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Meet the Clare changemakers ahead of International Women’s Day

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International Women’s Day will be celebrated around the world tomorrow, March 8. Ahead of this event, The Clare Champion profiles two Clare women who have been making waves in the world of politics, feminism and environmental activism in recent years.
In February of 2020, Violet-Anne Wynne (Ind) became just the forth woman in history to be elected to Dáil Éireann. She followed in the footsteps of Brigid Hogan-O’Higgins (FG), who was elected in the Clare-South Galway Constituency in 1969, Madeleine Taylor-Quinn (FG), who was first elected in 1981 and Síle de Valera (FF) who was first elected in the Clare constituency in 1987.
Bridget Ginnity, meanwhile has been working in Clare communities for years. After spending years promoting women’s participation in science, she has turned her attention to the environment where she is active across a number of important issues.
Ahead of International women’s day, Violet-Anne looks back on a busy four years in Dáil Éireann.
“I feel pride that I am the first mother of six to represent Clare and bring the first actual baby into the Dáil,” she said.
“However, in the spirit of International Women’s Day, while we acknowledge and recognise the great strides women have made in the State and the county, I want to highlight that we still have a long way to go in terms of achieving gender equality.
“At the end of last year, census data revealed that women in Clare earn almost €6,000 less than their male counterparts, almost 20% less in fact. Thats a whopper of a difference and a slap in the face to those women who deserve better.
“In 2019, the Central Statistics Office found that over half of all minimum wage employees were women. Additionally, many of these women were in part-time employment because it fell to them to care for children and other family members.
“This is why the introduction of a living wage is very much a feminist issue as, many of the individuals in low paid employment are women. Further to that, a 2022 report by the National Women’s Council found that over half of workers on low pay are women. I doubt that has changed very much in 2024.
The reality is many women find themselves in low paid or part time employment to accommodate caring responsibilities. Despite efforts to dismantle gender stereotypes and gender roles, the fact remains that most of the time caring responsibilities fall on the woman. And not just within the home but in wider society as well.
“Nurses, midwives, childcare workers, care assistants, and sanitation workers are overwhelmingly female. What do all these professions have in common? They are some of the most undervalued, overworked, and underfunded industries in the State. To me, that is no coincidence.
“This Government speaks about striving toward gender equality in platitudes. It is nothing more than virtue signaling in the hope of gaining the support of young progressive voters.
We are left wanting, when it comes to taking tangible action to achieve gender equality it is seriously lacking meaningful reform and change.”
Bridget Ginnity has turned her attention to climate change and the environment in recent years, an issue that will have disproportionate impact on women across the world.
“In recent years, I became concerned that progress in addressing the climate crisis was not happening quickly enough. I felt I needed to do something, and looked at how my scientific experience would help,” she said.
“My work has included air monitoring and chemical risk assessment as well as regulatory measures to ban forever chemicals (PFAS) on a European level. I started writing articles on climate issues for the Clare Champion as a guest contributor and I also began making submissions on proposed developments that may have an impact on the climate.
“A major proposed development is the Ennis Data Centre. I was taken aback this was a key project in the Ennis 2040 strategy without any significant consideration of the impact on the climate. I decided I wanted to be in the council chamber when issues like this were raised and last year became local election candidate in Ennis for the Green Party – I had joined in 2020 but without any intention of getting involved.
“I’ve always wanted to see more women in politics, although I didn’t plan to be one myself. I was a member of the Women’s Political Association in the early 90’s and had my first and only other experience of canvassing with them.
“My main feminist activity has been to promote women’s participation in science. When on the national council of Women in Technology and Science (WITS), I spoke regularly to young women in schools and colleges. I organised free computer training for women when Ennis became the
Information Age Town.
“I believe that a small focus on green aspects can make a great difference to the quality of life, simple things like having a Fergus River walk where you can see the Fergus, coordinated home energy upgrades, lots of safe crossing points, a local link service that is used to its full potential, pleasant ways to walk and cycle through town, keeping our public spaces public, and our green
spaces green. Many green actions at a planning stage cost very little to implement yet contribute to
the health and wellbeing of all, including the planet.”

Andrew Hamilton

Andrew Hamilton is a journalist, writer and podcaster based in the west of Ireland.

About Andrew Hamilton

Andrew Hamilton is a journalist, writer and podcaster based in the west of Ireland.

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