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Some key commitments for women but will the Government deliver?

Published: Friday, June 19, 2020

Responding to the publication of Our shared Future document earlier this week, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) today welcomed the commitment to advance some key issues for women and women’s rights, but highlighted a number of major gaps where important demands for women have not been addressed. 

Orla O’Connor, Director of NWCI said,

“People voted for change in the election and they voted for many of the commitments in NWCI’s Feminist Manifesto for Ireland. While many of our demands are reflected in this Programme for Government, an overall question remains about the ability of Government to deliver on them. There is a clear lack of detail on how the State will raise the significant funds required to invest in the public infrastructure and services that are desperately needed. 

On the positive aspects, it is very welcome to see a clear focus on women’s health and the need to deliver a healthcare system that puts women’s needs and experiences at its centre.

We also welcome the recognition for the first time that we are dealing with epidemic levels of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. The audit, taken in conjunction with NGOs, of how domestic, sexual and gender-based violence is dealt with across all governmental departments is an important part of our response to violence against women.”

Orla O’Connor continued,

“We welcome the establishment of the Childcare Agency and the commitment to ensure greater affordability for parents by introducing a capping of fees. However, there is no coherent strategy that will deliver a public high-quality model of childcare where workers are paid appropriately.

We are concerned about a number of gaps in the Programme for Government. Although there is commitment to the building of Family Law Courts nationwide there is no reference wider reforms in the judicial system that are urgently needed for women.

And while we are pleased to see the commitment to review our own research ‘Women beyond the Dáil – More Women in Local Governemnt’ and report on its findings, it is a missed opportunity to include a clear commitment to one of the report’s key recommendations to introduce a gender quota for candidates in local elections.

It is also concerning that the Programme of Government fails to make clear commitments to reform our taxation system now, prioritise public spending over tax cuts and raise the necessary level of funds to invest in the public services and infrastructure that are so important for women and equality. In addition, establishing Equality Budgeting on a statutory basis would have demonstrated a true commitment to identify inequalities for women and help ensure ‘that policies are driven by a desire to do better by people’.”

Orla O’Connor concluded,

“The next Oireachtas has the potential to shape our lives for the next five years. It is crucial that we now see the Cabinet, Dail and Seanad prioritising policies of women’s equality. Having a gender balanced Cabinet or at least 30% of women as Cabinet ministers, and the promotion of women in senior decision making, should be a minimal requirement rather than an aspiration in 2020 in this regard.”