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27/05/24 Women in Donegal Want to Step into Politics Supported and Heard

Donegal County Council Hear From Stakeholders at the 'EMPOWER HER' Seminar, Focusing on Increasing Female Representation in Politics


Women in Politics Group

Women from across Donegal and representing various community groups attended Donegal County Council’s EMPOWER HER event on Friday in the Council Chamber in Lifford. The seminar was moderated by Eileen Magner.


Donegal County Council’s recent ‘EMPOWER HER’ event provided a platform for women to voice their aspirations, share their concerns, and work towards a more inclusive political landscape. Gathering in the Council Chamber at County House in Lifford, women from a cross-section of society participated.

At the last local elections in 2019, four female Councillors out of a total Council of 37 members were elected (just over 10 per cent). This time around there are 91 candidates running for election, 19 of whom are women or 21%. 


The seminar explored ways to encourage and support women of all backgrounds into politics. The event was chaired by Eileen Magnier, former North West Correspondent with RTE who congratulated Donegal County Council on hosting such an event.


Patsy Lafferty, Director of Service for Housing, Corporate and Cultural Services, Donegal County Council thanked all those who participated and who openly gave feedback on their experiences and ideas for greater female representation.


“This event was both inspiring and insightful. There is a very clear interest among women in this county to get involved in public participation, but there are barriers. Today has set a promising foundation for the future of women in politics in Donegal. Donegal County Council is committed to continuing this momentum, ensuring that these discussions translate into meaningful action and lasting change.”


Michelle Maher is Programme Manager of See Her Elected. She said for the first time voters in the Local Elections in Donegal will have the opportunity to vote for a woman as there are females on the ballot paper in each electoral area.


Michelle Maher is Programme Manager of See Her Elected.  She said with females on the ballot paper in each electoral area, voters in the Local Elections in Donegal will have the opportunity to vote for a woman.


“Have a look at the women standing, if you’re not compromising your values or principles consider a woman with your vote. Today proved that more women want to get involved but they need support and need to be listened to. At See Her Elected we are already planning for the next local elections in five years and today has provided invaluable insight and ideas.”


Jessica McDevitt is Mayor of Donegal Youth Council. The 15-year-old student from Fintown a third-year student at Gairmscoil Chú Uladh called for politics to be on the curriculum in every school in Donegal.


“There are only four schools in the county that teach politics at second level. I believe that all schools should have the opportunity that I and my friends do. I know for sure there are members of Donegal Youth Council that will be sitting in this chamber as elected politicians in the future because of the experience that we have now.”


Women In Politics Panel



Eileen Magnier, former RTE North West Correspondent moderated the ‘EMPOWER HER’ seminar which looked at increasing female participation in politics in Donegal. Hosted by Donegal County Council, the panel was made up of sitting Councillors Rena Donaghy and Niamh Kennedy. Michelle Maher from See Her Elected and Jessica McDevitt, Mayor of the Donegal Youth Council along with its coordinator Michael McDevitt joined. Representing Donegal County Council were Patsy Lafferty, Head of Corporate Services and Housing and Grace Korbel, Assistant Head of Enterprise at Donegal Local Enterprise Office.



Key Takeaways from the EMPOWER HER Event:


  1. Desire for Involvement: The event underscored a strong desire among women to be involved in politics. Participants expressed their eagerness to contribute to political discourse and decision-making processes.
  2. Overcoming Fear: Many women revealed a fear of putting themselves out there, highlighting the need for supportive environments where they can gain confidence and feel secure in their political pursuits.
  3. Safe Space: Today's event was celebrated as a safe space for open dialogue. Attendees felt comfortable sharing their experiences and challenges without judgment.
  4. Addressing Unconscious Bias: Discussions emphasised the importance of recognising and addressing unconscious bias, which often hinders women's progress in political arenas.
  5. Future Planning: The event marked the beginning of a strategic plan for the next five years, focusing on increasing women's representation and involvement in local politics.
  6. Education Initiatives: Participants advocated for educational programs starting from primary school to instill the values of equality and political engagement from a young age.
  7. Empowering Women: The creation of dedicated women's spaces and initiatives aimed at empowerment was highlighted as crucial for fostering a supportive community.
  8. Political Knowledge and Education: There was a call for more resources and educational opportunities to help women understand and navigate the local political landscape effectively.
  9. Natural Pipeline from Activism to Politics: The discussions pointed out that activism often serves as a stepping stone to political careers. Encouraging this progression can help bring more passionate and experienced women into politics.
  10. Personal Safety Concerns: Personal safety was identified as a significant concern for women entering politics, necessitating measures to protect and support female candidates.
  11. Social Media Challenges: The impact of social media on women in politics was a major topic, with participants discussing both the opportunities and the challenges it presents.
  12. Balancing Family Life: The challenge of balancing political careers with family life and the priority of putting children first were recognised as key factors affecting women's political participation.
  13. Valuing Women's Voices: Building confidence and ensuring that women's voices are valued in political discussions was emphasised as essential for true inclusivity.
  14. Youth Engagement: There was a strong interest in creating a youth version of the EMPOWER HER event to inspire and prepare the next generation of female political leaders.