Participation of women in Northern democratic institutions - O'Donnell
Minister of State O'Donnell met with the Vital Voices: Women in Democracy Follow-Up Group in Iveagh House today. The group of Senior U.S. State Department officials is visiting Ireland to assess developments since the Vital Voices Conference took place in Belfast in September 1998.
The Belfast Conference, the second in the Vital Voices series, brought together about 400 women, from both North and South, with the aim of encouraging greater participation by women in public life in Northern Ireland. The keynote speaker at this conference was Hilary Clinton.
Minister O'Donnell said, "Women in all parties and at community level actively contributed to the negotiations and to conflict resolution in Northern Ireland. That participation must follow through now in the new democratic institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement. All democracies are unfinished where decisions are made in the absence of women in sufficient numbers, to influence those policies."
The Minister said that links between women North and South are growing stronger all the time. She added that the Government will give careful consideration to how it might assist in the Follow-Up Process.
Note for Editors
The US led Vital Voices project has had three conferences to date. The first was held in Vienna in 1997 and focussed on the role of women in post-communist eastern Europe; the third Conference was held in Uruguay in October 1998 with the theme "women in the western hemisphere.
Held from 31 August to 2 September, 1998, the Belfast conference was announced in May 1998 as one of the US Government's initiatives to fostering peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. Its main theme was partnership, with Boston College playing a leading role in developing business partnerships and the conclusion of an agreement between the US department of Labour and the Northern Ireland Training and Employment Authority. The visit of the follow up group is designed to assess progress made to date in Northern Ireland and to encourage further partnership development, particularly between North and South.