18 September 2003 Edition

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Important Women's conference in County Monaghan

Women in the Corridors of Power was the title of a seminar in the Corcaghan Centre in Monaghan on Wednesday 10 September to encourage women to further the women's equality agenda, either by standing in local elections or by joining support groups campaigning for equality. The organisers - Women's Education for Transformation, the Women's Regional Policy Forum and the National Women's Council of Ireland - are concerned that the number of women politicians in this region is dramatically low.

Most of the participants were women from Counties Louth, Leitrim, Sligo, Donegal, Roscommon, Cavan and Monaghan.

Sinn Féin, which as a party has been pro-active on the gender equality issue, sent local representatives to the conference. They were North Monaghan Councillor Brenda McAnespie, Clones area Councillor Sheila McKenna, Cavan County Councillor Pauline Tully, Clontibret member Carol Mary Fraser and Monaghan Town Council member Pauline Martin. Also in attendance on behalf of the Sinn Féin leadership was Lucilita Breathnach, who currently heads up the party's Equality Department.

Speaking on behalf of the Sinn Féin representatives, Councillor Brenda McAnespie said that "there is an alarmingly low level of female participants in Irish electoral politics.

"There are many reasons for this, not least the traditional problems, such as lack of childcare, that have prevented women participating in public life and other spheres.

"Political parties must play a significant part in the reversal of the trend. For our part, we in Sinn Féin are intent on offering support for women who wish to represent their communities at a local and national level. It was with this in mind that we attended the seminar, which was a useful first step in addressing the obstacles. I want to commend the organisers for their diligent efforts."

At the seminar, the Women's Education for Transformation group launched a report entitled "Women make their voices heard" - a case study exploring lessons from the Women's Regional Policy Forum. The seminar and the report are steps towards changing the balance of political power in favour of women towards a new style of politics where policies based on fair play and equality become the trademark of good government.

Councillor McAnespie said that political parties must endorse this vision.

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