To celebrate International Women’s Day, we take a look at ten prominent Irish women who have been fighting the good fight on our shores, progressing rights for both women and the LGBT community.
1. Una Mullally – Journalist
For several years, Una Mullally has been highlighting issues faced by women and LGBT people in Ireland through her weekly column in The Irish Times. In 2015, she published her first book, In The Name of Love, which chronicled the movement for marriage equality in Ireland. Throughout the Yes campaign, Mullally was also a regular fixture on TV debate panels, and remained outspoken despite a barrage of hate mail from No campaigners.
“I used to think of myself as a private person but I can’t be during a campaign where LGBT lives are being exposed, dissected, appraised and judged.”
2. Mary McAleese – Former President
The beloved former president of Ireland used her status as one of the most influential women in the country, to lend her voice to the Yes campaign. McAleese’s public support was pivotal in securing a Yes vote come May 23 – with her focus centred on the children of Ireland. On February 27, Mary McAleese took home The GALA Award for Ally of the Year.
“The only children affected by this referendum will be Ireland’s gay children. It is their future which is at stake. It is in our hands. They are too few in number to win this referendum on their own.
A yes vote costs the rest of us nothing. A no vote costs our gay children everything.”
3. Saoirse Ronan – Actor
21 year-old Oscar nominee, Saoirse Ronan is not only dominating Hollywood, she’s also using her fame to highlight causes that are important to her.
Last year, Ronan voted for the very first time, and urged young voters to make their voice heard.
“I’m really excited about it and I’m really honoured that my first vote is going to be a yes vote for marriage equality.
If it’s a yes vote it means we’re standing with the best of them. We’re forward-thinking, we’re fair, we’re just and we’re equal.”
4. Moninne Griffith – Activist
Currently the Executive Director of the Irish LGBT Youth organisation, BeLonG To, Moninne Griffith came to this position after serving as a Director of Marriage Equality for almost eight years, and played a key role in leading Ireland towards a Yes vote in the marriage referendum in 2015.
Her work at Marriage Equality involved managing the Political, Mobilisation, Communications, Legal and Fundraising Strategies of the organisation. Before this Moninne worked as a solicitor in general practice for almost ten years and volunteered with FLAC, the Free Legal Advice Centres, and Women’s Aid. She has an MA in Women’s Studies from UCD, is the current Chairperson of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, and is the proud mother of one daughter with her partner Clodagh.
5. Ailbhe Smyth – Activist
Femininst and lesbian activist, Ailbhe Smyth has been involved in radical politics in Ireland for over four decades. She was founding director of the Women’s’ Education, Research and Resource Centre in UCD (WERRC), a women’s studies centre which seeks to widen participation for women in third level education. In her professional life Ailbhe has delivered training, education and mentoring programmes in many different contexts in the broad sphere of gender equality, human rights and social change, as well as in the area of substance abuse and rehabilitation.
Ailbhe has been in NGO and community organisations for many years. Among others, she was Executive Adviser to the Yes Equality Campaign, a board member of Marriage Equality, Convenor of the Feminist Open Forum; Former Chair and Director, National LGBT Federation (2003-2013), which publishes The Outmost and GCN and a former Director of GAZE, the Dublin International LGBT Film Festival. A little-known note: Ailbhe in her role as a Director of the Dublin LGBT Film Festival is the person who named it GAZE. She currently the convenor of the Coalition to Repeal The Eighth Ammendment.
6. Ursula Halligan – Journalist
Prior to the marriage referendum on May 22, journalist Ursula Halligan came out as a gay women in an inspiring, yet harrowing account of her life in the closet, penned for The Irish Times.
“As a person of faith and a Catholic, I believe a Yes vote is the most Christian thing to do. I believe the glory of God is the human being fully alive and that this includes people who are gay.
If Ireland votes Yes, it will be about much more than marriage. It will end institutional homophobia. It will say to gay people that they belong, that it’s safe to surface and live fully human, loving lives.”
7. Katherine Zappone – Politician
Independent TD Katherine Zappone and her wife Ann-Louise Gilligan campaigned fiercely in the run up to the marriage equality referendum. Zappone made headlines when she popped the question live on RTÉ to Ann-Louise, saying she was “feeling emotional from the top all the way down to my toes”.
The couple are also co-founders of An Cosán, an organisation in Tallaght, which offers adult education among other services, to women from disadvantaged areas.
8. Dr. Lydia Foy – Activist
Dr Lydia Foy is widely regarded as a pioneer for trans rights. In 1997, Foy began her legal fight for gender recognition, after the Registrar General refused to issue her with a new birth certificate recognising her true gender in 1993. She fought for two decades, and ultimately, he case forced the Government to introduce gender recognition legislation. Last year, she won the prestigious Citizen’s Prize from the European Parliament in Brussels.
9. Tara Flynn – Comic
Honorary gay, and funny woman Tara Flynn is never afraid to get political! She was unrelenting in her support for LGBT rights in Ireland, being one of our most outspoken allies. And she did more than just pay lip-service to the cause. Her parody videos Armagayddon, The Case For A Mammy/Daddy Marriage and Making Things (Like Your Mind) Up about Marriage Equality reach viral status in the run up to the referendum.
In September 2015, Repeal the 8th advocate, Tara, inadvertently started a movement when she spoke openly about getting an abortion. She penned a frank op-ed for The Irish Times which prompted a national conversation about abortion, and went on to MC 2015s March for Choice rally in Dublin City Centre.
“It’s time to stand with all those women – women in your life, right now – who’ve had to make the journey I have. Time to stop being a hypothesis, or a topic for someone else’s debate, or one of the invisible ones. It’s time to talk.”
10. Grainne Healy
In 2015, Grainne took home The GALA Award for Volunteer of Year, and for good reason! Long time feminist and LGBT activist, former chairwoman for Marriage Equality and co-director of the Yes Equality campaign, Gráinne Healy was instrumental in securing a Yes vote in May 2016. Along with progressing the LGBT movement, she has dedicated her life to campaigning for women’s rights in Ireland, including reproductive health rights, violence against women, prostitution and trafficking and anti-poverty issues.
Who did we miss? Let us know on Twitter at @TheOutmost #IWD2016
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