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A More Inclusive Politics for Westmeath

Saturday 21 January 2023, Áras an Chontae, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath

A seminar aimed at increasing the number and diversity of women in local government will be hosted by Westmeath County Council in collaboration with See Her Elected (SHE) in Áras an Chontae in Mullingar on Saturday 21 January 2023. ‘A More Inclusive Politics for Westmeath’ will run from 10am to 2pm and will include panel discussions with local and national politicians as well as speakers from diverse groups in the County. Longford/Westmeath TD and former councillor Sorca Clarke will be a guest speaker at the event.

Minister Peter Burke TD will open the event and will be joined by the Leas-Chathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council, Cllr. Aoife Davitt to welcome participants. Dr. Michelle Maher, Programme Manager with See Her Elected, the award-winning Government funded project which aims to encourage women from rural areas to engage in local politics will get proceedings underway with an overview of local politics, and the Chief Executive of Westmeath County Council Pat Gallagher will provide the closing remarks.

An Cathaoirleach Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke said “I welcomed the launch of this project back in June 2022 when I was elected Cathaoirleach and I am delighted to see it progress with a seminar on Saturday 21 January and I encourage all those interested to attend. I commend the foresight of Westmeath County Council to work in collaboration with Dr. Michelle Maher of the SHE programme to host an event like this.”

The Chief Executive Pat Gallagher said, “Local government’s role is to represent, lead and serve local communities. It is important in doing this work to reflect the diversity in our communities in our Council Chambers. Programmes like this one are aimed at promoting such diversity.”

Sinn Féin’s TD Sorca Clarke, who is currently the only national female politician from the County, will be the guest speaker at the seminar and will provide her perspective on women in both local and national politics

The event will feature local politicians with the ‘Journey into Politics’ Panel featuring Westmeath County Councillors: Leas-Chathaoirleach Cllr. Aoife Davitt, Cllr. Louise Heavin, Mullingar-Kinnegad Mayor Cllr. Hazel Smyth, and Cllr. Emily Wallace.

The second discussion panel titled ‘Diverse Pathways into Politics’ will include a range of speakers from groups including Tina Adagun from the Athlone Women’s Forum, an organisation for women of African descent, connection or interest living in Ireland; local historian and former Mullingar town councillor Ruth Illingworth who was Ireland’s first openly gay female to hold the role of mayor in the Country; Christine Joyce and Caroline Nevin from the Westmeath Community Development Traveller Health Project; and Lorna McGreehan from Westmeath County Council who lives and works with a disability. Sinead Doody of Doody Facilitation and Consulting will act as MC for the event.

The SHE programme is a rural strategy to address the under-representation of women in politics in rural Ireland. Programme Manager, Dr. Maher said she was delighted to collaborate with Westmeath County Council for this seminar to promote and support greater involvement by women from diverse backgrounds in local government: “We want to see more women being elected to county councils. Only 26% of county councillors throughout Ireland are female and we have a much lower percentage of female councillors in rural counties compared to more urban centres such as Dublin. Westmeath County Council with 4 female councillors out of 20 is ahead of some of the adjoining counties such as Longford with only 2 female councillors out of 18 or Offaly where there is just a single female councillor out of 19. In Westmeath, there have only ever been 14 women elected to Westmeath County Council.

“It is important to not only have a female perspective at the decision-making level but also a diversity of perspectives as this will ensure more balanced decisions are made on a range of issues which matter to us as women whether that’s climate change, employment, parenting, care or violence against women for example. Westmeath County Council are to be congratulated on leading out on this important event to improve local democracy.

“We would love to see as many women as possible attending the in-person event in Mullingar on Saturday 21 January when they will have the opportunity to hear from a range of diverse speakers in local and national politics and about the clear pathways and support for them to consider being candidates in the 2024 local elections,” continued Dr. Maher.

Entry to the seminar is free of charge but you must register in advance on Eventbrite. To register the link is available on the Council Website here and on the See Her Elected Twitter Profile here or by contacting See Her Elected info@seeherelected.ie / 0860320455


Content Last Updated/Reviewed: 12/01/2023