Cork women speak out: What the vote means to me...

In keeping with the theme of the St Patrick's Day parade, we asked Cork women from the worlds of business, education and the arts to tell us what the vote means to them?
Cork women speak out: What the vote means to me...
Dr Fiona Buckley Lecturer, Department of Government and Politics, University College Cork Visiting Research Fellow, Electoral Integrity Project, University of Sydney Co-founder The 5050 Group.

Dr Fiona Buckley, Lecturer, Department of Government and Politics, University College Cork

“The granting of the vote to Irish women, partially in 1918, prior to the adoption of equal suffrage rights in 1922, was a long and hard struggle, with suffragists readily ridiculed, ostracised and mocked, for campaigning for this most basic instrument of political equality.

“It is a story often repeated in many countries over the past 100 years. Thus, for me, voting is an exercise in democratic responsibility and duty; a responsibility and duty to participate in a process that many fought so hard for me to have; but also a duty and responsibility to play my part in a process of political decision-making.

“Election outcomes are determined by those who show up to vote. Thus, it is extremely important that we all exercise our franchise, to formally register our views on those in power, whether it is to endorse or denounce.

“It is also important to note that while women have gender equality with men in terms of voting rights in Ireland, equal access to politics is still an ongoing process. Women remain under-represented in parliaments worldwide, including the Dáil, where just 22% of seats are held by women.

“Gender is a power construct, and male gender power permeates politics, shaping its rules of access and engagement.

“Gender quotas have done much to address the gender imbalance in parliaments, facilitating women’s access to political candidacy and increasing their presence in elected office. In Ireland, the implementation of legislative candidate gender quotas at the 2016 general election saw a 90% increase in women’s candidacy and a 40% increase in the number of women elected. Maintaining this progress is essential if we are to achieve gender parity in Irish politics.

“In 2018, as we celebrate Vótáil 100, it would be good to see the Government commit to extending legislative gender quotas to local elections.”

President of CIT Dr Barry O'Connor and Orla Flynn, Vice President for External Affairs. Picture Darragh Kane
President of CIT Dr Barry O'Connor and Orla Flynn, Vice President for External Affairs. Picture Darragh Kane

Orla Flynn, CIT, Vice President for External Affairs

“Voting means using my voice and having my say. For too many years women in particular were invisible, silenced. Having the right to vote is a privilege, and this right should be exercised with care and diligence. Sometimes we take it for granted, and, like many other freedoms in our lives, we often forget how hard won it was!

“How I vote is a personal choice; each of us has the right to vote however we see fit, and we should be free from any intimidation or pressure to vote in a particular way.

“A worrying trend globally is the spread of fake news, deliberate misinformation circulated across social media platforms and designed to influence how people vote.

“One good piece of advice — often hard to follow — is to listen to all views with an open mind, especially to views not immediately aligned to one’s own thinking.

“I believe that having the right to vote implies a responsibility to be informed before exercising that right!”

Everyman Artistic Director Julie Kelleher.Picture Darragh Kane
Everyman Artistic Director Julie Kelleher.Picture Darragh Kane

Julie Kelleher, Artistic Director, Everyman Theatre

“We had a history teacher in secondary school, Mrs. O¹Keeffe, who in the absence of civics class or anything like it, felt obliged to impress upon us that it was our civic duty to use our vote. Because if we didn’t, we’d be dishonouring the people who fought to make our country a republic, but even more so, since we were in an all-girls school, the women who fought for our right to suffrage. This was a powerful message, as you can imagine, and it has left an indelible mark on me!

“I think bar being out of the country on one occasion, I have exercised my vote on every possible occasion since I turned 18. I have a distinct memory of begging my mother to cast her vote in favour of Mary Robinson when she first ran for president and I remember how important all that was to me.

“I’m chomping at the bit to cast my vote in favour of repeal of the 8th amendment in the forthcoming referendum. In many ways, it couldn’t be more fitting to mark 100 years since women’s suffrage by voting to remove a constitutional amendment that deprives Irish women of the right to determine what happens to their bodies.”

Laura Hallissey, Cork Foundation

“There seems to be is something poignant, with the arrival of the referendum and the Time’s Up movement that this year should mark 100 years since Irish women were given the vote. Voting has always been very important to me and something I’ve never taken for granted. I see it as a privilege, one that unfortunately many women around the world still don’t have.

“I vividly remember the first time I was old enough to vote. My dad made me promise that I would go with him to the polling booth. It felt like a rite of passage and a sign of impending adulthood. Today it’s still a very important duty that I take very seriously. I think about women like Hanna Sheehy Skeffington smashing the glass in Dublin castle and I wonder, if those women were here today what would they think about how far we’ve come. I hope that we can keep “smashing the glass” and doing them proud. After all, we stand on their shoulders and owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

“They fought so hard so that our voices could be heard. So, here’s to the next hundred ladies, let’s make them count!”

Julie Helen, WOW! columnist

“As a woman with a disability, having a vote is really important to me. It is proof of my value as a person.

“I grew up knowing that I was different to everyone else. As I progressed in the education system I began to understand that I would have to fight for my rights and fight to have the same opportunities as my peers. I quickly learned that I had a strong voice and could advocate very well for myself.

“When I was turning 18, local elections were being held. I knew I could use my vote in the exact same way as everyone else. It was the first time I felt a real sense of equality, when I stood in the polling booth for the very first time and performed my civic duty, I was just the same as all my neighbours standing there.

“I remember being so chuffed with myself: I had made it to adulthood with a strong voice that nobody would ever quieten.

“I have voted in local elections, general elections, European elections and many referenda. I will always ensure I return home to my local primary school to cast my vote, because my voice matters.

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