Centenary of Women's Suffrage: Statements

I call the Minister, Deputy Madigan, to make her statement. The Minister has five minutes.

Go raibh maith agat, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Earlier today I launched the Government's programme to commemorate the centenary of the introduction of voting rights for women in parliamentary elections. The programme booklet reprints a remarkable piece of correspondence from Prime Minister Lloyd George to Countess Markievicz, which is now in the collection of the National Museum of Ireland. The letter is a short, formal, three-sentence invitation to Countess Markievicz to attend the reopening of Parliament at Westminster. It addresses the new MP as “Sir”. The envelope has the original postal address of Dublin St. Patrick’s, the constituency to which Countess Markievicz was elected, but it is overwritten and redirected to Holloway Prison in London.

In those two small details we can detect the seismic changes in the political landscape of our world 100 years ago: a system which had just opened its doors to women’s participation in political life but could not quite believe that the MP for Dublin St. Patrick’s was not “Sir” but “Madam”, and that the self-same madam, instead of taking a seat in His Majesty’s Parliament, was incarcerated in His Majesty’s Prison Holloway as a result of her political activities in seeking an independent Irish republic.

Those two joint but separate campaigns - the struggle for Irish freedom and the struggle for women’s political rights - were core to Countess Markievicz’s work. The Representation of the People Act 1918, enacted on this very day 100 years ago, gave some women aged over 30 and all men over the age of 21 the right to vote for the first time.

This had the effect of tripling the size of the electorate, which no doubt had a significant impact on the subsequent election. The Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act, passed in November 1918, further allowed women to stand for election on an equal footing with men for the first time. While 17 women stood in the general election, only Countess Markievicz was elected. In Ireland, Sinn Féin alone put forward women candidates, Countess Markievicz, who was victorious in the Dublin St. Patrick's constituency, and Winifred Carney, in Belfast Victoria. Women would have to await passage of the Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) Act 1922 by the Third Dáil for full and equal voting rights in time for the election to the Fourth Dáil on 27 August 1923. It is no consolation that women in the UK did not achieve an equal franchise until 1928. Meanwhile, Countess Markievicz would become a Member of Dáil Éireann and our first female Cabinet Minister in 1919. It would take 60 years before another woman sat at the Cabinet table in Government Buildings.

The programme I announced today outlines some of the key commemorative events which will be held during the year, including exhibitions, celebrations, hedge schools, talks, stamps and seminars. It will complement the Votáil 100 commemorations organised by the Houses of the Oireachtas. The programme will be delivered by many partners, including our national cultural institutions, History Ireland, local authorities, trade unions and third-level institutions. One highlight will be a pop-up museum named "100 years of Women in Politics and Public Life" looking at the key women who have contributed over the past 100 years to shaping the State, including the 114 women Deputies. The exhibition, curated by historian Sinéad McCoole, will be held in Dublin Castle from November and then travel to regional venues.

Today we reflect on the significant contribution women have made to our country over the last century. We also reflect, however, on the missed opportunities for women and society in the conservative State which came into being after independence. We have made much progress in this House to provide equal opportunities for all but we still have a way to travel. It is timely on the 100th anniversary of the extension of the franchise to women to redouble our efforts to provide those opportunities.

I congratulate the Minister of State on the launch of her programme. I sent my apologies as I could not attend due to commitments in the House. It is wonderful to see a programme of events to commemorate women in all guises, particularly, given today's statements, in politics.

The centenary of the extension of the right to vote to women is an important milestone. It is important to celebrate it. However, the struggle for equality continues. Female political representation stands at 22% in the Dáil and 30% in the Seanad. While this is an historic high, it is far from a fair balance. This inequality is reflected in board rooms, managerial positions and pay levels. The 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 serves as a reminder of how far we have come and how far it remains for us to go. The 1918 Act massively expanded voting rights by abolishing practically every property qualification for men and enfranchising women over 30 who met minimum property qualifications. However, despite their war contribution, women were still not politically equal to men who could vote at 21 without property restrictions. Full electoral equality was achieved in Ireland in 1922. In a speech in the Dáil on 2 March 1922, Constance Markievicz said women's suffrage was a matter of women voicing their opinions publicly in an ordinary and simple manner by registering the vote in the polling booth. Countess Markievicz was the first ever female MP. In December 1918, while still serving a prison sentence, she was elected to the House of Commons as a representative of Dublin's St. Patrick's division. As an Irish republican, she chose not to take her seat. Later, she served as Minister for Labour in the First Dáil and was a founding member of Fianna Fáil in 1926. However, no other female Minister sat in Cabinet until 1979, when then Fianna Fáil Deputy, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, was appointed Minister for the Gaeltacht. Only 19 women have ever been appointed to Cabinet. Disappointingly, the number of women in the Cabinet was actually diluted by the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, on his appointment.

