ActionAid Ireland is an international aid organisation fighting for women’s rights, social justice and an end to poverty. Here, Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns answers questions for our blog series Why Women’s Rights. TD Cairns is currently the only female TD in Cork, which has over half a million residents.
TD Cairns, why do women’s rights matter to you?
Women’s rights are human rights.
Women make up 51% of the population, but only 22.5% of the Dáil. There are 18 TDs representing County Cork in the Dáil. I am the only female.
This country has a history of treating women like second-class citizens from the Magdalene Laundries to the Marriage Ban to the 8th amendment. This treatment continues today when you look at things like the Cervical Check scandal and the Mother and Baby Homes report.
We need more women in politics and in power for a more equal society. Every aspect of society will benefit from more balanced representation.
What is your proudest achievement?
My proudest achievement has to be getting elected as a TD in Cork South West in the 2020 General Election. I had only been a county Councillor for nine months (I got in by a single vote in 2019) and Cork South West has traditionally been known as a very conservative constituency. There were only three seats up for grabs so it was a very tall order for a relatively-unknown county Councillor from the Social Democrats to get a seat and I don’t think anyone apart from my team and I believed that it was actually possible.
If you could change one thing for women what would it be?
I would love for women and girls to feel confident enough to put themselves forward for leadership positions and I would love to have a gender-balanced Dáil.
When I was running for election last year my team and I used to give out ‘More Mná’ badges to voters we met on the doorstep. We couldn’t keep up with the demand. More Mná in positions of power and leadership is exactly what this country needs.
What is your hope for a post-covid world?
My hope is that we don’t forget the lessons we’ve learned.
The pandemic exposed so many vulnerabilities in our society that I think most of us were able to ignore up until now.
Take the clusters in meat plants for example. This exposed the fact that many workers in meat plants live in overcrowded accommodation and are not entitled to sick pay.
It also exposed the power and sway of the beef barons and the lack of political will to tackle the serious issues in this industry.
Thanks to TD Cairns for contributing. Pictured left to right are Social Democrat TDs Jennifer Whitmore; Holly Cairns and Catherine Murphy)
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Learn about ActionAid’s women’s rights programme here. Irish Aid, the Department of Foreign Affairs, fund this programme.