Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

18.42 12 Jun 2019


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The Government is to set up a Citizens' Assembly to consider gender equality.

It will begin six months of work in October.

The assembly will examine issues like the gender pay gap, sexual assaults and how to increase the number of women involved in business and politics.

The assembly comes after plans for a referendum on removing a constitutional clause referring to women's 'life within the home' were delayed last year.

The plans were delayed to allow more scrutiny of the proposed changes.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone says there's a lot of issues that need to be addressed by the new assembly.

She observed: "We think there are still some barriers there in terms of gender equality, and we're going to ask the citizens.

"One of the issues that we're focusing on and identifying what the terms would be has to do with childcare."

She suggested many women still say that childcare is still a barrier to their 'full and equal participation' in work, as well as cultural, political and public life.

Issue of care

The move has been welcomed by groups including the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI).

Orla O'Connor, director of NWCI, said: “It is crucial that this Citizens Assembly leads to specific outcomes on care, including a commitment to hold a referendum on Article 41.2, women in the home, in 2020.

"NWCI was not expecting the terms of reference to be broader than the issue of care.

"If this is the Government’s decision, it is crucial that the Assembly deals with the critical barriers to gender equality that face women in Ireland today, in particular including the housing and homeless crisis and the epidemic of violence against women."

She added that it's critical that the "voices and experiences of women are at the centre of all discussions".

A number of topics have been considered by  citizens' assemblies in recent years.

In 2016 and 2017, members considered the issue of the Eighth Amendment - ultimately recommending major changes to Ireland's abortion laws.

An Oireachtas committee was set up to consider the recommendations, ultimately leading to last year's referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Main image: (l to r) Charlie Flanagan, Regina Doherty, Leo Varadkar and Katherine Zappone. talking to the media at Government Buildings to discuss plans for a new Citizens’ Assembly on Gender. Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

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