Having a family often prevents women from entering politics, but the opposite was true for Catherine Martin.
The newly elected TD and deputy leader of the Green Party is hoping that women will have a stronger role in the 32nd Dáil.
Politics has become a family affair for Ms Martin and her husband Francis Duffy, who is also a Green Party councillor and deputy mayor of South Dublin County Council.
“It was the birth of our first child in 2007 — he will be nine next month — that got myself and my husband thinking. I felt I wanted to do something to secure his future and it got me thinking about the broader sense and securing the nation’s future,” she said.
The couple now have three children, the youngest of whom is just five, but manage to juggle politics with home life.
“It works very well; we had a system of canvassing in the local elections when both myself and my husband were councillors and we got very used to being councillors while making time for family life.”
Originally from Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, she worked as a music and English teacher in St Tiernan’s Community School in Dundrum for 15 years. But she felt there was a demand for a Green representative in the area.
As a teacher, she feels that more must be done to improve mental health awareness and services.
“I think mental health needs to be put centre stage. Shockingly, it’s an area that didn’t appear in any of the debates during the campaign but it was coming up on the doors a lot.
“Maybe we should be looking at going into primary schools and giving young people the toolbox of skills to deal with these problems,” she said.
Taking up a seat in Leinster House after being the first elected Green Party TD to the 32nd Dáil was bittersweet for Ms Martin.
“Two things that struck me when I was elected. It was tinged with sadness because both my parents are no longer with me. I lost them when I was quite young and that struck me going into Leinster House on the first day. It would have been lovely to have had them there.”
She said the second thing that hit her when she first walked into the chamber was the small number of women.
“It was great to see the increase of female representatives after the election and it is certainly going in the right direction. But when I sat in the chamber it really struck me that we still have a lot to do. The overwhelming picture was still of suits,” the Green Party education spokeswoman said.
She hopes there can be cross-party collaboration between elected women both in the Dáil and Seanad, to encourage more females to get involved in politics.
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