Women of 1916 honoured at International Women's Day event

Women for Election is calling for more women on councils

International Women's Day, Ireland, events, 1916, Dublin, centenary, Heather Humphreys, Kilmainham

A Bus Eireann bus wrapped with specially commissioned imagery portraying leading female figures in the 1916 Rising | Image: RollingNews.ie

The State has honoured the role of women from 1916 to 2016 in a special event on this International Women's Day.

The Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys welcomed women from across all sectors of Irish society, as well as relatives of those involved in 1916, to the Royal Hospital Kilmainham for the special Ireland 2016 event.

Attendees included representatives from academia, the Oireachtas, legal and the judiciary - as well as representatives from activist groups.

President Michael D Higgins gave a keynote address, outlining the diverse and often boundary-breaking roles played by women in the Rising.

A Bus Eireann bus wrapped with specially commissioned imagery portraying leading female figures in the 1916 Rising | Image: RollingNews.ie

The President's speech was followed by new music commissioned by Simon O'Connor - dedicated to the widows of those who lost their lives in 1916.

President Higgins also viewed the specially commissioned 'Living for Ireland' quilt - each panel of which was designed by a women's activist, to commemorate the 77 women held in Richmond Barracks in 1916.

Image via @ireland2016 on Twitter

Speaking in advance of the event, Minister Humphreys said: "In the decades that followed the Rising, the role played by women in bringing about our independence was diluted, often deliberately".

"The stories of those such as Margaret Skinnider and Dr Kathleen Lynn were overlooked and diminished over time. New academic research over the last 10 years, led by women like Sinéad McCoole, has shed new light on the experience of and contribution of women in the events of 1916".

Bus Éireann and Royal Irish Academy have launched a collaborative 'Women of the Rising' campaign - which will see six leading female 1916 participants on posters on board 650 buses nationwide.

There will also be a new drive to recruit female apprentices launched by Bus Éireann.

Model Owlen Jennings (as leading 1916 figure Kathleen Lynn) in front of a specially commissioned Bus Eireann bus | Image: RollingNews.ie

1916 mural

Meanwhile, Irish artist Gearoid O’Dea has installed a 35-foot street art installation inspired by the women of 1916.

The installation is on the corner of South Great George’s Street, the same location as Joe Caslin's iconic Marriage Equality mural.

The title of Gearoid’s piece is 'Le Chéile I Ngruaig', which translates as 'Together in the hair'.

Image: Gearoid O’Dea

It features three women who each played an important role in the Easter Rising: Countess Markievicz (left), Margaret Pearse (right) and Grace Gifford-Plunkett (bottom).

Speaking about his piece, Mr O’Dea said: "This 1916 Easter Rising centenary year seems like a great opportunity to re-imagine the kind of Ireland we could live in".

 

"Following the example of the drafters of the Proclamation and their landmark declaration of equal rights for men and women, I want to explore the role that women played in the 1916 Rising".

 

Image: Gearoid O’Dea

Co-opting women on councils

And the group Women for Election is calling on political parties to take the opportunity to further increase women in representative politics, by co-opting them on to councils around the country.

Its director of operations and campaigns is Suzanne Collins.

"Women for Election's Report Card for GE16 details not only the positive effects of the gender quota for selection and the election of 35 women, but how the individual parties fared".

"There are 22% of female TDs in Fine Gael; 29% in the Labour Party; 14% in Fianna Fáil; 22% in Sinn Féin; 66% in the Social Democrats; 33% in AAA-PBP and 50% in the Green Party".

"The party with the biggest increase in its female representation is Fianna Fáil having come from a zero base, next is Sinn Féin".

"Looking at the results of GE16, the councils around the country have proven to be a vital pipeline for women wanting to contest, and win, national elections. Experience serving at local government level provides not only the understanding of how to fight and win elections but also vital familiarity of doing the work of government, debating issues, providing representation, serving on or chairing committees and other essential skills".

"Co-opting women into these vacant seats is a win-win for parties. They need to increase the women in their pipeline for Dáil elections. In seven years the percentage of women they must run, or face financial penalty, will increase to 40%", she added.