mean age 26-40, the woman has higher educational qualifications in 34% of cases, compared to 18% for men, while for 42% of younger couples the woman has a higher occupational classification, compared to 28% where the opposite is the case.
This means that for many young couples, the woman now also has the higher earning power of the two.
The report suggested that policymakers should consider options to re-orientate working arrangements for parents so that the impact of leave is concentrated less heavily on women.
The report also noted that parental leave policy that relies heavily upon career leave for women will have greater financial consequences for households where the woman is the higher earner.
There has been stubborn opposition
to reform from business lobby groups over the years on grounds of cost. However, the ESRI has questioned the economic wisdom of their position, since the higher earning potential of women outlined in their report points towards negative impacts for household incomes if leave remains inflexible and weighted disproportionately towards women, while continuation of strictly gendered leave policies could result in economy-wide underemployment of human resources.
Meanwhile, a report
by the Family Support Agency into ‘Attitudes Towards Family Formation in Ireland’ demonstrated cultural and attitudinal shifts that are completely at odds with current parental and adoptive leave policies.
93% of respondents to the survey agreed that work-life balance is as important to men as it is to women, compared to 6% who disagreed. 86% of respondents also agreed that fathers should have the right to take paid paternity leave on the birth or adoption of a new baby, compared to 8% who disagreed.
The report also showed that many parents wanted the choice to share responsibility for caring and work more equally between partners. For example, 50% said that they think men and woman should both work part-time and ‘co-parent’, while 40% disagreed. In 2010, the share of part-time workers in total employment in Ireland
stood at 34.7% for women and 11.8% for men.
A majority of respondents also said that they would like to see maternity leave changed into leave for one or other parent, with 53% agreeing and 35% in disagreement.
These findings demonstrate a clear desire for more equitable parental and adoptive leave policies, as well as the increasing importance of choice.
Significant disincentives inhibit take-up of unpaid parental leave under the current system.
The take-up rate of parental leave among fathers in Ireland is low. This can be directly attributed
to the fact that the leave is currently unpaid in Ireland, as there is a high correlation between the levels of payment in different countries and take-up rates.
Unpaid leave also leads to inequitable outcomes between women. The Pregnancy at Work Report
showed that take-up rates for combined paid and unpaid maternity leave among women is related to their ability to afford it, with lower take-up rates for low earners, part-time workers, women with lower levels of education and women with shorter job tenures.
Women’s take-up of unpaid parental leave is also dependent upon resources and financial security, with women whose partner is unemployed or earns less than they do less likely to request unpaid parental leave.
The upcoming constitutional convention
will consider ‘Amending the clause on women in the home and encourage greater participation of women in public life’. The convention will also consider ‘Provision for same-sex marriage’. At present, civil partners do not have adoption rights, so they could not avail of more flexible adoptive leave policies if they were introduced. Constitutional amendments in respect of these issues would underscore the discrepancy between parental and adoptive leave policy and our social values and lived experiences.
Calls for more equitable leave policies for parents come in the context of persistent gender inequalities in Ireland, which could be somewhat ameliorated by a more balanced approach to the gender distribution of caring and work.
In 2010, 22% of business leaders in Ireland are women
, compared to an EU average of 33%. The employment rate for women with children in 2010 was 76% in Ireland and 76.7% across the EU 27; this fell to 57.1% for women in Ireland with children, compared to an average of 64.7% of women with children across the EU.
And as we are only too aware, 15.1% of the current Dáil are women, compared to an EU average of 24.9%; a situation that will hopefully improve over time with the introduction of gender quotas for General Election candidate selection.So what should we be calling for between now and March 2013?
We could demand the introduction of statutory paid paternity leave upon the birth or adoption of a child.
We could call for reform of paid maternity leave to make it transferable between partners, at a ratio to be determined by the couple. This would be relatively cost-neutral.
We could demand that adoption rights be extended to civil partners to ensure that civil partners can also avail of more flexible leave arrangements.
We could put the introduction of payment in respect of parental leave on the agenda. This would increase take-up of parental leave among men and lead to more equitable outcomes for women in low income households.
We could set a course for increasing the period of paid paternity leave over time.
But, above all, we should rescue the issue of gender equality, choice and work-life balance for families from the bottom of the political agenda.
In January 2011 the Irish media
noted state papers of antiquarian interest dating from 1976, which revealed the attitude held by a senior official in the department of Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave towards the prospect of extending paid maternity leave. The official described the move as ‘a luxury our society cannot afford’ and went on to state: ‘...I suspect that the over-riding body of opinion — even female opinion — would feel that there are higher priorities for [the Minister for Labour] at the present time.’
Let’s make sure that, when it comes to paid paternity leave, history does not repeat itself.
And let's also make sure that, by the time our belated implementation date rolls around in March 2013, we are implementing far more than the bare minimum EU requirements.
Deirdre Hosford is the Education and Policy Officer with Labour Youth.
A Brief Political History of Parental Leave Reform
In April 2002, the Working Group on the Review of the Parental Leave Act 1998 published its findings