Women's Rights


I have a long-standing record of campaigning on women’s rights issues as a Feminist activist. In 1989-90, as President of Trinity Students’ Union, I was taken to court along with fellow SU officers. We were threatened with prison by anti-abortion activists for providing information on abortion to women with crisis pregnancies, in an important case that paved the way for legal change to legalise the provision of information on abortion to women with crisis pregnancies.

Since then, for many years I have been involved in a range of different women’s rights and equality campaigns.

I have campaigned on issues such as childcare rights, abortion rights, paid paternity leave, educational equality, the separation of church and state, the introduction of paid paternity leave.

In my capacity as a member of the Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, I have worked hard on a range of campaigns such as these.

Among the initiatives I have taken as a Senator are:

An ‘Oireachtas Women’ day in December 2008 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the 1918 election in which women first had the right to vote;

A Report on women’s participation in politics which I wrote for the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice in 2009, and which paved the way for the adoption of gender quota legislation in 2012 - the Electoral (Amendment)(Political Funding) Act 2012, which will require political parties to select at least 30% of their candidates of each gender for the General Election in 2016 and to adopt similar selection quotas for all subsequent general elections, rising eventually to a 40% minimum for each gender.

A Bill to prohibit Female Genital Mutilation, which was accepted by the Government in 2010 and became law finally in 2012.

I played a very active role in the debate on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, which aimed to clarified the law on when doctors may terminate pregnancy in order to save women’s lives. I will continue to campaign for repeal of the Eighth Amendment and the introduction of genuinely pro-choice abortion legislation and am proud to have been the rapporteur for the Labour Women Commission and Report outlining legislation post a repeal of the 8th amendment. Here is the link to that report.  http://www.labour.ie/download/pdf/labour_women_8th_amendment_report_copy.pdf 

You will see more detail about my work on these and a range of other women’s rights campaigns and initiatives elsewhere on this website.

Recent Women's Rights Blog Entries

  • Vótáil 100: 100 years of votes for women and women in the Oireachtas

    As chairperson of the Vótáil100 committee which is organising the celebrations around the 2018 centenary of women's suffrage in Ireland, I am delighted that we will have so many exciting events and exhibitions taking place in Leinster House. The first year that Irish women had the right to vote and run in parliamentary elections was 1918. Over the course of 2018, the Houses of the Oireachtas will commemorate this important centenary with a programme of cultural, historical and educational events marking the work of the suffrage movement in Ireland going back to the early 19th century.

  • Students’ unions should stand firm on abortion

    Almost 30 years ago, I was threatened with prison by SPUC (Society for the Protection of Unborn Children). It was September 1989. I was president of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), and SPUC were seeking to imprison our four TCDSU sabbatical officers for providing information on abortion in our students’ union handbooks during Freshers’ Week.

    A few years previously, the 1983 Eighth Amendment had been passed, equating the lives of “mother” and “unborn”.

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