Republican News · Thursday 13 April 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Making equality work

One of the main talking points of the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis was the failure of women candidates to be elected to any of the nine places on the party's Ard Chomhairle up for direct election by delegates.

There was a degree of misreporting involved, as the party's seven-member officer board, returned unopposed by Ard Fheis delegates, includes two women, Publicity Director Dawn Doyle and Ard Rúnaí Lucilita Bhreatnach.

Nevertheless, there was general disappointment at the result, made all the more acute because the party's commitment to equality is genuine.

The election of the full Ard Chomhairle takes place over a month. Sixteen people were elected on Sunday. More women will be elected to the Ard Chomhairle as in the coming weeks, department heads will be co-opted, each of the five Cúige areas will elect three delegates each, and there will be further co-options.

Within the Ard Chomhairle, a proactive policy requires that at least one third of its membership must be female, and that continues to be the case.

Party chair Mitchel McLaughlin points out that Sinn Féin has for some time now been attempting to address the gender imbalance within the organisation at all levels. At the first meeting of the Ard Chomhairle after the Ard Fheis, a committee was established to report back by June on measures to be taken, within the existing party constitution and rules, to ensure more women candidates are elected at next year's Ard Fheis.

Despite the fact that Sinn Féin has the most progressive policy of any party on this island with regard to gender equality, there is a recognition at leadership level that there is a problem to be solved.

It is vital that party members or activists take part in this debate.

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