Tuesday, 2 July 1985
Seanad Eireann Debate
When this House commenced the debate last week on the report of the Joint Committee on Marriage Breakdown I indicated on that occasion that I thought the subject was of such importance that I should make a speech of some substance in introducing the debate rather than merely move formally the initiative of the motion. I find myself in the same position today. I think the report of the working party which we have before us is an item of great importance for us and accordingly I propose, not to discuss this report in detail — which would take an undue amount of time — but to make a few remarks in regard to it.
I think it is appropriate that the Seanad should debate this report and debate it fairly thoroughly both because of the importance of the topic itself and also because of the nature of this particular report, indeed it is described as an “agenda for practical action”. As I indicated on the Order of Business, it is appropriate that we should discuss this report now. The report of the working party was tabled in February of this year and accordingly there has been sufficient time to consider it and I think enough time has elapsed so that we can take up its consideration. We should not leave that consideration too late and I think it is appropriate that this debate at least should be commenced before the Nairobi conference in connection with the closing year of the UN Decade for Women.
It is appropriate that I should initiate this debate by a short speech not only because of the importance of the topic as I indicated earlier, but also because of my own position as a representative of this House on the Joint Committee of Women's Rights and, indeed, as Leader of the House, possibly as an incentive to others to join in this debate.
But how do we take up the discussion on a document like this? Here we have a report of 392 pages. Even in the summary  of the report we have 92 main findings. It presents all of us with a great difficulty as to what is the appropriate way to respond to such a report. I think we really cannot do the job in a single debate; we would be either too superficial in trying to cover everything or else we would be too patchy in focusing on a few topics out of the many that are dealt with.
I feel the best thing that this House can do in response to the report of this working party is that we should have a general debate today, possibly next week and maybe even on a third sitting day, in which we could give our initial reactions to this report. It would be necessary to follow this up in the next session of the Seanad by future special debates. Whether these would be in the form of debates on progress reports by the Minister in regard to the subject matter covered by the report of the working group, or whether we should pick out single issues for debates, I do not know. I do not think we should attempt to have an exhaustive debate at this time because I do not think we would be successful in handling that. What I want to do, in a short speech on opening the debate, is to give my initial reaction to the report, to make a few general points. Then what I propose to do is to take each chapter and make a single point in regard to the topic of that particular chapter.
The first point I would like to make is in regard to the context of this working report. It mentions in paragraph 3 of the preface that the members of the working party took as their starting point the 1972 report of the Commission on the Status of Women. I think that particular report must be for us even more than a starting point. It was a starting point chronologically and it also gave impetus to all that was achieved between its publication in 1972 and the work over a decade later of this particular working group. I think the Report of the Committee on the Status of Women is more than that and it is not just a document in the past that we can now leave aside. Even though when we look at that particular report and we find that many of the things which loomed large in it have been the subject of progress,  nevertheless, I think it is salutary always for us to look back to the 1972 Report and to look back to it for two reasons. One is that even in the areas in which there has been greatest progress we can still see in that very long-sighted report of 1972 the areas in which progress has not been made. The second reason is that when we look back to the 1972 report written by a commission under Thekla Beere, we find there a statement of the principles underlying all that must be done that are still valid today.
I have made it a resolution for myself, whether it is in a debate of this type, whether it is in the work of the Joint Committee on Women's Rights, constantly to refer back to this report. I always find this enlightening and useful.
It is a pity that this report is now somewhat of a rarity. Every time I go to look for my copy, a slight shudder goes through me and I wonder if anyone has stolen it since the last time I referred back to it. I do not know what would be the cost of reprinting that report. It is not an historical document: it is not something in the past. I have found that in dealing with the topics that are coming up and that we hope will be coming up with greater frequency in the next year or two, it is useful to look back at it. I commend to the Minister the thought that the cause with which she has been charged by the Government might well be served, not perhaps by a reprinting of the report, but rather large sections of it could be published in some fashion, perhaps with a supplementary note on certain chapters of the degree of progress that is being made. It is a charter indicating where we should be going and it is an excellent charter. The work was so well done that we do not have to look to EC or UN bodies for our basic approach. Of course we must also take them as part of the context of our consideration.
The working party have also indicated in their preface that they have taken as part of the context of their work certain other documents: the reports of the Law Reform Commission, those that have been published — and the work is still  going on — the work of the Joint Committee on Marriage Breakdown, which has now reported, and some of the legislation that has already been outlined such as the Illegitimacy Bill. In paragraphs 7 and 8 the working group have also indicated that they viewed their work against the background of the national plan, that is, in the context of what is realisable during the next few years.
This latter point brings me on to the consideration of the subject matter of chapter 1, namely, the changing role of women. Anyone with an interest in this topic knows that in this area minor reform is not enough. To solve this problem satisfactorily we require major reform bordering on revolution. As in all other areas of political action, we have to take into account both our ideal and reality. We must continue to aim at the longterm but in aiming at the long term we should not neglect what is immediately possible. Sometimes there is a tendency to do this.
In the chapter on the changing role of women we have an extremely useful compendium of facts. I wonder when we tackle the problem of the changing role of women whether facts are the most important element or whether it is not much more important when handling this problem to pay more attention to perceptions, to the subjective rather than to objective facts. Whether we look at what has happened in the last decade or so, or whether we look forward to the next decade, the motive forces and the means through which change has been accomplished and the means through which change will be accomplished, are to my mind strongly bound up with questions of perceptions. In the past, we have seen a tremendous change because of the revolution of perception by women — perception by women of themselves and of the roles of other women situated somewhat differently from themselves. This has not been accompanied, to anything like the same extent, by a change in perception by men of the role of women. Until that problem is solved we will have recurring difficulties in regard to reform. This was discussed in chapter 2 of the  1972 report. The heading of that chapter is: “The underlying factors which limit women's participation even in the absence of formal discrimination”. It is these secondary effects, the things that lie below the surface, that will probably give the greatest difficulty in the implementation of the practical steps that are proposed in this plan for practical action.
If we cannot solve this problem — and this is a long term problem — we cannot achieve reform. In this House in December of last year we debated the first report of the Joint Committee on Women's Rights, which was a report in relation to education. The Joint Committee were very much concerned to point out in that report the tremendously important role of education. To change what happens in formal education is to put things right for the next generation. While this is something that must be carried on, there must equally be an effort to change the perceptions of those who have already left the formal educational system.
As I said before, while we should not hesitate to proceed with minor reforms, we must be absolutely clear that we need major reforms bordering on a revolution. In this regard the term “revolution” is an interesting one. It is a word with a double meaning — it means a turn of the wheel that brings one back to the same point, and it also means a major and abrupt change.
I would like to talk for a few minutes about looking at what has to be done in regard to the rights of women as being the turning of the wheel. Have we forgotten completely what the status of women was in Gaelic Ireland? I am afraid that we have. We said that we wanted, through our independence, to make a State here which would, in the world context restore the historic State which had been submerged. What was the outcome? We said we must restore our culture and we must restore our language. Why did we not think that one of the best things we could have done would be to restore the ancient ideas in regard to women? When we look back we find that while early Irish society, like most Indo-European social systems, was patriarchal women very rapidly  acquired an independent legal right. There was a revolution in the sense of an abrupt change in regard to women's rights in Ireland about 700 AD. That change gave women substantial rights, some of which have not been achieved by married women in Ireland in the 20th century. The concept in the Brehon Laws of “a woman of joint dominion”, or “a woman of equal lordship” in the case where both man and wife brought property into the marriage settlement, is something we have not completely achieved today.
