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Celebrating the role of women over 120 Years of Local Government

Published: Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The year 2019 marks the 120th anniversary of the advent of the County Councillor on Ireland’s democratic landscape. The first County Councils were formed in 1899 following the passing the previous year of the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898. The Act achieved breakthroughs on many fronts. The right to vote for local elections was extended to all householders including, for the first time at any level of democracy, women.

It was not a perfect franchise – the woman had to be head of household so given the domestic social structures of the time it was only a minority of women who were able to take up the newly extended franchise. However it is was an important breakthrough as, for the first time, gender was not a barrier to exercising the vote. In the words of one of the most tenacious campaigners for women's rights - Anna Haslam - the 1898 Act represented, "the most significant political revolution that has taken place in the history of Irish women."

For the 1899 elections women were able to stand for election to the Rural District Councils which were a sub-division of the Councils proper and a number of women were elected to such positions.

NWCI, with the generous support of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government are highlighting this through a number of local events in Donegal on the 13th June and in Monaghan on the 16th May, at our national AGM event and the publication of a commemorative booklet with stories from women from over 12 counties.

Women in many constituencies have contributed to local policy and decision making and played their part in the communities we live in now. It is timely to reflect on what remains to be achieved to ensure voices of women are heard in decision making and their participation supported and resourced at local level. As we approach Local Elections 2019, we hope to break new ground in female representation at local level.

To find out more contact Catherine on 01 6790100 or email catherinel@nwci.ie