By Dan Walsh
Wexford County Council Women’s Coalition was officially launched in the Riverside Park Hotel, Enniscorthy, on Wednesday by renowned Wexford soccer referee Michelle O’Neill, the first Irish referee to officiate at an Olympic Games.
Made up of the six female councillors, the Coalition was established to support an increase in the number of women in politics, to support each other as female members of the Council, and to encourage other women who are interested in politics to get involved.
The Coalition members are its inaugural Chairperson, Cllr Maura Bell, Wexford County Council Cathaoirleach Cllr Barbara-Anne Murphy, Cllr Kathleen Codd-Nolan, Cllr Mary Farrell, Cllr Lisa McDonald, and New Ross Municipal District Cathaoirleach Cllr Brídín Murphy.
Michelle O’Neill said she was delighted to launch the Women’s Coalition as she valued its role in empowering and inspiring women. Outlining her refereeing journey since 2008, she added that her “long-term goal is to officiate at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 2023”. She highlighted the role of “support and having the right people around you to lift you up”, emphasising the need for role models. “When I was a player, I never saw a female referee or was in a match officiated by a female referee”.
Master of Ceremonies at the launch, Cllr Maura Bell congratulated O’Neill as someone who personifies the motto, “If you can see it, you can be it”. Wexford County Council’s third-ever female Cathaoirleach, Cllr Barbara-Anne Murphy, also addressed the gathering, which included fellow councillors, Wexford town Mayor Cllr Gary Laffan, Gorey-Kilmuckridge Cathaoirleach Cllr Pip Breen, and Council CEO Tom Enright.
Cllr Murphy acknowledged the plight of Ukraine, saying that “the stories, photos and shattered lives in Ukraine are heart-breaking and we need to voice our objection to this war at every opportunity and voice our solidarity with Ukraine.”
Highlighting that the six female councillors comprise 17% of elected councillors in Wexford, she added that “we need quotas to have an equal number of women at decision-making tables in State and public bodies. We’re not looking for more, we’re looking for the same”, she said.
Wexford County Council CEO Tom Enright expressed his full support for the Women’s Coalition, which is a formal sub-committee of the Council. “The Coalition members are exemplary role models of leadership,” he said, adding that the 17% of female representation in elected councillors “shows a significant gender gap and must be addressed”. He also highlighted how the challenge of “balancing work and family life, which often causes women to withdraw from politics” would need to be dealt with.”