We need to see more women at the table making decisions that impact women's lives

Just six out of the 31 seats on Cork City Council are filled by women. Director of Services, Corporate Affairs and International Relations, PAUL MOYNIHAN, talks about efforts to improve this
We need to see more women at the table making decisions that impact women's lives

Paul Moynihan, Director of Corporate Affairs and International Relations, Ann Doherty, Chief Executive of Cork City Council, Caitriona Gleeson, CEO Women for Election, Lord Mayor Cllr Deirdre Forde, Cllr Colette Finn, Colette Kelleher, Women for Election board member, Cllr Fiona Kerins and Chair of Women Caucus Cllr Mary Rose Desmond Picture: Darragh Kane

CORK City Council, in partnership with Women for Election, recently welcomed Ireland’s first ever elected black female public representative, Councillor Yemi Adenuga, to City Hall where she set out what she learnt when successfully running for Meath County Council.

An acclaimed motivational speaker, she seeks to work with women on building resilience, pushing past fear, as a lack of confidence has been cited repeatedly by women as a barrier to entering politics.

This was just one session in the Council, and Women for Election’s ‘More Women for Election in Cork’ free training programme, which is designed to equip women with the confidence, support, and tools to get involved in local politics.

Both women and men belong in equal numbers in our Council Chamber. However, unfortunately this is not the case. Just six women are currently elected to the 31 seats in Cork City Council. Nationally, the situation isn’t much better. Only one in four councillors in Irish local government are women - yet women make up half our population.

We need to see more women at the table making decisions that impact women’s lives.

Since its inception over 18 months ago, Cork City Council’s Women’s Caucus has been working to carve a pathway so more women are represented in the Irish political system. Currently, Cork City Council ranks 17th out of 31 local authorities for female representation, With this in mind, we need to ensure we are working together to see more women step forward.

Women across Cork city are leading successful businesses, are making a difference in the workplace, in health, education and social services and in community groups and in campaigns that make a real difference in their locality and to civic life. We want to see these women, their passions and values reflected in our political decision making.

The ‘More Women for Election in Cork’ programme began in February and will run to June this year. The free events aim to engage, encourage and inspire women in all their diversity to consider entering politics. In recent months, Pat Montague, an advocacy and strategy consultant, delivered an ‘Introduction to Politics’ to attendants while Cllr Adenuga explored how women can ‘lean into’ the values that motivate them and work to deliver those in local or national politics.

Gender quotas are in place for national elections but not at local government level. 

The authors of a UCC research paper commissioned by Cork City Council’s Women Caucus, ‘Women’s Voice in the Council Chamber’ called for legislation to introduce a 40% gender quota for the 2024 elections so that Ireland is in line with other European countries.

Dr. Aodh Quinlivan, Dr Fiona Buckley, Olajumoke Olumwaferanmi Igun and John Ger O’Riordan also recommended a specific mentoring programme for newly elected women councillors and community-based education around the role of local government and councillors, not dissimilar to the training sessions being offered to potential women candidates by ‘Women for Election’ and Cork City Council..

In the next and final training session, on the evening of June 13, Linda Kelly, National Secretary of Fórsa Trade Union will examine power, imposter syndrome, facing fear and recovering from setbacks in an interactive workshop. Linda likes to quote academic and acclaimed author, Brené Brown: ‘I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life’.

“This session is for all the women who want to be, or are already in the arena. We will discuss confidence, how to gather yourself after a setback and rediscover why you got involved in politics or activism in the first place. We will talk about tapping into inner strength and banishing fears. We will explore power, where it comes from and how to harness it,” she said.

Linda is also the founder of Women Ascend – an Instagram community space for women to explore their power and use it with purpose. After giving birth to her second daughter in 2020 under Covid-19 restrictions, Linda began campaigning with other Uplift members under the #BetterMaternityCare banner.

Any women interested in taking part in this training session can visit: https://www.womenforelection.ie/cork/ for further details on the programme and how to register.


Beforehand though, later this month, in partnership with Cork City Council and supported by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Women for Election, are holding a national conference in Cork called ‘Count Her In’. Again, the focus is on making politics more accessible, inclusive, safe and equal for women all around the country.

Booking will open in the coming weeks so keep an eye on Cork City Council and Women for Election social media channels for details.

‘Count Her In’ will take place on May 26 at Cork City Concert Hall. The conference will run from 10.30am to 3.30pm with registration from 9.30am.

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