Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - BOOKS - DEIRDRE CONROY

Madam Politi­cian

Martina Fitzger­ald Gill Books, €19.99

the nom­i­na­tion and not Noel Browne.”

Mary Mcaleese ex­poses ut­terly rude and dis­re­spect­ful com­ments by Pope John Paul II to the of­fice of Pres­i­dent of Ire­land. There is only one woman, with mul­ti­ple fam­ily in­volve­ment in pol­i­tics who has no de­sire for gen­der quota; Mary O’rourke is to­tally against it. Need­less to say, we know that merit counts but so does gen­der.

The cur­rent leader of Fianna Fail is an ex­am­ple of how the party is chang­ing, and it would be ben­e­fi­cial if they pri­ori­tised gen­der quo­tas. Mary Hanafin says that Fianna Fail re­mains ‘very male’, that the party is ‘not re­spect­ful enough of women’ and has ‘no sup­port­ive mech­a­nism for women at all’.

Hanafin was one of three women in cab­i­net in 2004 and did not be­lieve there was a par­tic­u­lar ca­ma­raderie, “I don’t think there was col­le­gial­ity be­tween the women”.

Joan Bur­ton ar­gues that women have to be “quite re­silient and pushy enough” to show that they are not “some kind of add-on or dec­o­ra­tion”. Mary Mitchell O’con­nor de­scribes po­lit­i­cal life as “laddy. The be­hav­iour is ma­cho. It’s ag­gres­sive. It’s very off-putting... women are able to do busi­ness in a quiet way. That’s their mo­dus operandi”.

Frances Fitzger­ald de­scribes the at­mos­phere in the Dail cham­ber when she was first elected as “so glad­i­a­to­rial and so hi­er­ar­chi­cal”.

As you can tell, the ‘ma­cho cul­ture’ dom­i­nated up to re­cently, though Ber­tie Ah­ern is de­scribed by Mary O’rourke as “full of equal­ity. He didn’t re­alise it, but he was”.

Many women were preg­nant or breast­feed­ing while cam­paign­ing, and their voices af­firm a re­silience that women don’t re­alise they pos­sess.

Whether you have no in­ter­est in pol­i­tics or are fully en­gaged, this is an es­sen­tial read. The book gives an in­sight into the route women take to gain votes and get what they want.

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