Such phrases as "It's a man's country" and "It's a patriarchal society" have often been used by women living in and out of Ireland — about Ireland.
A shrug of the shoulders usually accompanies them and its left at that, However, there have been small groups of women working for some time past to bring about a change in Irish society.
The traditional view of women as written into the Republic constitution's Article 41 Paragraph 2 is: "In particular the state recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the state a support without which the common good cannot be achieved" has in fact evolved into a censorious attitude towards those of them who work outside the home.
We have the marriage bar; women in the Civil Service have to retire on marriage. Women are paid less than men doing the same work, In Dublin. this results in plenty of employment for women but high unemployment for men.
Sub-section 2 of the same paragraph states: "The state shall therefore endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home."
It was this sub-section, ignored for so long that brought together women to seek for themselves its implementation. The strongest pressure group for women in Ireland is the Widows' Association.
Other women's groups arc growing stronger and stronger. Now we find husbands, and men in general, becoming involved in fighting long-standing injustice.
In March, 1970, the Government established the Commission on the Status of Women with the terms of reference: "To make and report on the status of women in Irish society, to make recommendations on the steps necessary to ensure the participation of women on equal terms and conditions with men in the political, social, cultural and economic life of the country, and to indicate the implications generally — including the estimated cost — of such recommendations."
Six men and six women were appointed members of the commission, with Dr. Thekla J. Deere as chairman.
Dr. Been, a former civil servant, went right to the top in her chosen career, ending up in the very senior Civil Service position of Secretary of the Department of Transport and Power.
The report of the Commission has just been released. It is a most thorough and comprehensive document looking at every aspect of women's lives in Ireland.
The Commission has been heartily congratulated by all the womens organisations. If all its recommendations are implemented Ireland will lead the world in fair treatment of its women citizens.
The report is far ahead of any such report in any other country. The cost of implementation is estimated at £36 million spread over five years, but with spiralling prices, Mr. Richie Ryan, the Minister for Finance, says, it could run up to £100 million before the target date is reached. If that is the case, then the sooner the Government implements the recommendteions the better. They include: They include: equal pay; abolition of the marriage bar; promotion of women in the Civil Service and the Local service; no sex discrimination; day care for children.
Registering of all playgroups; that the legal title to family allowances should rest with the wife; that the housekeeper allowance at present payable to single men and widowers with dependent children when they are in receipt of unemployment or disability benefits, or unemployment assistance, should be extended to single women and widows in similar circumstances.
Deserted wife's allowance to be paid to relieve undue hardship before the mandatory six months entitlement period; prisoners' wives to have a special allowance not to exceed the deserted wives' allowance, Unmarried mothers who keep their children should be entitled to welfare allowance; a review of the tax system as it applies to married women.
Neither party in a marriage to be allowed to dispose of the
family home without prior consultations.
Savings from housekeeping, in the absence of prior agreement, to belong in equal share to both wife and husband.
Reciprocal enforcement of court maintenance orders between Ireland and Britain; that divorced wives should not be treated less favourably than deserted wives.
Mr. Richie Ryan in his budget did not do very much to implement the report, but he did earmark in million this year, and £4,200,000 next year for removing anomalies in the social services.
Widows, deserted wives, unmarried mothers and newly-married working women will be among the people who will benefit from these adjustments.
In July the Government will introduce the first phase of equal pay in the Civil Service, and the marriage bar will go. These are only the first steps, and womens' groups will have to keep up the pressure to that this report is not left to gather dust on the Civil Service shelves.
Another landmark signifying a change in attitudes is found in the June edition of The Cross magazine, a popular monthly produced by the Passionist Order. Up to now the magazine has had mostly male contributors.
Fr. Brian D'Arcy in his editorial tells us that "This month The Crass moves men — all men — out of the way and hands its entire issue over to women. . . . We feel that at least one issue of one magazine should be by women about women, but to give men some insight into the part women play in society and how they lead their lives.
"Women do play roles in our society — more numerous and more important than some males are prepared to admit."
It is very heartening to find at the core of traditional thinking that a new assessment is taking place, and that men and women can look at each other more honestly and work together to create a more equitable society.