Boston Irishman in Irelandby Larry Donnelly
- Ireland and abortion - A divided country, an depressing and ongoing debate
- The Boston marathon bombing - absorbing the horror in my home city from 3,000 miles away
- Why I hope Irish American Steve Lynch is the next US Senator from Massachusetts
- Why Irish Americans should save thousands and go to college in Ireland - World class education at a fraction of the cost
- Republican effort to block Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as US Secretary of Defence is a disgrace
I still think Kevin Cullen is a fine journalist. He has a very well-developed and unique perspective about Ireland. His work on the Phoebe Prince case, which helped to expose the bullying culture that undeniably exists in both the United States and here in Ireland, was extraordinary. But this column was beneath him.
Early this week, I received an unexpected telephone call from Eoin O’Liatháin, President of the University Philosophical Society (the Phil) at Trinity College Dublin (TCD). The Phil is no ordinary student society. Founded in 1683, it is the oldest society of its kind in the world and boasts the likes of Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett and Mary Robinson as past members.
President O’Liatháin had a very appealing offer for me. Would I be willing to speak at a special Phil event, called “The Inaugural,” at which the former Speaker and current Democratic Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, would be receiving the Gold Medal of Honorary Patronage of the Phil in the presence of two members of Seanad Éireann (the upper house of Ireland’s parliament), the Vice Provost of TCD, a host of distinguished guests and hundreds of students? What’s more, a large delegation of Leader Pelosi’s congressional colleagues and other visiting Americans would be in attendance at the event.
While Irish women continue to make long overdue and steady, if slow, advances toward equality in an overarching sense, an examination of their progress in the political arena is far less heartening. This may surprise casual observers of Irish politics who can point to Ireland’s two trailblazing and outstanding female presidents, Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese, or to capable and powerful TDs (members of the lower house of Irish parliament), like former Tánaiste, (deputy Irish prime minister) Mary Harney, and former Minister for Justice, Nora Owen. The numbers do not lie, however.
In last year’s general election, just 85 of 566 candidates for 166 seats in Dáil Éireann (lower house of Irish parliament) were women. There were six male candidates for every female candidate. There are just 25 female TDs; 85% of TDs are men. This puts Ireland in 76th place on the international league table when it comes to the representation of women in national legislatures. It comes just ahead of Zimbabwe.
By way of comparison, in Britain, more than 20% of the membership of the Westminster parliament is female. In Sweden, women constitute nearly 50% of elected members of parliament.