|Illustration by Caty Bartholomew|
I will follow my father’s advice from long ago to never speak ill of the dead, but as Maggie Thatcher
will be laid to rest across the water this week the thought strikes me powerfully that it would be a very interesting development indeed if Ireland elected a woman leader some time in the near future.
We have never had one. We still speak with great respect and awe of the few women of the past with enough force and power to imprint themselves on our history.
There was the fierce pirate warrior queen Grace O'Malley
, for example, who terrorized the west coast during her lifetime and who sailed in her own ship up the Thames to meet the first Queen Elizabeth
as an equal in Buckingham Palace.
And there was the beautiful Countess Marcievicz of the Easter Rising
, fearless and free. Her feminine but lethal rifle is yet to be seen in a museum in Dublin.
And the two Marys who more recently served as presidents of Ireland, Robinson and McAleese, greatly garnished that largely ceremonial position but also, subtly, somehow expanded the post certainly in the area of social comment on the issues of the day.
Our taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny hails from the ancient territory of Grace O'Malley in the far west and, in fairness, he is serving his country well in these hard times.
I might never have voted for his party, Fine Gael
, but he is a good taoiseach as he fills the shoes which have always been filled by male feet since the time of de Valera.
But wouldn't it be intriguing and stimulating, in the future, if we had our first woman taoiseach. It would surely add a new dimension and frequency to the post.
I feel that a female Irish leader in Leinster House would have to be so toughly dominant and inflexible that Maggie Thatcher would only be in the halfpenny place by comparison.
I imagine that other European leaders, no matter how powerful their countries, would be afraid of their lives to cross her. I think she would rule Leinster House, and especially her own party, with a fist of iron.
I think we would love her and hate her at the same time as she went about the business of putting the national house in order.
As with Thatcher, I think we would re-elect her after her first term of office even while denouncing many of her deeds from the rooftops for the rest of the year.
There is some evidence already that a female taoiseach could do a good job. The lady politicians who already serve Irish politics at front bench level are extremely able and forceful when necessary.
I think of strong personalities like the outspoken Mary O'Rourke for example, the effective Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Fein, Jan O'Sullivan of Labor and younger lady politicians like Lucinda Creighton of Fine Gael.
The track records of any of these ladies to date indicates that, just like Kenny a few years ago, they could seize the reins of real power with some ease. But the first lady leader of the Irish Republic probably still has to win her first election.
I don't know if it is a local or a universal fact that males and females deploy power in sharply different ways. It is not immediately obvious that Ireland is fundamentally a matriarchy.
We men think like the idiots we are that we are in charge of about everything, both domestically and nationally. Any examination of the facts reveals this is far from the truth.
Female usage of power is subtle and lateral and frequently almost invisible. Often menfolk think they are making the decisions which the woman of the house actually made ages earlier.
A female taoiseach of the Irish Republic
might rule in this way but, having come through a male-dominated system, she would probably be more likely to rule in the Thatcher style. Blood, sweat and tears on all sides.
It will be a dynamic era when it happens. And I think it will indeed come to pass one of these years.
And the sooner the better!