Antrim and Newtownabbey Council to establish female sub-committee to promote women’s issues
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In a social media post, Cllr O’Hagan said she was “absolutely delighted” that her motion to create a group made up of female representatives to “discuss and promote women’s issues, build the skills and confidence of local women and to encourage women to become more involved in local politics” had gained cross-party support.
Cllr O’Hagan stated: “Despite more than half the population being female, women make up just 145 of the 462 councillors in the north. Change in politics and acceptance of women in this arena has been slow to progress.
“As elected representatives, women and human beings, we have much more in common than that which separates us. In that commonality, I am immensely proud that my fellow council members supported this motion.
“The Women’s Sub Committee will reach out to all women’s organisations, sectors and to younger women and girls. To harness our experience and expertise and find a way to tackle some of the serious issues impacting women and girls in society, both in political life and outside of it.”
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr O’Hagan noted eight male mayors since the formation of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council. Currently, there are 14 female Antrim and Newtownabbey councillors and 26 male. Glengormley Sinn Fein Cllr Rosie Kinnear is deputy mayor.
Acceptance of women in politics, Cllr O’Hagan suggested, has been “slow to progress”. Traditional family arrangements and lack of affordable child care she acknowledged can “limit choices”.
“Lack of confidence and self-assurance to enter a male-dominated sphere can also mean that women are under-represented,” she added.
She went on to say as a newly-elected female representative, she is determined to make political life “more accessible and equitable” for fellow women.
She praised Glengormley DUP Alderman Paula Bradley and Antrim Ulster Unionist Cllr Leah Smyth for holding a “brilliant” International Women’s Day event in the borough. The local authority has committed to holding an International Women’s Day event annually.
Threemilewater Alliance Cllr Julie Gilmour stated: “I think it is an excellent motion. I am happy to support it.”
Antrim SDLP Cllr Roisin Lynch welcomed the motion and congratulated Cllrs O’Hagan and Ní Chonghaile for bringing it forward.
Airport Alliance Cllr Andrew McAuley said: “I would like to support Cllr O’Hagan and all our female colleagues. This council and politics in general would definitely be better off with more women.”
Ald Bradley commented: “It is something that we have yet to grasp the mettle with. When I was in the Assembly, it was something that we worked hard on to try to prompt more women to take the plunge to run for public office.
“Some of the best politicians I have ever worked with have been strong, confident women. I look forward to working with all women in our chamber in progressing this.”
Airport DUP Ald Matthew Magill said that he welcomed the motion and thanked Cllrs O’Hagan and Ní Chonghaile for bringing it to the chamber and noted the role played by the council’s women officers and female directorate team.
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter