Minister Madigan T.D. launches Sinéad McCoole’s Mná 1916/Women of 1916 – and announces the State programme to commemorate the role of women in Irish political life

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the passing of the Representation of the People Act 1918

The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan T.D., today launched the State programme to mark the introduction of voting rights for women in 1918 and their right to stand in parliamentary elections.

The Minister also launched the publication by historian Sinéad McCoole Mná 1916/Women of 1916 based on her major exhibition on the contribution of women to the Easter Rising of 1916.

Speaking today at the launch event in Marlay House in Rathfarnham Minister Madigan said:

“One hundred years ago today, a significant milestone was reached on a long and difficult journey towards enfranchising men and women equally.  The passing of the Representation of the People Act 1918 delivered a major extension of voting rights to men of all classes and provided a first limited franchise for women.  It was the first step towards the full inclusion of Irish women in public and political life.   Later in 1918 women would also be given the right to stand as candidates for election to Parliament.  Countess Markievicz, in the Dublin St. Patrick’s constituency, would become the first and only woman elected in the General Election of 1918.

“100 years ago today marked the beginning of a long journey – which is not over yet – towards realising the full inclusion of Irish women in public and political life.  It is right to celebrate that moment – but also to celebrate the role of women in Irish political life over the last 100 years. It is striking to note how few women have been able to participate in Irish political life until relevantly recently.”

“In addition to the programme which I am launching today, as a member of the Oireachtas, I also look forward to participating in the full programme of events which the Houses of the Oireachtas are organising as part of the Vótáil100 2018 Programme.”

“As part of this celebration I am also delighted to launch a special publication by Sinéad McCoole – Mná 1916/Women of 1916 – which documents the important role played by 300 women in the 1916 Rising and its aftermath.  Sinéad’s ‘Mná 1916/Women of 1916’ exhibition and this companion book have brought together previously unseen archive material from private and public collections.  She has ensured that the voices of these women, who played such a significant but an all too often hidden role in the events of the 1916 Rising, were heard, in many cases for the first time.”

One of the legacies of the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme was a greater understanding and appreciation for the role of women in shaping Ireland’s history.  With the State commemorative programme for 2018, we continue that legacy.  One of the highlights of the programme will be a new pop-up museum exhibition, curated by Sinéad McCoole, which will be showcased in the Coach House at Dublin Castle from November until January 2019.  This exciting and innovative exhibition will shine a spotlight on the stories of the familiar and less well known women who have contributed to Irish public life over the past 100 years.

Our National Cultural Institutions too have placed women and their changing role in all aspects of Irish life, at the heart of their programmes for 2018.  Historians have provided us with detail and context for the factual events of how Ireland was transformed in 1918 and the photographs, letters, diaries and personal stories have added layers to this narrative and brought human experience to these momentous events.

Sinéad McCoole added:

“This book captures and preserves new stories of the courageous and strong women who participated in the 1916 Rising, many of which were discovered during the 1916 centenary commemorations.  These were real women with real stories from every county in Ireland and their role in key historical events will never again be dismissed, under-estimated or trivialised.  I would like to express my deepest appreciation to the members of the families of these women, for their generosity in sharing their personal archives with me.  Great thanks are due also to my colleagues in the Department, as well as the national cultural institutions and the local library and museum network throughout the country.”


Notes to Editors

The Representation of the People Act 1918 enacted on 6 February 1918, granted the vote to women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification while the Parliament (Qualification of Women Act) 1918 enacted on 21 November 1918 allowed women to become Members of Parliament for the first time.  The UK General Election of 1918 was held on 14th December and the result was announced on 28th December 1918.

Some of the initiatives planned for 2018 include:

  • A ‘pop-up women’s museum’ curated by the historian, Sinéad McCoole commemorating Women in Politics and Public Life 1918-2018 will be on show in the Coach House, Dublin Castle and will run from November 2018-January 2019. In 2019 it will travel to venues in Munster, Connaught and Ulster;
  • A series of complementary talks, lectures and guided tours will accompany Sinéad McCoole’s exhibition during its tenure in Dublin Castle. The exhibition will then tour to locations in Munster, Connaught and Ulster;
  • Events and exhibitions will be curated and hosted by the National Cultural Institutions throughout the year;
  • A Hedge School, in collaboration with History Ireland, which will explore the women’s movement in the revolutionary period;
  • Two new commemorative stamps on the theme of ‘Popular Democracy’ will be issued by An Post in October, 2018;
  • Commencement of the formal process to enable the commissioning of a new monument to mark the role of women in the revolutionary period leading to the foundation of the State. The Department is currently working with the Arts Council, Dublin City Council and other relevant stakeholders in planning this commission which will include a symposium to explore ideas and stimulate debate and discourse;
  • Collaborative initiatives to examine the significant role of women in the anti-conscription campaign and general strike of 1918;
  • Eavan Boland will deliver her commissioned poem on women’s suffrage at the UN General Assembly – an initiative of the Department of Foreign Affairs in partnership with the Royal Irish Academy on the eve of the centenary of the 1918 General Election;
  • The online historical newspaper, Century Ireland, will have a major focus on the role and lives of women in 1918 to coincide with the centenary of Lá na mBan on 9th June 2018; and
  • Continued engagement with people of all ages at local and community level, including schools, to explore and remember this important part of our national history.

Programme of events

Further details will be announced as plans are progressed.

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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