Taking women from grassroots activism to parliamentary participation

Published: 18th September 2019, 2:58pm

Taking women from grassroots activism to parliamentary participation

Next Chapter participants visit Dáil Éireann to meet with Women’s Parliamentary Caucus

Photo: (L-R) Sinead Dooley, Deputy CEO Irish Rural Link, Fiona O’Loughlin,TD, Catherine Martin TD, Chair of the Womens Parliamentary Caucus and Kellie Armstrong MLA, Deputy Chairperson Northern Ireland Assembly Women’s Caucus.

More than 70 women from across the island of Ireland came together today in Dáil Éireann as part of a project which aims to build cross border and cross community relationships. Participants in The Next Chapter visited the Dáil to meet with members of the Irish Women’s Parliamentary Caucus to develop collaborative relationships through networking and the exchange of experience and ideas.

This Women – Champions of Peacebuilding visit, which was hosted by Catherine Martin TD, Chair of the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, focused on the importance of women making the difference in community, public and political life and the chance to attend Leader’s Questions with an Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, where TDs debated the key issues of the day. The visit was facilitated by Irish Rural Link, who are delivery partners of the Next Chapter, alongside Politics Plus and NICVA.

The Next Chapter project aims to build positive relations between women from different communities and backgrounds in Northern Ireland and the border counties of the Republic of Ireland. It is funded through the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Match-funding for The Next Chapter project is provided by the Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.

Speaking at the visit, Sinead Dooley, Deputy CEO of Irish Rural Link, said “This visit to Dáil Éireann is part of a series of events that the participants have undertaken as part of the Next Chapter. It is important that the women on the Next Chapter project are able to meet with a wide range of females in senior positions in public and political life, and meeting with a range of Deputies from the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus today has highlighted the work so many have undertaken to ensure that the voice of women is heard at the highest political level.”

Deputy Catherine Martin, Chair of the Irish Women’s Parliamentary Caucus who hosted the visit, said “Women have an incredibly important role to play here in Dáil Éireann and right throughout public life. The women who make up our caucus come from many different walks of life and have a range of political views, but what we agree on is the need to ensure that more women come forward into public life, be it in their local community or here as parliamentarians. We are delighted that the Next Chapter participants have been able to join us here today, as we build a wider consensus of women in leadership roles right across the island.”

Christine Darrah, Executive Director of Politics Plus, the lead partner on the Next Chapter project, added “The goal of the Next Chapter is to help empower the women from Northern Ireland and the border counties to become more involved in community and public life, and it is clear that many have been inspired by the Deputies we have met today in Dáil Éireann. So many of these TDs started out as grassroots activists, working on local issues and now they are parliamentary representatives, committee chairs, and Ministers in Government. The work undertaken by Next Chapter participants will help shape politics in the future, with the voice of women firmly at the centre of power.”

The Next Chapter has more than 300 participants in ten Chapters across Northern Ireland and the border counties, and provides a network and training for women to develop ideas, build communities and support the transition out of conflict. Participants have already completed four modules, including ‘Women as Champions of Peacebuilding’ and ‘Decision Making, Politics & Public Life’, and have just commenced work on the fifth module, ‘Diversity – Thinking Independently Together’.

A summary of the event can be found at https://www.thenextchapter.eu/news-events/peace-reconciliation-visit-to-dail-eireann/

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