President of Fianna Fáil Women’s Network and TD for Cavan-Monaghan Niamh Smyth says economic inequality and childcare two of the biggest challenges facing women in Ireland today.  She was speaking at the Representing the 51% conference, which was held in Cavan earlier today.

The event was addressed by Laura Harmon and Dr. Cliona Loughnane from the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Fianna Fáil’s Spokesperson on Children & Youth Affairs Anne Rabbitte and Political Editor of the Ireland edition of The Times Niamh Lyons.

Deputy Smyth said, “Women’s rights and gender equality are two of the cornerstones on which the Women’s Network was founded and it is important to ensure that failures to progress these issues are highlighted and addressed.  Today’s conference was an opportunity to hear from women working in different sectors of society and to hear what improvements they want to see implemented to make gender equality a reality for them.

“Unfortunately economic inequality is still very much a reality for working women in Ireland.  The gender pay gap hit the headlines again in recent weeks, and while the attention is welcome, we must ensure that tangible action is taken to address it. Female participation in the Irish labour market remains well below EU levels, and even though the number of women in the workforce is increasing, many are not being treated on a par with men.

“There are similar problems with our pensions system.  Women who have taken time out of the workplace to care for children or loved ones are penalised – they lose important credit contributions and fail to meet the threshold for the full State pension.  This has to be addressed – my party has consistently called for the current system to be reviewed and replaced with a scheme which does not discriminate against women and I am urging Government action on this important issue.

“While I acknowledge that some progress has been made over recent years, we still have a long way to go to secure gender equality for women in Ireland.  I want to thank today’s contributors who have set out targets to help us get there and I will be bringing many of the ideas and proposals back to my party for discussion in helping shape Fianna Fáil policies into the future”.