Labour Women Bootcamp, Portlaoise

Posted on October 07, 2013 at 11:46 AM

Labour Women Bootcamp

This weekend 25 dynamic and impressive women gathered in Portlaoise for the first Labour Women pre election “Bootcamp” for local election candidates. 

For many, the word ‘Bootcamp’ conjured images of muddied, exhausted candidates hopping gates and evading barking dogs in an effort to safely deliver election literature to the doors of voters.  Thankfully there was very little mud and plenty of opportunities for candidates from up and down the country to plan their local election campaigns and discuss the challenges of the next seven months. 

Nearly six years ago now, Labour were the first party to introduce an internal gender quota for selecting local election candidates.  At the time it was a radical move in Irish politics, which has traditionally been overwhelmingly dominated by male voices. This weekend I saw the result of our commitment to increasing the number of women in politics.   The talent of the women I worked with this weekend was incredible.  They were all articulate, creative and passionate about what they could contribute to local government. 

One very striking thing I noticed over the weekend was how often women are more modest, and reticent to speak publically about their achievements than their male colleagues involved in politics.  Over the weekend however I heard new candidate Martina Genokey, selected to run in the Tallaght electoral area talk about her history of community activism and Virginia O’ Dowd speak about her contributions to supporting business in her home town of Nenagh Co. Tipparary. All of the women had a story to tell about their own contributions to improving our society and this weekend has made them more determined to tell people about that contribution. 

Over the weekend we were joined by Labour party Leader Tainiste Eamon Gilmore.  Although the weekend coincided with a nail bitingly close Seanad referendum count and the world economic forum he travelled to Portlaoise to meet with our local election candidates and strongly communicated his own personal desire to see more women involved in politics. On Sunday morning Deputy Leader Minister Joan Burton regaled the group with lively stories of the campaign trail and shared what she has learned over many successful elections. 

Running for elections can be a lonely business and women often face an uphill battle breaking in to the ‘old boys club’ that dominated Irish political life for many decades. This weekend however I felt a huge sense of solidarity. Over two days connections were made, networks established and wisdom shared. All of these women have an important contribution to make to councils from Cavan to Tralee and I am proud to have such amazing women flying the Labour party flag.

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