The gap in representation continues in boardrooms. Ireland's rate of female board membership currently stands at 16%. The National Women's Council of Ireland has called for quotas to ensure fairer female representation in business. Fianna Fáil takes pride in its efforts to expand female participation in politics. We have conducted systematic reviews and actions to boost the numbers going for office and internal party positions. We are committed to addressing issues like the gender pay gap and the five "Cs" which impede female participation in politics and corporate boardrooms. There are now more women in the Lower House of our national Parliament than ever. Female Deputies have grown in number and are rarely lone voices in rooms full of men. A diversity of opinion is needed on the political stage. Women must have a voice in politics because their specific rights and interests will otherwise not be protected. In all, 35 women were elected to Dáil Éireann in 2016 to take 22.3% of the seats contested and to comprise 22.2% of all Deputies. That is a whopping 40% increase from the previous record of 25 women elected in 2011, comprising 15% of Dáil Éireann at the time. Many observers have pointed to this rise as attributable directly to the introduction of gender quotas, which allow for a party's State funding to be cut by half unless 30% of its general election candidates are women.

It is poignant that we celebrate this anniversary today when 25 of the country's 40 constituencies have at least one female representative in the national Parliament as opposed to 22 of the 43 in 2011. A number of barriers continue to exist to the involvement of women in politics. We often hear talk of the five "Cs", namely, child care, cash, confidence, culture and candidate selection, in this context. I compliment Professor Yvonne Galligan who was instrumental in providing and publishing our own gender equality action plan. She helped the party to make huge strides in bringing women to the national stage, as well as on the local stage and within our smaller cumainn and CDCs nationally.

As a republican and a parliamentarian, I am particularly proud of Ireland's unmanageable revolutionaries. These brave women from across the political and class divide fought fearlessly and furiously against a harsh and hateful patriarchal power. They were pilloried, beaten and, worst of all for many, dismissed. Sunday marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of Countess Markievicz. She embodied the boldness of republican and socialist demands for a free and equal Ireland. Constance threw off the "old idea that a woman can only serve her nation through her home" and challenged women across classes and generations to dedicate themselves to the cause of freedom and equality with a rallying cry that "Now is the time, and on you the responsibility rests". It is important to acknowledge the depth of opposition to women's suffrage to fully appreciate the demand the countess made of Irish women at that time. In 1912, the deputy leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party told a deputation of Irish suffragettes:

Women's suffrage will, I believe, be the ruin of our Western civilisation. It will destroy the home, challenging the headship of man, laid down by God.

Challenge the "headship of man" they most definitely did. One hundred years ago today, the Representation of the People Act was passed and women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification were granted the vote.

It was not universal suffrage but the dam was irretrievably broken. Women’s demands for votes were set against and, for many republicans, intrinsically linked with the cause of Irish freedom and fight for workers’ rights.

Countess Markievicz told the Dáil in 1922 that she stood for the "Workers Republic for which Connolly died" and a "state run by the Irish people for the people". Internationalism was also a common cause among many republican and nationalist women activists. Louie Bennett, co-founder of the Irish Women’s Suffrage Federation, emphasised the internationalism of Irish feminism when she said: "...we suffragists are working for all women... We recognise the bond of sisterhood uniting women of every nationality without losing anything of the strong, free, Celtic spirit and passionate instinct for independence characteristic of that spirit." While Bennett and Markievicz would not have agreed on the method by which independence would be achieved, they both valued the support of their male comrades. Bennett, when secretary of the Irish Women Workers' Union - a trade union my grandmother on my father's side was a shop steward in and an association we are very proud of - described James Connolly as "...one of the best suffrage speakers I have ever heard and a thorough feminist in every respect".

