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Terry Prone: I was fired for being a woman. My how things have changed

Paradoxically, the best thing about International Women's Day is how irrelevant it is to young women in Ireland. They don't see the point of it. Why would they? They assume they'll go to university if they get the points. They assume they have the same chances of a job as any young man. They assume they can get to the top.

None of those assumptions applied to my generation. In many families, boys had to be educated, but girls could get married. If girls went into the civil service, they had to leave when they got married. As married women, they couldn't even get a library card unless their husbands signed for it.

Then women, watching what was happening in America, got mad as hell and decided they weren't going to take it any more. They were going to be equal. To make their own choices. They protested, marched, appeared on radio and TV programmes.

I didn't do any of that. I didn't look at myself in the mirror first thing in the morning and say "I am a woman". I was just me. A journalist. Doing the same job as a male of the same age.

And then I got hauled in one day by my boss in RTE -- in common with other women in the department -- and fired. For being a woman.

"I can't send a woman down the Falls Road," he explained, as if this made sense.

"Oh, men are more bullet-proof?" I asked. I shouldn't have bothered. I was still fired.

The following year, the EU brought in laws, applying to all member states, to prevent that kind of firing. I'd got another job (oddly, in RTE).

But I was aware of restrictions on other women. Restrictions today's 20-somethings could not imagine. Like the belief that a woman couldn't read the news on radio or TV. Viewers would never pay any attention to the news because they'd be so busy examining the clothes the female newsreader was wearing.

Today, it's a given. We have at least as many female newsreaders as we have male newsreaders.

Just as women couldn't read the news, they couldn't possibly fly planes. It was obvious how dangerous they'd be; they'd be crashing every time they had PMS.

Can you remember the last time a plane crash was attributed to the woman pilot being a bit pre-menstrual? Me, neither. But that was the no-kidding objection at the time.

One by one, barriers came down, laws changed and women flooded into professions where they had been astonishing exceptions, including law and medicine. The next intake of student doctors in this country will have more women than men in it.

Will those women pause and feel gratitude for the greater opportunities presented to them? Probably not. Nor should they, any more than a mother, pouring milk over her kids' cornflakes, stops and says "I feel so grateful for pasteurisation, which removes the dangers of infectious disease from this milk". She takes it for granted and so should today's young women.

Gaps still exist. Tomorrow, lots of newly-elected women will take their seats in Dail Eireann. But men will be in the overwhelming majority.

Because today is International Women's Day, people will talk of gender quotas to redress that balance. But the fact is that when women decide to get into politics in greater numbers, they'll do it.

For older women, though, today's important. It's an occasion to relish progress made and enjoy the fact that younger women can take their freedoms and choices for granted. That's the way it should be.