Then we got, in Gaelic Ireland, in the 9th and 10th centuries, a further revolution when these rights were extended to other women and in effect extended to the majority of married women who could trade and enter into contracts on their own account. Indeed, in many instances they could do so to an extent with the property which the husband had brought into the marriage. All this was swept away by the imposition of English law and by the establishment of feudalism in Ireland. When we come forward with ideas for giving women equal status and equal rights in all things in our Irish society we are in fact seeking to restore something which was very much part of the conquered Celtic social system. There is a famous book by Michael Davitt entitled The Fall of Feudalism in Ireland. I understand it is the only book specifically relating to Irish affairs which was, and still is, in Lenin's private library in Moscow. The fall of feudalism in Ireland will not be final until the revolution in regard to women's rights has been firmly established.
I want to comment briefly on the subject matter of each chapter. Chapter 2 deals with the question of employment. Here we are given the figures which indicate, over the past two decades, the very great increase in the number of married women in employment and also are a reflection of the fact that there has been virtually no increase in the employment of single women. There are factors here such as the earlier age of marriage over those 20 years and the inclusion of many more women in the higher education  system, which are reflections of progress. We must still realise that there is a great deal more to be done in this regard.
We can contrast chapter 2 of the report that is before us with the position revealed by chapter 4 of the 1972 Report of the Commission on the Status of Women. We can see a large measure of progress. Can we compliment ourselves on this? Partly yes, but partly no. In a great deal of what has been done here, I would suggest that we have acted under EC impetus. Sometimes we have not acted very promptly. We must be prepared to act on our own account. We should not wait until we are the last of the EC countries to implement directives in regard to the position of women. What should we do? Here I find a difficulty. In the summary of the main findings of this report there are 19 main findings in regard to employment. Reading down through them I find it difficult to evaluate them. There is a need to focus here on a few of these findings and to determine them as being the next necessary things to be done. I would invite Senators whose special interest is in the area of employment and who may be spokesmen or spokeswomen for their groups in regard to this point, to suggest points of selection and points of emphasis here.
The next chapter of the report deals with the question of education. It has already been indicated that this was the subject of a report by the Joint Committee on Women's Rights in October 1984. This was debated by Seanad Éireann in December 1984 when the Seanad devoted a whole day to debating that report. The views of the Seanad, and my views on these topics, are on record. The three specific points mentioned in the present report were all dealt with in that report and debated.
Chapter 4 of this report deals with the question of health. Here it is rather interesting to note that this was not a topic in the 1972 report. At that time that problem had not advanced to this state. I welcome the emphasis on health in this report. I mentioned a few minutes ago that we have tended to lag behind the  EEC in regard to the conditions of work for women and in regard to social welfare, etc. Here, I suggest is an area in which we could take a lead. I suggest that the EEC has been somewhat lacking in this regard. The question of looking at the particular concern of the health of women has not been a major concern of the EEC. We could, on the basis of what is said in chapter 4 of the report of the working group, take an initiative here. We could isolate the key questions and bring this topic into the EEC area and bring this up in the European Parliament and take a real initiative.
There is a discussion here on paragraphs 4.64 to 4.69 about the problem of alcoholism and about the differences between alcoholism in men and women. I would like to raise a point that is not directly covered and might well have been taken into consideration by the working party. I am not concerned so much here with the physiological nature of alcoholism but of the stresses that produce either alcoholism or, without producing what strictly speaking can be termed alcoholism, produce an overindulgence in drink. I refer here to what might be called the “housewife syndrome” of the pressures on the woman in the home that can lead not only to the abuse of alcohol but also to the abuse of tranquillizers and in certain cases can lead to psychosomatic illnesses. This can be a very real problem. I would like to see it set alongside the other problems in regard to health which are dealt with in chapter 4. I would like to see an Irish initiative not only in what we do at home but also in the European arena.