The common thread from their time to ours is the demand for rights - very basic rights. In 1918, women and men were fighting for language rights, democratic rights, equality and independence. We can and should make the direct link from the demands of Markievicz and Bennett to today’s campaigns for Irish language rights and marriage equality in the North. Members of this House cannot celebrate the achievements of these two women and then ignore the demands for an Irish language Act and same-sex civil marriage from their fellow country women and men. If Markievicz and Bennett could extend their solidarity across the class, gender and nation divide, surely the best way that we in this institution can honour them is to extend our solidarity to those on our shared island who have yet to secure the rights we enjoy today.

As women Members of Dáil Éireann, we truly stand on the shoulders of giants in terms of the women who fought and won suffrage for women and who led the way in women becoming Members of Parliament and, as has been pointed out, the one sole and lonely member of the Cabinet in almost 50 years in Constance Markievicz.

I have two proposals that I would like women to focus on. One is that the next Government should comprise preferably 50:50 men and women, which would be a real breakthrough in the spirit of the women who achieved suffrage. To be honest, as women, we can do it for ourselves and, obviously, there is no great rush of men to join us this evening, with the exception of your honourable self, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, and we are very grateful you are here. If we really want equality, it is not good enough to be a member of a Cabinet where, one by one, over the decades, the numbers are increasing. We need women's life experience to be present not just in the Dáil, which it is now in greater numbers, but particularly in Cabinet. I would say there are probably no women in the Dáil who do not have ambitions at some stage to serve in the Government of their country.

When I became Tánaiste I had many conversations with the then Taoiseach about the lack of women in Irish politics. I am glad to say he appointed an extra woman, the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, and I was delighted that my colleague, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, became Minister for Education and Skills. What had been three women around the Cabinet table of roughly 18 suddenly became five, and five makes a difference - it is not a lot but it is better. Let us come together and say that we will have a minimum of 40% women in the next Government, and that, preferably, we will work towards 50%.

I am very disappointed with the Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, and I told him this at the time, although I know he said he may address it eventually. He is young, with many younger members of Cabinet, but he was so biased against the presence of very able women in his own party, who were overlooked not just to serve in government as Ministers of State, but at the Cabinet table, although both roles are important.

My second proposal is the following. In 1966, we renamed huge numbers of public institutions around the country and all our big railway stations - while we still have them, and I hope we will - in honour of the men of 1916. The women of 1916 got almost no mention in terms of public buildings and institutions. I did not like the idea of the children's hospital being named "Phoenix", and while I know the reasons are good, the name is inadequate. It should be called after Dr. Kathleen Lynn, a veteran of 1916 and also of the Lockout, like Constance Markievicz, and who fed families in Liberty Hall who were going hungry in 1913. It should be named the Kathleen Lynn national children's hospital because Dr. Kathleen Lynn, as well as her many other achievements, was also the founder of St. Ultan's Children's Hospital in Charlemont Street in Dublin.

They are two very simple propositions. The first is that, in all our parties and groups, we work for women to have a 50:50 presence in the next Government, and I have no doubt this is perfectly possible in terms of the broad range of talented women who are present in Dáil Éireann. The second is that we call the children's hospital after Dr. Kathleen Lynn in the same way that, in my own constituency, Connolly Hospital is rightly called after James Connolly, one of the signatories in 1916. We need active memorials to the women who were involved in the suffrage movement. There is no shortage of buildings or features in Ireland which can be named, and I am sure lots of people will have their individual suggestions. However, we should start with Dr. Kathleen Lynn. I do not like to be what Bill Clinton often called a bean counter but we need women in significant numbers in every role of life, particularly in the Dáil and the Seanad, and in holding all of the Cabinet and Government offices.

Obviously, this is a momentous day in that it is the centenary of some women being granted the right to vote before, four years later, in the case of Ireland, that was extended to all women on an equal basis with men. However, there are huge lessons to be learned for people engaged in social movements, in anti-austerity movements and in global feminist movements from the struggle that women waged 100 years ago. We see so many of the same tactics, for example, the tone policing against women that was experienced then and which we also saw in regard to the repeal movement recently. At that time, the women initially did the letter writing, the petitions and all of that, and, obviously, when that was ignored, the women had to consider what other tactics they would take. Would they take more direct action? Would they engage more collectively in a struggle with male allies in the trade union movement, which was growing at that time?

Even some of the forerunners of parties in this Chamber opposed women's suffrage, for example, the Irish Parliamentary Party and John Redmond in particular. The quote has already been cited that one of the leading MPs in the Irish Parliamentary Party at the time said it would be the ruination of Western civilisation and would lead to men's status being questioned. I think of the smashing of windows, the filling of pillar boxes with corrosive liquid, the axe throwing and a whip being used against leading political figures.

