Women in all their diversity need to be represented to ensure a strong and vibrant democracy.
There is a very limited diversity of women in Irish politics. Ireland has never elected a Traveller woman or a Black woman to the Oireachtas. In 2019 Yemi Adenuga was the first black woman to be elected as a local Councillor. Katherine Zappone was the first female cabinet Minister who was a migrant and who also publicly identified as LBGTQI. There is no data available on the number of women with disabilities who have been elected and while there is an increasing number of younger women being elected to their local councils or the Dail, young women are still underrepresented in Irish politics. Of the 131 women who have ever been elected to Dail Eireann, the majority of them have been white, settled, heterosexual, middle-aged women without disabilities.
Discrimination and the lack of role-modelling, knowledge gaps and limited access to resources and political networks are some of the multiple barriers that prevent many women successfully running for election.
Nan Joyce was the first Traveller woman to run for election to Dail Eireann in 1982 in the Dublin South West Constituency. In 2020 five Traveller women ran for a seat in the Dail, like Nan Joyce they too were not elected.
Institutional racism continues to be a major barrier to Traveller women both entering and succeeding in Irish politics. The nomination of Senator Eileen Flynn to the Seanad in 2020 means that for the first time in the history of the Irish state a Traveller Woman is a member of Seanad Éireann. There is no shortage of Traveller women in Ireland who are interested in entering and succeeding in Irish politics. However, a racist culture needs to be tackled and positive action measures need to be implemented to give equal access and opportunity for Traveller women to enter and succeed in Irish politics.
Women for Election is working with the National Traveller Women’s Forum to both tackle racism while also designing mentoring and training programmes to help empower Traveller women to run for local and national election.
In Autumn 2021 we will commence the ‘More Traveller Women’ project which is being part funded by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
We have also commenced work with the Immigrant Council of Ireland to jointly deliver anti racist and intercultural awareness training to women aspiring to run in the next elections.
We are actively seeking further collaborations with any organisation who are interested in working with us to help increase access to political life for women in all their diversity.
The Master Class: Intercultural competency and anti-racism workshop takes place on 20th October 2021.