Chapter 5 of the report deals with the question of child care facilities. There is an excellent discussion in the report. As the number of married women working increases there is a great need for child care facilities. At this increase goes on we will find ourselves with a shortage of helping grandmothers, apart from the other shortages of facilities in support of the working wife. There is need for a very definite policy. I was glad to see that the working party were ready to re-discuss this question in practical terms. There is a  good deal of expense involved in making child care facilities available. There is probably a tendency that when one starts talking about schools one feels there should be provision in schools for married women who are teachers and also in each individual working place. If we go that way, we will run up against impossible financial barriers for quite a long time to come. This problem has to be looked at in its entirety. This seems to be the view taken by the working party. In times of cash shortage it becomes more important than ever that we get as good value as we possibly can for the money we spend.
Chapter 6 deals with the question of social welfare. Next week this House will be debating a social welfare Bill which is very relevant in this regard. I hope also that the House will have the opportunity to debate the second report of the Joint Committee on Women's Rights which was issued in May 1985 and which dealt with the problem of discrimination against women in the social welfare area. Also we would hope that before long we would have the report of the Commission on Social Welfare. The fact that we look forward to discussing the elimination of the remaining forms of discrimination should not blind us to the fact that there has been a good deal of progress in this area and we should be grateful for that. There are in the report of the working party, five major proposals. The fact that I do not intend to discuss them is more a reflection of the fact that there will be other opportunities to discuss them rather than that I do not think that they are important.
Chapter 7 deals with women in rural Ireland and chapter 8 deals with the general position of the woman in the home. There are two points I would like to make here, which are relevant to both these chapters. In chapter 7 reference is made to the fact that farm wives appear in our census returns as being engaged in home duties. Their very real economic contribution  is not reflected in our statistical system, for example in our estimates of gross national product. This is a distortion of what the real situation is in regard to all women who work in the home. It is an even worse distortion in the case of many women in rural Ireland.
The second point I would like to make on these two chapters is that I would like to support what is said in regard to the necessity for the training of women, whether they are returning to the work place after a period of caring for a family or whether they have to be trained as part of the transformation of our society in a new industrial age. The recommendations given here deserve our support.
Chapter 9 deals with the problems of single parents. There are 15 recommendations listed among the main recommendations given in the summary at the beginning of the report. This is a reflection of the many things that still require to be done in this particular area. Here again there is the importance of the question of accurate census returns. I mentioned this last week in opening the debate on the report of the Joint Committee on Marriage Breakdown. There has been confusion, and sometimes ridiculous pussy-footing in regard to making correct census returns on marital status. In regard to the question of single parent families, let us see these problems for what they are. Let us have definitions that correspond to the social reality of Ireland in 1985. Let us then see what the position is. If we do not like it, let us go about changing it, no matter what way we want to change it. But to have debates about social matters and to decide whether things should be done or not be done, or to decide whether things should be corrected in one direction or in the opposite direction, on the basis of fuzzy statistics is an extremely silly way of going about solving the problem.
Of the recommendations that are made in this regard, I certainly feel that one of the more urgent is the question of the problems that arise in regard to the maintenance of wives and children. Even the very proportion of a social welfare allowance  that is allocated to this, as the report points out, can have serious consequences for a wife when she is not being maintained by her husband. There is the recurring problem of the maintenance of deserted wives where there are still many unsatisfactory points.
Chapter 10 of the report deals with the question of family law reform. Here all we can do is urge that there should be as rapid progress as possible. I would like — and I hope that all Members of the Seanad will join me — to express criticism of the ridiculous delay in regard to the UN Convention on Discrimination against Women, 1979. Six years is long enough even for the Department of Justice to be able to deal with this matter. In regard to this, and other conventions with which we agree in principle, the Department of Justice have done our name harm internationally by the inordinate delay in dealing with these various conventions. I hope that the UN Decade on Women is not allowed to pass away before this Convention on Discrimination against Women, 1979 is fully adhered to by this country.
