Harney hails Chile's first president-elect

Ireland is leading the way in electing female presidents, Tánaiste Mary Harney told the Dáil today.

Ireland is leading the way in electing female presidents, Tánaiste Mary Harney told the Dáil today.

Ms Harney congratulated the president-elect of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, who won the presidential contest in the South American country on January 15.

“She now becomes the sixth woman head of state in the world, which is fantastic and I’m delighted to say Ireland is leading the way in that regard,” Ms Harney told TDs.

Ms Harney was responding to comments during the Order of Business by Greens leader Trevor Sargent, who claimed Ms Bachelet owed some of her success to her achievement in eradicating waiting lists in the health ministry.

“She explains some of her popularity to the fact that she was to do away with waiting lists in three months,” Mr Sargent told the Dáil.

Addressing Ms Harney, he added: “Perhaps in congratulating her, you might ask her for some advice in that regard.”

The Tánaiste added: “The president-elect of Chile is a very formidable woman, after her stint in the Department of Health, she went to the Department of Defence so I wish her well.”

A single mother of three, Ms Bachelet was a political prisoner during General Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship.

After living in exile in Europe and Australia, she later became health minister in 2000 and defence minister in 2002.

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