‘Blue Monday’, the third Monday in January is considered to be the most depressing day of the year: Christmas is a distant memory, New Year’s resolutions are tedious to keep, the weather is dreary and money is tight after the holiday splurge. Not the kind of day you would expect women out in droves to talk about participation in politics, right? Well, wrong actually. Last night, the 50 50 North West group launched in a buzzing hotel room in the Clarion hotel in Sligo to a group of women and men interested, engaged and excited about what 2012 holds for women in politics. Nine speakers, spanning politics, business and the community sector; from Sligo, Donegal, Cork, Leitrim and Longford, took to the stage to drive home the message that we need more women running for election and it is up to us to push to make this happen. Women for Election, the 50 50 Group, the Women’s Manifesto Group at Longford Women’s Link and Women into Public Life in Donegal profiled what they are doing to practically move from defining the problem to providing the solutions.
Sligo was a fitting place for the 50 50 launch. Home to Countess Markievicz (though she was elected in the constituency of Dublin St. Patrick’s), Ireland’s first female Minister and only the second in Europe, Sligo has had just two women elected to the Dáil in the history of the State: Mary Reynolds in 1932 and Marian Harkin in 2002. 50 50 is setting up there to buck the trend and agitate and advocate for more women to run for office – through promoting the quota legislation – and stimulating debate, interest and energy around this issue among local women. And it looks like progress is being made, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Sligo are both women: Cllr. Rosaleen O’Grady, who opened proceedings at the Clarion, and Cllr. Veronica Cawley. Let’s hope this is a sign of what is to come. For now, Women for Election wish the very best of luck to the 50 50 group in the North West and we look forward to returning to Sligo to run our ‘inspire’ programme in September 2012 – details to follow.