The establishment parties continually broke promises made to these women regarding legislation. It seemed as though the polite methods which they had employed had failed.

Previous speakers referred to Countess Markievicz. She obviously played an important role and deserves to have it recognised, but she should not be the only woman to be commemorated as part of this centenary. That would write out the women who also did a great deal. I will read some of their names into the record: Margaret Cousins, Kathleen Emerson, Mabel Purser, Barbara Hoskins, the Murphy sisters - whose birth names were Leila and Rosalind Garcias de Cadiz, who were born in India and later moved to Ireland - Marguerite Palmer, Hannah Sheehy Skeffington, Margaret Connery, Anna Haslam, Louie Bennett, Charlotte Despard, Mary Hayden, Delia Larkin, Isabella Tod and Marion Duggan. There were many more. All those women should be recognised. The common denominator among all of them was their determination. All were jailed. Many had to go on hunger strike to be recognised as political prisoners. Some were force-fed. Some took part in the Black Friday protest. There is currently a film in cinemas which makes a hero out of Winston Churchill, but on the occasion of Black Friday he ordered a crackdown on the suffragettes. Some 300 were assaulted by police, being punched, kicked, and thrown to the ground. Some were also sexually assaulted. Many of the women were then jailed afterwards. That is what they were up against. I acknowledge those women's bravery and determination.

This was not about the right to vote; it was very much linked to the overall situation of women in society. The women were engaged in campaigns against forced medical examinations on women, that they not be sexually shamed, for women's education, for housing and many of them were linked with the growing women's trade union movement in Ireland.

It was not just about votes for women. It was not bringing about the type of feminism that we see being hailed now, like Oprah Winfrey, a billionaire with no connection or sense of what most women on this planet ever face, or that of Hillary Clinton, a corporate feminist who is involved in Walmart, a company with a workforce which we see is totally exploited. Theirs was not the type of feminism that stays silent about five men on the planet controlling the same amount of wealth as 3.5 billion people. That is not the type of feminism for which we should fight. I have a message for anyone who is fighting for the repeal of the eighth amendment. Barriers were put in our way, particularly in the past five years. Some of those who spoke in the past few minutes were among those who put those barriers in place, but we can overcome. The people who granted the right for women to vote were initially some of its biggest opponents. Earlier, the five Cs were mentioned. The one C that was not mentioned is capitalism. It is not possible for women to have equality without challenging a capitalist system that breeds sexism.

After many decades of constitutional lobbying by the Irish Women's Suffrage and Local Government Association, some women grew frustrated with the slow progress. Influenced by the militant strategies of the British Women's Social and Political Union, WSPU, two women, Hannah Sheehy Skeffington and Margaret Cousins set up a new suffrage group in Dublin in 1908, the Irish Women's Franchise League, IWFL. It was impatient for change and ready to challenge social conventions.

Aiming to win the vote for women on the same terms as men, the IWFL, whose leaders were nationalist in their political sympathies but also linked with the labour movement of Larkin and Connolly vociferously lobbied to have female enfranchisement included in the Home Rule Bill. Although the IWFL described itself as militant, members did not engage in militant activity during its early years. It was the frustration caused by the failure of the Irish parliamentary party to support votes for women in the Home Rule Bill of 1912 that finally sparked militant agitation in Ireland. The IWFL decided that militant action was the only way to attract the Irish Parliamentary Party's attention or that of the British Government. On 13 June 1912, eight women were arrested for throwing stones at Government Buildings in Dublin. When Hannah Sheehy Skeffington, Marguerite Palmer and sisters Jane and Margaret Murphy came to trial, 200 women, including the other arrested suffragettes, Kathleen Houston, Marjorie Hasler, Maud Lloyd and Hilda Webb, packed the court room. The women were each sentenced to either a fine or two months imprisonment. All refused to pay and opted for prison to where they were soon followed by the other four. The IWFL never engaged in the levels of militancy associated with the Pankhursts and the WSPU in Britain.

