Kacey O'Riordan
Kacey O'Riordan

14.38 8 Mar 2021


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A Green Party Councillor is resigning on International Women's Day, while calling for better supports for women in politics.

Councillor Clare O'Byrne, who recently had her first child, has described the lack of maternity leave for elected representatives as a serious obstacle.

Some 62% of governments across the world offer maternity leave to elected representatives, but Ireland is not among them.

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The South Dublin County Councillor for Firhouse/Bohernabreena said the issue is embarrassing for the country.

She said the problem is two-pronged: one is that constituents need to be represented at meetings without gaps of "a couple of months".

"There's also the more strategic issues, the policy issues - and time is required to do research and to make informed decisions.

"And that's just time you don't have with a small baby", she said.

Commenting on the current situation with Justice Minister Helen McEntee, Ms O'Byrne said: "Women have been having babies forever, this could have been foreseen.

"And the fact that there's such a scramble at the moment to figure out what to do when Helen McEntee goes on maternity leave it's shocking and it's quite embarrassing I believe for Ireland - a wealthy, progressive society.

"It's simple in where there's a will there's a way: you need, certainly at council level, to provide support in the form of a proxy - a substitute that would stand in for the councillor while she takes maternity leave."

She said she is hopeful that any solution applied to Minister McEntee can be a template for others.

"She might be the woman that finds a solution to this.

"She's taking her six months in May, and she's entitled to that and it's great that she's doing that, and a solution will be found I believe.

"But I hope that it's not just a temporary solution, I hope that it's there for women in the future - and I hope that it does trickle down to local level".

'I was only just beginning'

Councillor O'Byrne said she has been proud to be involved with initiatives such as the biodiversity plan, climate change action plans and a cycle plan for the south Dublin region.

"There's so much good work happening in South Dublin County Council at the moment, it's a shame to be leaving it when I feel that I was only just beginning."

She said she "fully intended to continue" in her role after becoming a mother.

"In many ways I thought that I would certainly be more flexible with my time, because I do have a full-time job as well, but I suppose I was quite naïve in that regard - having a small baby is great, and time consuming.

"When my daughter was born I intended to take a week or two, just to take care of Holly and get used to being a mother.

"And my colleagues in the Green Party were very supportive of me and offered to help out, but I soon realised that it just wasn't a long-term solution.

"It's a job that requires a lot of attention, a lot of time to do it right - and I wanted to do it right - so I found that I was being pulled in too many ways and I wasn't doing the job justice, and that's just not how I want to do it".

Additional reporting: Jack Quann

Main image: Clare O'Byrne. Picture by: greenparty.ie

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Councillor Clare O'Byrne Firhouse Bohernabreena Green Party Helen McEntee Maternity Leave South Dublin County Council

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