Monday 18 December 2017

Much more to do for women after UN report, says Burton

Joan Burton. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins
Joan Burton. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins

Tanaiste Joan Burton has defended Ireland's gender inequality after the United Nations found that women are under-represented in public life here.

"The legislation passed by this Government to ensure that 30pc of candidates at the next election must be women is a welcome step in the right direction," Ms Burton told the Herald.

Her comments come after a hard-hitting attack on the country's women's rights by a UN human rights watchdog.

One finding in the report said the limits on when pregnancy could be terminated here were highly restrictive.

The Tanaiste immediately moved to rule out a referendum on abortion.

Positive

The report also made findings on gender inequality.

"Women continue to be under-represented in both public and private sectors, particularly in decision-making positions," it said.

Ms Burton commented on this particular finding, saying that her party had made a number of female appointments.

"Of the 12 Government positions that Labour appointed, five are women - two senior ministers, two junior ministers and the Attorney General.

"That means more than 40pc of our appointees are women, and I think that's a very significant and positive figure," said the Labour leader.

However, she admitted, that "there remains much more to be done in this area".

Another finding in the report focused on violence against women and institutional abuse in Ireland.

Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O'Connor said: "Women were treated despicably in the past."

However, while she accepted some progress has been made, there is a long journey ahead.

"Yes, we have travelled a long road for freedom of expression, freedom to make decisions about our own bodies and equality, but make no mistake about it, there is still a long road to travel for true equality," she said.

The Dun Laoghaire TD took particular issue with our blighted history of institutional abuse.

"In the instance of mother and baby homes, I have argued in Dail Eireann that there were no immaculate conceptions in the west of Ireland," she said.

"In many cases the men who impregnated these unfortunate women walked free."

In the report, the UN said Ireland's constitution needed to be rewritten to allow for abortion.

Votes

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Coalition's plans were to have votes on gay marriage, single parents and some other issues, but not abortion.

"The Government haven't considered that (abortion). We have set out a number of priorities to be passed by the people," he said.

The UN's damning human rights review reported on 19 issues in Ireland, five of which were specific to women.

jfegan@herald.ie

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