Chapter 11 of the report deals with other issues, one of which is the membership of State boards. It is dealt with in paragraphs 11.1 to 11.6. This is a very real problem, but it is part of a broader problem. It is part of the problem of a very distinct under-representation of women at the upper levels of higher education and research and the under-representation of women in various posts involving decision making, including political leadership in the broad sense. It is not enough to allow the gradual development over time to cure it. We must take positive action. If in any of these areas we look at the position of Ireland in relation to other countries, we find that we are about mid-way in the European league. While one is glad to find that Ireland is not at the bottom of the league, there is no reason why we should not be further up. If we look at these various tables showing the number of women who are in the critical positions at relatively high levels, we consistently find  Denmark outstripping the rest and very often on top. I would suggest to the Minister that it might be well worth while examining in particular how Denmark got to that position, a country which 50 years age was economically and socially in very much the same position as Ireland but which has now outstripped us in regard to its standard of living, so that it has advanced economically but equally has advanced socially. Here we have a country, starting with very much the same position as ourselves that gives the lie to those who say that we cannot make economic and social advances at the same time. I would commend to the Minister that it would be well worth making a special examination of why it is that in Denmark, above other European countries, we find a higher participation of women in Government, in state boards, in higher education, in research, in decision making areas.
In conclusion, I would like to express the hope that there should be a thorough debate on this particular report. It should be a wide debate in the sense that we should not leave any topic out of account. It would also be useful if the spokesperson of the different groups were to take the chapters in this report that relate to their specialities and were able to deal with these in some depth. I would also invite my colleagues in the Seanad to put forward ideas in regard to the question of future debates, as I mentioned in the beginning, whether we should say there should be progress reports by the Minister and a debate monitoring the progress every six months — let us not be too ambitious, let us say six months — or whether we should take the opportunity to link the material here with other material coming before us. But, most of all, I would look forward most to future debates on these topics, which would be debates necessary in this House because legislation in regard to these matters was flowing freely.
Mr. Ferris: I second the motion in the name of Senator Dooge and myself that the House takes note of the report on this very important area of family law  reform and women's affairs. The Minister responsible in this Department is present and I will be anxious to hear her contribution to this very important debate. This is a very fine document and it is an area of legislation in which all of us engaged in public life have been trying to make progress as swiftly as possible, sometimes against the tide, as the Minister will agree. It is important that Members of this House who have a speciality in this field should give their views here so that those of us who will be assisting in the legislative area afterwards will have the benefit of their knowledge, particularly in this very important area of social reform. I commend this motion to the House. I hope it will generate a good level of debate and that some ideas will come forward which will be of benefit to all of us and to the Minister.
Mr. Lanigan: I apologise for not being in the House earlier. I welcome the opportunity to debate this report of the Working Party on Women's Affairs and Family Law Reform. It is not before time for us to have an opportunity to have such a discussion. I must compliment the people who were involved for many, many months in the preparation of this very very fine report. I hope that, after the publication of this report, the debate which will take place here and in the other House on its findings, and the debates that are taking place outside the House, it will not be just another report that will find its way on to some obscure shelves of libraries. It will be useful and referred to by students of social affairs and social history. On too many occasions we found reports of this nature shelved. They were well intentioned, well researched and excellent documents. Very few of the reforms they recommended were implemented. There were, of course, various reasons for this lack of implementation in many cases. Funds were not available for the very many changes needed in the structures. Minds equally can be blank. Indeed, the need for reform in one area can be overtaken by the urgencies of need for reform in other  areas.
The working party have come to many conclusions and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind but that quite a few of them are capable of being implemented in the short term. I am glad that in the section on education it is acknowledged that the vocational education committees throughout the country have taken their job seriously when they are attempting to do for women and girls what is not being done in other areas of our secondary education system. Indeed, they are doing tremendous work in the follow-up education, in the adult education system, where they are trying, as far as possible, to give the women who for one reason or another had to leave school at an early age the opportunities for further education that these people had not got immediately upon leaving either the second level or pre-second level education system.
