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Women of the west urged to take first step into political life

The Women for Election Galway Inspire event kicked off this morning.

Niamh Gallagher and Senator Lorraine Higgins.
Niamh Gallagher and Senator Lorraine Higgins.
Image: Conor McCabe Photography

A NON-PARTISAN GROUP with an aim to get more women into politics is hosting an event in Galway today to encourage local women to become local candidates.

Women for Election has welcomed people from Galway, Clare, Mayo and Roscommon to its Inspire programme at the Harbour Hotel in the city today for a number of lectures.

Niamh Gallagher, co-founder of the organisation, told TheJournal.ie that the 35 attendees were a mix of women from Ireland’s main political parties and others who are active in community groups and the business world, as well as a number of women who are “thinking about what their next steps will be”.

“The main message of the day is to inspire women to take the next step and it has already started to work,” said Gallagher enthusiastically. “We’ve had a couple of women already raise their hands and say they didn’t understand the process but now are determined to ‘get out there and do it’.”

“We want to see practical action,” she continued. “That was the aim. There is a sense in there now that if these women don’t do it, things will not change. They can see they are supported and there is almost a duty or civil responsibility to get involved.”

The morning kicked off with a speech by Gallagher herself before Senator Lorraine Higgins spoke of her experiences in the Oireachtas over the past year.

Orlaith Carmody then gave a lecture on building confidence before Cathal Lee, a campaign strategist, demystified some of the processes around getting selected and then elected.

Before lunch, the Mayor of Galway Hildegarde Naughton went into more details about the lessons she learned when running for the first time.

The programme has received much backing from political parties with representatives from Fine Gael, Labour, Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil attending. However, Gallagher said the “proof of that support” will need to be seen in 2014 when they begin to select their candidates for the next General Election.

“We now have this group of mobilised women so we will be watching the parties selection processes to see if they are true to their word,” she said.

The notion of gender quotas has not been a focus of today’s event but Higgins mentioned them briefly in her address.

“They create opportunities but they are not the focus,” explained Gallagher. “Parties are now actively looking for women, regardless of quotas.”

The Inspire programme will continue in Dublin on 7 July and 8 September. In 2013, Women for Election is planning another series focusing on campaigns to equip potential candidates and campaign managers with the tools they need for a successful election.

“The level of interest in the INSPIRE programme, following on from very successful events in Dublin and Cork is a clear indication to Women for Election that there is no shortage of capable and competent women who could potentially make a huge contribution to public life,” concluded Gallagher.

The women at today’s event have taken to Twitter to share some of the knowledge they have gained today:

Women of the west urged to take first step into political life
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