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De Brún - Women's equality in politics must be a reality

1 November, 2003

Sinn Féin is holding its National Women's Conference today in Dublin, in a week that saw the party announce that it is running its largest number of women candidates in winnable seats in the Assembly elections. The conference, which began at 10.30am, will discuss Women in Decision Making and the need for gender equality across society.

Speaking this morning in the plenary session on women in decision-making Sinn Féin EU Candidate for the Six Counties and former Health Minister Bairbre de Brún said:

"As a party striving towards an Ireland of Equals, Sinn Féin fully supports the Equality Agenda and its implementation throughout society. Central to this is the need for gender balance, gender proofing and gender equality in the decision making process. We believe that women's inequality is a structural problem, with men dominating all our cultural, social, economic and legal infrastructures. Women are not fully represented in either national politics or in local government decision-making structures.

"However, women occupying positions of power is not enough. The decision making process goes beyond the field of politics to all levels of society where decisions are made. Mechanisms for advancing gender equality should include legislation, positive action and gender mainstreaming.

"Sinn Fein calls for a public debate on the political structures, which should be created to enable women engage more fully in all aspects of government.

"Sinn Féin is committed to the establishment of targets and timescales for achieving equality of representation for women in public life, and equality of outcome in employment, education and training. We believe that gender proofing in appointments, policies and resource allocation must obligatory for all public bodies. Sinn Féin will work to ensure that the introduction of gender proofing measures, are a core element of the Review of Public Administration.

"A culture of change is required throughout society to ensure that there is better representation and better working practices for women in politics. It is crucial that we all play a part in creating changes to the political systems to encourage more family friendly practices.

"Sinn Fein will work with all those committed to promoting equality at all levels of society and we will bring the same commitment to change to our own party. We will make this a real issue in terms of our policies, the issues that we campaign on and the candidates that we put forward for election. Indeed in the upcoming Assembly elections we will be standing the largest number of women candidates ever in winnable seats and the issue of equality will be central to our entire campaign."ENDS

Note: Speaking at the opening plenary session are: Mary Kelly (Chairwoman National Women's Council of Ireland), Rosaleen McDonagh (Traveller Activist/Pavee Point) National Youth Council of Ireland, Bairbre De Brún (Sinn Féin EU Candidate for 6 Counties) Helena Mhic Laifeartaigh (Midas (MFG Teo)) and Nic Lochlainn (Meitheal Forbairthe na Gaeltachta)

The second plenary will discuss Building an Ireland of Equals and the speakers are: Mags O'Brien (ICTU Gender and Pay Project),Mary Lou McDonald (Sinn Féin EU Candidate for Dublin), Margaret Kelly (Barnardo's Assistant Director of Policy for Six Counties) and Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South Central)

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