Research on suffrage activism has focused mainly on the pursuit of the vote which means that the movement can be misunderstood as a single-issue pressure group. We must go beyond the focus on enfranchisement to uncover the complexity of identities, actions and motivations behind the suffrage movement. The study of historical movements often fails to uncover their true dynamism, the lively discussions and debates which underpinned their activities. One way to analyse and assess such debates and the breadth of activity and campaigns undertaken by the Irish suffragists is through their newspaper The Irish Citizen which was published between 1912 and 1920. A paper cannot give voice to all divergent views and voices within the movement with only the most literate and articulate being able to be included, but it is remarkable how many women's suffrage campaigners were represented in that paper's eight years. Many contributors to The Irish Citizen described themselves as feminists. They analysed the relationship between suffrage and feminism. In December 1912 Margaret Connery wrote in The Irish Citizen that:

What is called the votes for women movement is but a side issue of a much greater and more far-reaching problem. It is true that the votes for women movement is the chief manifestation of feminism but though public attention has been particularly focused on this one phase of feminism, the girl who first defied conventions by riding a bicycle or the poorest woman anywhere who is revolting against the conditions of her life and longing for her chance to relieve its monotony, all these are part and parcel of the great uprising amongst women.

As part of its feminist agenda, The Irish Citizen discussed a wide range of issues effecting women and girls. Socialist voices argued that working-class women needed trade unions and better working conditions and to lead themselves and decide their own priorities. Other contributors raised the matters of domestic violence and sexual assaults in Irish society. They established a court-watching committee which monitored cases involving girls and women. The committee's reports appeared regularly in The Irish Citizen. The women's presence in court, especially in cases which included indecency, was not always welcome and many times they were ejected, something against which they rallied.

It is important to note that there was class, debate and discussion within the movement. Today, 100 years ago Irish women were given the right to vote but only some of them, those over 30 years, with property rights or a university education. The Act also gave the vote to men over the age of 21 years. That meant that only 40% of women were able to vote. Some 60% of women, including those in the slums and in living in poverty in rural areas, had no vote until 1922. In December 1918 Countess Markievicz was the first women to be elected to the UK House of Commons while she was imprisoned in Britain.

After 1922, we began many decades of political and religious conservatism in Ireland. Many of the women and men of 1913, 1916 and of the suffrage movement were written out of the pages of history. Many left Ireland's shores. I want to say one thing to those men and women: I salute them. Had they been here in this Dáil in 2011, we would never have had the austerity measures that were imposed on pensioners, lone parents and all the other austerity measures which were put in place by the Fine Gael-Labour Government.

There is a statue of Countess Markievicz on Townsend Street in Dublin city. I propose that it be brought into O'Connell Street where she played an active part during 1913, and placed on a pedestal beside James Larkin.

Few positive things can be said about the First World War, apart from the development of mechanised transport and the changes that occurred in many women's lives. They sometimes replaced men in factories and in services, such the postal service. Some swapped domestic service for factory jobs and earned a relative good wage. This was more common in Britain where conscription was enforced. As a result, at the end of that awful war, the vote was granted to women.

A House of Commons debate that took place only six years earlier showed some of the attitudes that prevailed at the time and that prevented the vote from being extended to women.

Some men objected because they believed women to be inferior. Others felt that the interests of women were perfectly safe in the hands of men, while still others felt women would be corrupted by politics. Some even felt that women were emotional creatures and incapable of making sound political decisions.

In Ireland, all women over 21 were granted the right to vote in 1922. While there is no doubt that women played a significant role in the events leading up to Independence, it was a role largely written out of history. Following Independence, women played little or no primary role in shaping the future of politics or, indeed, the country. I am of the view that the country was poorer for their absence. The decades that followed Independence were dark for women. The great awakening happened with the women's movement in the 1960s, which campaigned for equal treatment and a better quality of life. Then things began slowly to change. There have been many positive changes in recent decades. Many of these were demanded by women and others were imposed by the EU. However, the battle for equality has not yet been won.

Centenaries are a time for reflection. The centenary we are marking today is about women of privilege - women with means who were over 30 and who were granted the right to vote. Even then, class and privilege trumped equal participation and representation. If we are to learn from the past, our future must be about inclusiveness and about making politics accessible and attractive to women from all backgrounds.

Is mór an onóir dom í mar bhean agus mar Theachta Dála bheith anseo anocht agus muid ag tabhairt ómóis do mhná na hÉireann agus gluaiseacht na sufraigéide ón gcéad seo caite. Táimid go mór faoi chomaoin dóibh as a gcuid iarrachtaí, a ghnóthaigh cearta vótála do gach bean in Éirinn, agus gabhaimid buíochas leo.

