Labour Women celebrate 100 years of women in the Labour Party

Posted on November 21, 2012 at 02:33 PM

Labour Women Centenary speakers

Labour Women, the women's section of the Labour Party, was founded in 1971. Since then Labour Women has worked to advance women in the Labour Party and women's political participation in Irish politics. This year as we celebrate 100 years of the Labour Party we also take time to celebrate the many women who have been part of that journey and the women who have built the Labour party into what it is today.

Today we celebrate these women who believed that men and women should and can be truly equal. We celebrate the women who have refused to be content with the status quo and who have instead pushed the boundaries and achieved real change in women's lives. We celebrate the women who dedicated their lives to ensuring that women's voices are heard at all levels of Irish politics and in all aspects of society. We celebrate the women of the Labour party who advanced the cause of feminism in Ireland over the 100 years of Labour party history. We celebrate these women, who have come from all walks of life to join the Labour movement because they share the passion for a just society where everyone can flourish. We remember the many challenges they faced and their many triumphs.

As we look back, we also look into the future with confidence and to a new generation of Labour Women. Women who
systemic subordination of women across the economic, political, cultural and affective spheres of Irish society.

Ita McAuliffe, the General secretary, noted the challenges and achievements of the women in the Labour Party :

The Labour Party can be proud of its role in promoting the role of women in Irish life. From the beginnings of the Labour movement women such as Louie Bennett, Marie Johnson and Winifred Carney played a crucial role in organising workers to fight for social justice and equality. That struggle is continued by women and men in the Labour Party today.

Despite the prominent role women played at an organisational level within the labour movement it wasn't until 1954 that Labour's first female TD was returned to Dáil Éireann when Maureen O'Carroll, a mother of ten and founder of the Lower Prices Council, was elected for Labour in the Dublin North Central constituency.

O'Carroll's breakthrough in the 1950s paved the way for subsequent generations of progressive, visionary, committed
women to join Labour's ranks and set about the task of changing Ireland.

In the male-dominated political climate of the late 60s and early 70s women faced enormous challenges to achieve this goal, both internally and externally. The formation of the precursor to Labour Women in 1971 greatly assisted the Labour Party in recognising and dismantling these obstacles. The legacy of the pioneering women (and men) involved in the establishment of Labour Women still resonates throughout the Party today.

The contribution of women to the Labour Party deserves to be a central theme of analysis and celebration in this the centenary year of our foundation. Ireland has changed, and changed for the better, because of their words and deeds. It is a proud history that is cherished by all party members and forms an intellectual and political wellspring from which the next generation of Labour Women will draw.

by Sinead Ahern, Labour Women Chair

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