[Sinn Fein]

4th March 2003

Sinn Fein backs strategy for women's equality in politics

Speaking at the National Women Council's launch of their strategy to bring about 30% representation of women in political decision-making by 2005, Sinn Fein Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD pledged his party's support. He said Sinn Fein was aiming to greatly increase its number of women candidates and elected representatives in the 2004 local government and EU elections.

Speaking at the launch in Government Buildings, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

``As a party striving towards an Ireland of Equals, Sinn Fein fully supports the Equality Agenda and its implementation throughout society. Sinn Fein was instrumental in raising the Equality Agenda during the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement and this led to the enactment of legislation in both states in Ireland.

``We are hosting a conference this Wednesday in Belfast to scrutinise what has been achieved, what barriers exist and what has further to be achieved arising out of the Equality & Human Rights issues in the Good Friday Agreement.

``Sinn Fein has appointed an Equality Director, our outgoing General Secretary, Lucilita Bhreatnach who is heading up the party's Gender Equality Section. We are affiliated to the Equality for Women Measure as part of the National Development Plan. A Strategy and Programme has been put in place to deal with these issues on a number of fronts. This has included Awareness Programmes on Gender Audits and Gender Impact Assessments which have been held in the regions with party representatives on the ground and at leadership level. We are currently conducting an Audit of Women within the party.

``We have further tackled at national leadership level a number of issues on this front to further develop strategies to remove obstacles or barriers which exists in order to promote further all aspects of the Equality Agenda. In particular, we have incorporated a number of additional guidelines and directives in consultation with party structures to enhance the processes to stand more women candidates.

``We have put a programme in place to ensure that we will be increasing our number of women candidates in winnable seats again in Assembly elections in the Six Counties in May. Five of our current MLAs are women and one of them Bairbre de Brún has been Minister for Health.

``We have set targets to achieve 30% women candidates in the forthcoming local government and European Union parliament elections. We are working hard to achieve this goal. Sinn Fein is ensuring that we will increase our representation of women within the party and at elected level.

``A culture of change is required throughout society to ensure that there is better representation and better working practices for women in politics. It is crucial that we all play a part in creating changes to the political systems to encourage more family friendly practices.

``It is a stark fact that men have historically enjoyed an advantage over women in politics due to a number of factors. Radical changes need to occur now at different levels. As the National Women's Council `Jobs for the Boys' document starkly points out, there has only been an increase of 1% in Leinster House representation in the past 10 years and the percentage of women elected councillors in the 26 counties is 15%. Change is long overdue and we in Sinn Fein are determined to play our part in bringing it about.

``Glacfaimid ár bpáirt ins na hathruithe seo uile ins na míonna agus bliante romhainn in Éirinn.''

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