THIRD AGE: Some remarkable Irish women in our lives

TO celebrate International Women’s Day today, Third Age would like to honour and praise several influential Irish women who have changed our society and lives for the better.

PRESIDENTS AND POLITICS

It can only be the two Marys — Robinson and McAleese.

Both women are synonymous with improving the lives of women, in Ireland and abroad.

A spokesperson for the National Women’s Council of Ireland describes Mary Robinson, 68, as “one of the most remarkable women’’ ever to come out of Ireland.

“She has broken all sorts of barriers through her legal work, her work at the UN and now through her work on climate change. She is an exceptional individual. She is an amazing person who has had a huge impact on Irish society though her legal work, the Senate and her presidency and has had a huge impact on how Ireland is viewed around the world.’’

While the NWCI also praised Mary McAleese, 61, for making “a huge impact on the world stage’’ during her presidency, they also cited her views on sexuality and marriage equality as being very important.

“Mary McAleese is a really progressive voice from within the Church by saying we need to help young gay people in our communities who are suffering from depression because they don’t feel comfortable coming out. She has a very compassionate view of the world which I think is hugely important,’’ said the spokesperson.

BUSINESS

Ireland’s corporate boards have one of the worst records in the EU with only 9% women members. Among them is Maeve Carton, 53, who is the finance director and board director of CRH, the building materials firm and Ireland’s largest company.

Maeve, who oversees sales of around €16bn a year, is frequently described as one of the most influential business women in Ireland.

“All women who have risen to the top of a corporate boardroom and are able to make a difference deserve to be held in high regard. I would hope that they are working hard to help break down some of the barriers that exist for other women too,’’ said the NWCI spokesperson.

ARTS

Moya Doherty, 56, created the country’s ‘cultural watershed’ with Irish dancing and music during the interval act for the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest.

The end result was the spectacular Riverdance, which is now a worldwide acclaimed phenomenon having been since by more than 25m people in 32 countries. Moya is now regarded as one of the richest women in Ireland with an estimated fortune of €50m.

UNSUNG HEROES

Who could forget Mari Steed and Claire McGettrick, the co-founders of the Justice for Magdalenes group (JFM) whose tireless work and campaigning produced such a heartfelt and emotional apology by Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, last month? The NWCI, which has supported the JFM campaign since the very beginning and helped organised the demonstration outside the Dáil, described the women as “simply amazing’’.

“It is such a heartbreaking experience when you listen to these women. How brave they are in the face of an entire society — the State, the Church, even in some cases their families — conspiring against them. Humiliating them and punishing them,” said the NWCI spokesperson.

“They led the way in showing how to conduct their campaign with dignity, passion, never giving up and always looking for justice for themselves and for the women who have since died. They will not be forgotten.’’

* To mark International Women’s Day the JFM campaign will be visiting cemeteries around the country to honour the Magdalene women who died.

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