Today we celebrate the 108th International Women’s day , a day that has been marked since 1911 a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women It is not country, group or organization specific.

To see how far we have come let’s reflect on some of the changes in Ireland In Ireland We shouldn’t forget that many Women participated actively in the Easter Rising of 1916. Approximately 300 women took part, many of whom were members of the Irish republican group Cumann na mBan.[

In Ireland In 1932, the marriage bar was introduced; it prevented any married woman from working in the public sector,  Contraception in Ireland was made illegal in 1935, Divorce was banned in Ireland in 1937, Indeed The first Free State government enshrined Catholic and socially conservative teachings mainly at the expense of women!

The 1970s saw the beginning of change in Ireland. Second wave feminism in Ireland began in the 1970s, fronted by women such as Nell McCafferty, Mary Kenny, and Nuala O’Faolain. At the time, the majority of women in Ireland were housewives. In 1971, a group of these feminists travelled to Belfast, on the so-called “Contraceptive Train” and returned with condoms, which were then illegal in Ireland.

In 1973, the marriage bar was removed, In 1979, the Health (Family Planning) Act, 1979 allowed the sale of contraceptives in Ireland, upon presentation of a prescription but we had to wait to 1985, when the Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Act,  allowed for the sale of condoms to people over 18 in Ireland without having to present a prescription and we had to wait to  1996, for Ireland to repeal its constitutional prohibition of divorce

We should use today to reflect on the long way we have come here in Ireland we must never forget the awful way this country treated unmarried mothers and locked women and their children up in the Magdalene Laundries and the mother and baby homes, some had their children sold and thousands had their child given away against their will. Some women have never seen their child again and have to live with this each day of their lives, As much as we have moved on we should never forget, the last Magdalene Laundry shut in just 1996.

We should reflect on the dreadful statistics that are Ireland’s reality that one in three Irish women experience domestic violence it is a deeply rooted problem that impacts on thousands of women in Ireland

In politics lets reflect on the Ninety-two women that have been elected to Dáil Éireann, the first being Constance Markievicz in 1919. Following the Irish general election of 2011 four women were appointed cabinet ministers the highest number of women in senior ministerial positions ever in Ireland. Out of 25 Tanaiste 4 have been women! We have a long way to go!

41% of women are managers which is above the EU average however we lag behind EU for female senior executives at 16% and women on boards at 19%

Let’s look at this years Campaign theme which is #BalanceforBetter – A balanced world is a better world. How can you help forge a more gender-balanced world? We can celebrate women’s achievement. We can raise awareness against bias and we can take action for equality. The future is exciting with many opportunities for a balanced world. Let’s build a gender-balanced world of true equality. Everyone has a part to play – all the time, everywhere. From grassroots local activism to worldwide action, we are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects and demands gender balance. We notice its absence and celebrate its presence. The 2019 #BalanceforBetter campaign runs all year long. It doesn’t end on International Women’s Day.

In order to build a gender-balanced world we need to realize that Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. The race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth, gender-balanced sports coverage.

Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive. We can all play a part

One world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist once explained “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

Let’s take a bit of time to look back at some of our great women; We have sport stars like Sonia O Sullivan and Katie Taylor and actress Saoirce Rohan but I picked just 4 to reflect on today!

Countess Markievicz

One of this country’s great women was Countess Markievicz was an Irish politician, revolutionary, nationalist, suffragette and socialist who served as Minister for Labour from 1919 to 1922. She served as a TD for the Dublin South constituency from 1921 to 1922 and 1923 to 1927. She was a Member of Parliament (MP) for Dublin St Patrick’s from 1918 to 1922.

A founder member of Fianna Éireann, Cumann na mBan and the Irish Citizen Army, she took part in the Easter Rising in 1916, On 28 December 1918, she was the first woman elected to the UK House of Commons, 100 years ago this year She was the Minister for Labour in the first Irish government, only the second woman in Europe to get a government ministerial role.

Mary Robinson

One of Ireland’s modern heroines is Mary Robinson, the first female President of Ireland., she was already well established and respected as an academic, barrister and Senator long before being elected President in 1990. Just some of the issues she advocated included the right to the legal availability of contraception, a removal of the requirement that married women resign from the civil service, and the right for women to sit on juries. She proved to be Ireland’s most popular President ever, breathing new life into the role and passing two important bills into law; legalization of contraception and decriminalizing homosexuality. Towards the end of her first term however, she resigned in order to take up an equally prestigious position; the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. She held this role until 2002, and still continues to work with the world’s top leaders on various humanitarian, environmental and political issues.

Veronica Guerin

Veronica Guerin was an acclaimed and respected journalist who investigated and exposed the activities of Ireland’s drug criminals. Having started out in the public relations industry in the early 1980s, she transitioned into journalism in 1990 and began writing for the Sunday Business Post and Sunday Tribune. She quickly developed close relationships with high authority figures on both sides – the police force as well as the criminals themselves – and received death threats for her efforts. In October 1994 two shots were fired into her home as a warning – she was given a 24 hour police escort and carried on with her work. In 1996 however, two men on a motorbike followed her while driving, pulled up beside her car at traffic lights, and shot her dead. Her tragic death caused public outrage and lead to the setting up of the Criminal Assets Bureau and a huge crackdown on organized crime in the country.

Christina Noble

Christina Noble is undoubtedly one of the toughest and most compassionate women around. Born in Dublin in 1944 to a poverty stricken home, her alcoholic father failed to provide for her mother and three siblings and the family lived in the slums of Dublin. At age 10, Christina was sent to an orphanage in the west of Ireland and told that her siblings were dead. At 18, she escaped and lived rough on the streets

of Dublin for a time before running away to England to find her brother. Over the next few years she started a life over there, marrying and having three children. Her husband however was abusive, adding further troubles to her already difficult life. Around this time she began having a recurring dream of children in Vietnam who were calling for her to help them, and so she began work to set up the Christina Noble Foundation. In 1989 she travelled to Vietnam herself to help poverty stricken families find relief, and later expanded the foundation’s operations to Mongolia. Now aged 74, she still retains close contact with the first children she met, and is still actively involved in the foundation’s work.

They are just four examples of 4 great women. There are many women who quietly go about their day to day business but encourage and inspire others. For all the mothers, sisters, nieces, friends , Neighbours and work colleagues we salute you all. Enjoy and celebrate International Women’s day.

Let’s today on International Women’s day salute Women all over our world and mark the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of all women.