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  • Senator Sharon Keogan

Senator Sharon Keogan — Call for Women to run as Independents

I welcome the Minister to the Chamber. It is always a pleasure to address the House on International Women's Day as part of the Seanad Independent Group. There are many things that we could discuss about women today, including the incredibly varied lived experience of the women of Ireland and their essential contributions to this country, what it is to be a mother and what it is to be a woman in business and enterprise.

I want to talk about an area which is common to all of us here, which is being a woman in politics. I have been in politics since 1997. While many things can be said about it, two are definitely true. One is that it is a tough business and one has to have some backbone if one wants to get things done. The other is that one gets multiples of what one puts in out of it. It has been, is and, fingers crossed, will continue to be an absolute privilege to be able to serve my country and the people of Ireland in this manner in public office.

We have had discussions in the past couple of years of male violence perpetrated against women and I think these discussions should continue, particularly when it comes to protecting female-only spaces, such as bathrooms, changing rooms and prisons. As one climbs the ladder in politics, the knives get sharper and they are not being held by men. It is not cat calls one has to worry about in Leinster House but cat claws. The sex-based solidarity of suffragettes seems truly dead and gone. It seems now that ideology is the only value of persons and that problematic women with the wrong ideas must be willing to go it alone. I, for one, am proud to represent the majority in this House, the ordinary, everyday, honest people of Ireland who do not expect too much from their Government. They want a roof over their heads, a job and bills that can be paid. They want to be able to have a family and to support it. They want a prosperous future for their children. Nowadays, it seems that, too often, these humble asks are overshadowed by the demands of highly funded special interest NGOs, whose minority opinions and astroturfed movements seem to dictate the majority of public discourse.

My message today is to the women of Ireland who see what is happening in this country and who do not feel represented by the political class. They want to see more women taking a stand and fighting for what is right. If you feel that you have what it takes, go for it. Be that woman because one woman can certainly make a difference. We know that because we have seen it time and again. While she is not here today, I commend Senator Alice-Mary Higgins, who I think is one of the finest parliamentarians we have. We do not agree on everything but she puts the work and hours in and she makes a difference. I hope someone is keeping track of the number of Bills which have been improved by her amendments. Much has been done and is being done by female Independent Deputies in the Lower House, including Deputies Verona Murphy, Catherine Connolly, Carol Nolan and Marian Harkin. On issue after issue, they have been the real Opposition to the Government, free from a party whip to stand up and tell it like it is, and speak the truth even when others find it inconvenient.

My message today is one of empowerment. It is an overused word these days but I mean it in the strictest sense. The women of Ireland have the power to effect change. If you have that fire in you, do not let it go out. If you think you might be able to do it and dream of doing it, then do it. I call on the women of Ireland to put themselves forward as independent candidates in the 2024 local elections. Anyone who wants to do it can contact me and I will help them. I ask those of you who are in a position to do so to take that leap. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish. Who knows but that you have come to your position for such a time as this?

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