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Leaflet on women's issues is published
By Christine Newman
The Irish Times
24 April 2002

An election leaflet on issues affecting women should be kept on the hall table, a press conference was told yesterday. This was so the issues could be discussed with candidates knocking on the door in the forthcoming election.

The National Women's Council of Ireland yesterday launched the leaflet, "Vote to . . . make a difference for women!", as part of its election campaign.

The council's chairwoman, Ms Gráinne Healy, said the leaflet outlined the key election demands and concerns of women.

"We feel that despite Ireland's economic growth women are still being left behind, and the council is committed to ensuring that election candidates will take cognisance of women's priority issues: childcare, our economic independence, health and concerns of women in both paid and unpaid work; and, of course, the issue of violence against women," she said.

Women would be able to discuss the issue that concerned them among all the issues in the leaflet and then vote for those who supported women's rights, she said.

Ms Deirdre O'Connell, of the Irish Breast Cancer Campaign, said the Government's BreastCheck programme was behind schedule in reaching the target population in phase one, for women between 50 and 64 in the eastern area.

Senator Mary Henry asked if the Department of Health should pull the radio advertisement with Marian Finucane urging breast screening as it could be "quite frightening" for women.

Ms Fiona Dunne, equality officer of the ESB Officers Association, stressed the need for paid parental leave and the importance of moving all those on the minimum wage out of the tax net.

Dr Yvonne Galligan, of Queen's University Belfast, told the conference that political parties had done little since the last election to nurture political women. But she added that women could win 33 seats in the Dáil.

Dr Galligan said voting to make a difference for women would bring about a more gender-balanced parliament. "We could see up to 30 women returned to the Dáil. That would be an important breakthrough. With a little extra luck and positive voter support, women could win 33 seats - a quarter of Dáil seats," she said.

The Green Party was fielding the most gender-balanced slate of candidates, with 38 per cent women, the PDs 28 percent, Labour 23 percent, Sinn Fein and Fine Gael 17 percent.

"Fianna Fáil have selected proportionally fewer women than the other parties, at just 12 percent. However, to counter that low ratio of women to men on the Fianna Fáil ticket, it could be reasonably argued that the Fianna Fáil women candidates have a better chance of winning a parliamentary seat than candidates from the other parties," Dr Galligan said.

Ms Healy, council chairwoman, said the percentage of women elected to the Dáil had risen by only five percent in 20 years. Some 16 counties did not have any women representatives. "We are calling on voters to seek to support women candidates who support a women centred approach to policy and government," Ms Healy said.

Parliamentary reform should include legislation to make 50 percent of funding for political parties dependent on maintaining a 40/60 gender balance among candidates, she said.

Reproduced by permission of The Irish Times


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