As women, our right to vote was hard-fought-for and hard-won. Today we remember, not that 100 years ago we were granted the right to vote but rather that 100 years ago our grandmothers and great-grandmothers demanded our right to vote. As one part of a greater struggle for social justice, they demanded that our right as women to engage in public life and play full part in society would be respected and vindicated by all. The suffrage that we celebrate today was not something that was given to us. It was achieved through great sacrifice, unapologetically and with absolute conviction by our foremothers asserting our self-evident and inalienable rights as women.

As we face obstacles, discrimination and inequalities that are severe, that are challenging and that at times seem insurmountable, we must take strength, hope and inspiration from the battles won by those women who came before us. The challenges they faced were overwhelming, and yet they persisted and they overcame. We owe it to these women who sacrificed, who suffered and who lost so much – some losing their lives – to continue to fight, and to continue to overcome.

The Ireland of tomorrow will be shaped by the women of today, by our children and by our grandchildren. We will continue to speak and we will be heard. We, the women of the whole island of Ireland, mná na hÉireann - mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers and granddaughters – will continue to speak up, continue to build, continue to foster and continue to inspire.

The most appropriate way of honouring these brave and courageous campaigning women of yesteryear is to continue the fight for full equality for women at home and abroad. While clearly great and historic strides were made by the suffragettes, they would expect nothing less from us. They would want us to take and win the next steps in the battles of equality, to take strength from their achievement, and to go from strength to strength to continue the fight. That is the best way to honour their memory, their courage and their monumental achievement at that time.

The Government has another slot. It is not customary for the same person to speak twice but I will take a broad interpretation of Standing Order 45. In view of the historic day it is, I will use my discretion and call on the Minister of State.

I have a few concluding remarks and I will be erudite.

I thank Deputies Niamh Smyth, O'Reilly, Burton, Coppinger, Joan Collins, Catherine Murphy and Catherine Martin for their contributions to this important debate.

I noted the progress that has been made in providing equal opportunities for all but, as I stated earlier, we have a long way to travel. To this end, A Programme for a Partnership Government commits to develop a new integrated framework for social inclusion, which will outline measures to help eliminate any persisting discrimination on grounds of gender, age, family status, marital status, sexual orientation, race, disability, religion or membership of the Traveller community.

We are further committed to specifically empowering women by building on the legislation to encourage increased female participation in politics. An updated national women's strategy will further promote women's participation in decision-making. We will empower women to ensure that households headed by them are no longer at high risk of poverty. We will take measures to reduce the gender pay gap. These will include increasing investment in child care and reviewing the lower pay of women and gender inequality in respect of senior appointments. This Government is actively promoting: increased female representation on State boards to at least 40% - I am pleased to say that the average female representation on their boards of the bodies under the remit of my Department exceeds 50%; wage transparency and a strengthened role of the Low Pay Commission in relation to the gender pay gap and in-work poverty; training opportunities for self-development and work related skills, to assist a return to the labour market and promote entrepreneurship; and an increased level of female participation in the Defence Forces, with the goal of doubling the rate of participation from 6% to 12% over five years.

In the context of today's centenary, my Department is keeping in close contact with the Houses of the Oireachtas and the Vótáil 100 programme, which has a monthly programme of activity leading up to commemorating the First Dáil in January 2019. While it is clear that our own national journey failed women for far too long, today we pay our respects to all those women who flew the flag for women's participation in Irish political life in the years since Independence. In marking the distance that we have travelled in more recent years, I believe it is incumbent on us to remember them well, to cherish their contribution and to build on it into the future.

I will finish with a quote from Countess Markievicz, from March 1922, in a debate in the Dáil on the women's franchise:

This question of votes for women, with the bigger thing, freedom for women and opening of the professions to women, has been one of the things that I have worked for and given my influence and time to procuring all my life whenever I got an opportunity. I have worked in Ireland, I have even worked in England, to help the women to obtain their freedom. I would work for it anywhere, as one of the crying wrongs of the world, that women, because of their sex, should be debarred from any position or any right that their brains entitle them a right to hold.

Let us not forget those words. Gabhaim buíochas libh go léir.

Gabhaim buíochas leis na mná go léir a ghlac páirt sa díospóireacht seo. Tá críoch anois leis na ráitis maidir le comóradh 100 bliain ar cheart vótála do mhná.