One of the things that is possibly noticeable in talking about this equality in education is that the younger people tend to feel that this type of education is a norm, whereas the older generation seem to think that it is unusual that girls and boys should be educated together and that curricula in general should be similar for both boys and girls and that there should not be the differing role playing type of education schemes for boys and for girls that we had up until recently.
It is not unusual now to go into a vocational school or into a secondary school class and find girls doing woodwork and engineering subjects and boys doing home economics. Nobody among the younger generation seems to think that there is anything particularly unusual in this, whereas the older members of our society would think that it is unusual.
In chapter 2, mention is made again of reviewing the conditions of entry to enterprise schemes and it is noticeable that all our State enterprise schemes, IDA, AnCO, SFADCo, all these particular  semi-State bodies who look after the entry of people into the entrepreneurial area, are basically dominated by men. I am not saying that that is because they have a discriminatory situation regarding recruitment but, nevertheless, whether it is a discriminatory feature or not, it is a fact. I am certain that not alone regarding the entry of women to enterprise schemes but, equally, on the entry of men to enterprise schemes, the presence of women on these boards would be very welcome. I agree with that section of the report.
I am glad that mention is made of the social employment schemes which have just emerged in the last few months. As there are 14,000 people on the long term unemployment register, I am glad the report states that there should be an attempt to have more women involved in these social employment schemes, even though I am not terribly enthusiastic about this type of scheme, which is a short term scheme and which has not in the past given any great benefit to the people who have gone on the scheme for the six months. As I have said, if you are going to have these types of schemes, women should be allowed in on the same basis as men. I am not saying that there should be separate sections for women but, nevertheless, it is of benefit that they should be allowed in anyway.
Recruitment to the Army is mentioned and that equality of opportunity should be given to women regarding apprenticeships to the Army and competitions for entry to the cadets and so forth. I agree totally with that and again I hope that the rumours which have been circulating over the past few weeks that there will be no recruitment of women to the Army this year are false because I have seen women in the Army at all levels doing jobs on the same basis as men in the Army. They are doing them very efficiently. There was a certain amount of worry among the Army “brass” before they came in as to how they could be assimilated into the Army because of problems of accommodation and so forth. Nevertheless, having seen the benefits to the Army of having women in, it would be totally  wrong if the rumours that are going around at present are in any way correct.
In chapter 5, the section on child care facilities, there is mention of the registration of day care services and that there should be basic standards applicable across the board. This is one area at which the Minister should have a very careful look because there is no doubt that there are many excellent day care facilities around the country. There are many good creches. There are many good pre-school groups, but having said that, there are a number of areas in which more care could be taken, where people are setting up this type of facility without adequate provision for the safety of the children under their care and for the hygienic care of the children. Basically, they should not be just used as dumping grounds, whether women are going out to work or whether they are staying at home. Women are just dumping their kids on to somebody else and having dumped them they do not worry too much, or the State does not seem to worry too much, about the conditions into which they are dumped.
The play group movement is a movement with which I am very familiar but, unfortunately, again we have an Irish play group association who are trying to build up the standards of the play groups under their care but I am afraid supervision from the State and supervision by anybody else is greatly lacking. The situation regarding maternity leave and the transfer of pregnant women from one type of job within an enterprise to another while they are pregnant is one that whereas one would like to see it happen is not a very practical one unless the firm involved is a firm which is carrying staff over the capacity that they need. I can see difficulties in trade unions and unless trade unions change their attitude there could be very many demarcation line problems.
The position of women in rural Ireland is singled out for special mention in chapter 7. I am not too sure that there should be a singling out of the status of women in rural Ireland as against the position of women in Ireland in general. I have absolutely no doubt that in most rural  homes there was a greater equality than there was in the urban situation. In the rural situation women, particularly those involved in farming enterprises, for centuries past always had to play their role and, indeed, they were to keep a certain amount of democracy within the home. Equally they were able to keep to themselves part of the enterprise of the farm. Indeed, it was noticeable that the women were very enterprising. They had their own particular enterprise within the farming system and were able to get their own little stocking of money for goodies for themselves throughout the year and, indeed, for goodies for the family at Christmas time, or at times of special need. As I have said, I am not too sure that this should have been singled out, however, I suppose it could be said there is not sufficient regard being given to the work of the women on the farm.
