Belfast Telegraph

'Much to do' to achieve equality

Ireland has still to achieve equality between men and women a century after the founding of the Cumann na mBan, President Michael D Higgins has said.

In a State ceremony marking the beginnings of the women's revolutionary movement, Mr Higgins said its vision remained a promise of what could be achieved in modern Ireland.

Although the organisation helped secure Ireland's political freedom, it did not achieve all of its goals, the President told the commemoration.

"Although Constance Markievicz, a short-lived but emblematic President of Cumann na mBan, was elected Ireland's first female Member of Parliament in 1918, it took six more decades for Ireland to see a woman - Maire Geoghegan Quinn - appointed as Cabinet Minister, in 1979," he said.

"Even today, much remains to be done in many areas of Irish society to achieve genuine equality between men and women, not least in terms of representation levels within our national Parliament."

Cumann na mBan was founded on Thursday April 2 1914 at a public meeting in Dublin's Wynn's Hotel.

Thousands of women signed up to help in the fight for Irish independence.

The anniversary was marked by a wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of prominent Cumann na mBan member, Elizabeth O'Farrell, at Glasnevin Cemetery.

Heritage minister Jimmy Deenihan said women were a huge force in the foundation of the Irish Free State but their role in the events leading up to the 1916 Easter Rising was often overlooked.

"The foundation of Cumann na mBan was a decisive moment," he said.

"The organisation, which within six months had 60 branches across Ireland, is associated with many of the leading female figures of the time.

"During the Rising, members of Cumann na mBan - who were drawn from all walks of life - risked life and limb to travel throughout Dublin delivering messages, food, and medical supplies.

"A number of members also took an active part in the fighting."

A conference on Cumann na mBan at the National Museum at Collins Barracks on Friday is one of a number of events planned to mark the centenary of its foundation.

A plaque will be unveiled at Wynn's Hotel tomorrow by Mr Deenihan.

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