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NWC Submission on a Family Friendly and Inclusive Parliament

Published: Friday, May 07, 2021

NWC welcomes the opportunity to put in a submission to the newly established Family Friendly Forum. The pandemic has served as a reminder of the complexity of human life and poised unique challenges in maintaining a work-life balance with long-term home-schooling, caring responsibilities, and other difficulties prevalent throughout the pandemic. A rigid and outdated set of Oireachtas rules and policies has exasperated an already difficult situation for many. Positive action is urgently required to embed into the life of the Oireachtas a set of family-friendly policies that can alleviate some of the hardship currently felt by members and that is reflective of a progressive parliament. In addition, these actions will support the delivery of commitments in Our Shared Future, the Programme for Government, the National Strategy for Women and Girls, UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 and the UN Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The National Women’s Council has been leading in calls for a family-friendly parliament, it is notable that many of the recommendations in our 2013 report ‘A Parliament of All Talents: Building a Women Friendly Oireachtas’ have yet to be implemented – almost a decade on these recommendations remain necessary for the transformative change. The recommendations from the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality call for urgent and transformative actions to diversify political institutions and provide family-friendly and inclusive policies. We need more women in politics, without substantive changes to the culture of Leinster House this is unlikely to happen. Parliament should be a model for a modern, inclusive workplace. Providing a space where women and men can successfully balance their family lives and parliamentary career will lead to greater retention, greater diversity, and better politics. 2020 saw the first Traveller women welcomed into the Oireachtas with the Taoiseach’s nomination of Senator Eileen Flynn but there remains a woeful lack of diversity with no identified disabled person or person from a minority ethnic background. There is also a significant generational divide in elected representatives. Women in decision-making spaces, with young families, needs to be normalised, in 2021 women should no longer have to choose between their career in public office and their family commitments. These past fifteen months have been incredibly difficult, as we emerge collectively from this pandemic we must look to the lessons learnt; flexible working, remote working, and a more empathetic view on the challenges of achieving a work-life balance. Ireland has an opportunity to lead with a set of creative, generous, and highly beneficial policies that will have a significant positive impact of Irish politics. This process as an opportunity to increase and enhance women’s participation in Irish politics, into the long term, while also shifting how politics is seen and experienced by all citizens

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