Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Sinn Féin to host forum throughout Ireland calling on women to join the party

11 December, 2005


Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP speaking to a meeting of republican women in Belfast today said "One of Sinn Féin's biggest priorities in the next two years is getting more women into the party and getting more women elected throughout Ireland." Mr. Adams said "As part of a broad ranging strategy to set up Sinn Féin cumann in communities across Ireland we will be hosting forum in all 32 counties where we will be asking women to join Sinn Féin and help us to build an Ireland of equals.

Mr. Adams said:

"There has been an enormous change in the role of women in Irish society over the last twenty years and in the pattern of women's employment but nowhere can women claim to have all the same opportunities as men. The principle of equality has been established but the practice hasn't. And a large reason for this is the absence of women from decision making roles at local and national level.

"The absence of women from senior positions in Government and indeed in the social partners means that issues, which disproportionately affect women are all but invisible. For me the role of women in decision-making is fundamental to the transformation of society as a whole. It is not possible to have properly functioning political institutions if half of the population is largely absent. If we want different ideas and values, if we want political priorities changed women must be visible in leadership positions.

The question is how do you change all of this. I believe that it has to be addressed at a number of different levels ú increasing the representation of women in all areas of life but particularly in leadership roles and policy making, fundamentally changing political priorities and tackling head on prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination.

Sinn Féin has to start by getting its own house in order. Our commitment has to be to equality and social inclusion. We have to continue to change our party, we have to reach out to those with whom we have so much in common and we have to bring about the type of far reaching change which is urgently needed.

Within our party structures we have pursued affirmative action and gender targets. On our Ard Chomhairle, 50% of those members elected at the Ard Fheis must be women and a minimum of one third of regional representatives to the body must be women. We have also adopted a target of a minimum of 30% women election candidates. This approach has not been without its difficulties and opponents. There was a wide-ranging debate on this issue with some comrades arguing that they were little more than tokenism and would actually set back the equality agenda within the party. I believe that affirmative action combined with a strategy and policies to increase the participation and involvement of women throughout the party will make a huge difference and in time will change the culture of the party. And it is this type of change that we are committed to delivering.

And while we have a lot more work to do I believe that this approach is working. Issues that were invisible are now hotly debated and in the 2005 Local Government elections in the Six Counties 30% of Sinn Fein Councillors elected are women.

Sinn Féin is also looking at timescales to achieve full equality of outcomes to maximise women's participation in political systems across the country. We are also in the process of bringing forward proposals on gender-proofing for both party policy and public policy.

"One of Sinn Féin's biggest priorities in the next two years is getting more women into the party and getting more women elected throughout Ireland. As part of a broad ranging strategy to set up Sinn Féin cumann in communities across Ireland we will be hosting forum in all 32 counties where we will be asking women to join Sinn Féin and help us to build an Ireland of equals."

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