The Minister for Justice was speaking at the National Women’s Council of Ireland’s (NWCI) AGM yesterday.
“I have always said of course that I don’t feel the Constitution is the place to deal with reproductive rights. I do believe that’s essentially better dealt with between a doctor and a woman,” the Tánaiste said.
She said legislative framework is needed and that an open debate is necessary where women’s experiences are listened to.
“But of course you do have to have a legislative framework and that will be challenging, but I think what’s really important is that we have a very honest and open debate following on from the work that the Citizens’ Assembly [CA] has done, and that we have a referendum next year, and that we hear very clearly the voices and the experiences of women and we come up with the best possible legislation that we can, taking account of the very many complex issues and they are complex,” said Ms Fitzgerald. “Anybody who thinks this is simple, we all know as women it’s not simple, but we do have to have the right legislative framework and we do have to build and learn from the work of the CA.”
The Tánaiste also discussed the gender pay gap, which currently stands at 14.8% here.
“The gender pay gap, really it’s become a phrase that we hear a lot about but it’s actually unacceptable in this day and age,” said Ms Fitzgerald.
“We know that access to resources, to finances, is key for equality. And if women have to survive on lower incomes than men, their ability to realise other equality rights can be seriously hampered.”
She also referred to the poverty rates of lone parent families. According to last year’s Think-tank for Action on Social Change report, 63% of lone parents, 90% of whom are women, live in poverty.
“We have seen great improvements in our economy but we can’t close our eyes to people who are still excluded from it,” she said. “We do have to look at that whole question and the risk of poverty, particularly faced by lone parent families. We have to really look at that gap in poverty rates between female- and male-headed households.”
Two awards were given out by the NWCI yesterday. The Outstanding Feminist Leadership Award was presented to Gráinne Healy, who was co-director of the Yes Equality campaign in 2015’s marriage equality campaign.
The second, the NWCI Solidarity Award, was given to all survivors of religiously run, State-funded homes.
Claire McGettrick, co-founder of Justice for Magdalenes, also spoke at the NWCI AGM.
“Before I was even born, my life trajectory and identity were permanently altered by Church and State, and I was branded as ‘less than’, purely because I was born outside of marriage,” said Ms McGettrick.
The activist said the State needs to objectively examine our country’s abuse history.
“Until the State objectively examines our nation’s history of abuse, until the State truly offers protection and support to those who have been wronged, instead of compartmentalising systemic abuses and reverting to self-preservation, it will never truly learn, and history will continue to repeat itself,” Ms McGettrick said.