The taxation system does not pay any regard to the work that a woman puts into a farm enterprise. Indeed, it could be said that there is no incentive to a woman to help to work a farm. I sincerely hope that when the taxation system is being reviewed the work of women in a farm enterprise will be taken as equal to the work of a woman in an industrial enterprise in a city.
Mention is made again in regard to the position of women who find themselves left alone with children, whether as widows or as deserted wives. The situation regarding deserted wives is an area which would have to be gone into in great depth. According to some people deserted wives are in a privileged situation because of the social welfare benefits that they get, which are better than the social welfare benefits a widow would get. Nevertheless, they have problems which are peculiar to themselves and the State does not help to maintain an equilibrium in regard to their problems. If a person is getting a deserted wife's allowance and her husband is out of work she gets her deserted wife's allowance as long as he stays out of work. The minute he gets a job and the social welfare people find out that he has a job, then, according to the rules of the Social  Welfare Department, she now has to bring that person to court for maintenance, which is a ludicrous situation. The woman has to go through all the hassle of bringing the man to court to get help from him, whereas if she is on a deserted wife's allowance it is up to the State to take that man to court so that he will then be responsible for maintaining the deserted wife up to the amount that she was getting under the deserted wife's allowance scheme or more if the husband turns out to be capable of dealing with the problem.
The situation in education is moving relatively well. Mention is made of adult education schemes and that women should be given allowances to help them pay for adult education schemes if they want to get involved in them, because women are less capable than men, as stated in the report, of paying for these facilities. If help is to be given for adult education it should be given on an across-the-board basis and there should be no discrimination as between men and women.
In the area of health, I totally agree that where a birth is due, ideally all deliveries should take place in maternity units fully equipped at obstetrician and paediatrician level. One of the problems we have around the country is that these types of facilities are not available except now in the bigger hospitals and in the larger towns. Recently I saw the closure of an obstetrician-paediatrician and maternity unit in Carlow, which means that the patients in Carlow have to be brought to St. Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny, or to Dublin, for their delivery. This creates its own problems not alone in terms of the journey that has to be undertaken but in terms of the fact that in many cases the women are in a stress situation, the stress of not knowing when the birth is due, and that they may have to be rushed to hospital by ambulance or by car does not help them in their mental or physical state approaching the birth.
We do not have enough pre-birth or after-birth support facilities and there is no doubt that many of the problems families have could be alleviated if the woman could have proper services given to her at  or about the time of birth or immediately afterwards. I feel that the 14 weeks maternity leave we have at present is too short. I know it is a big drain on the finances of the social welfare system but, nevertheless, I think that there should be some State scheme so that where a woman is going to be out for longer than 14 weeks a substitute could be brought in so that she could stay out longer. Fourteen weeks is an arbitrary period and it might be all right for one woman but it might be totally wrong for another. Some women go back to work immediately after the birth and they find that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. They are able to cope with it both physically and mentally but 14 weeks is not enough for other people. The arbitrary 14 weeks is something we should have a closer look at.
The working party refer a great deal to the reforms that are in progress and welcome the extent of the reforms. For many people reforms are coming along too fast and for many others there are not enough reforms but, of course, we have to cut our cloth according to our measure. I hope we will see more legislation in both Houses dealing with reforms rather than going through report after report and discussing them because if you look at today's Order Paper you will find the Report of the Working Party on Women's Affairs, the Report of the Joint Committee on Marriage Breakdown, the Review Committee on Adoption Law. On most other days we have a number of reports to go through but the legislation following these reports is not being kept up to date. When people see the number of items that are just reports without legislation to carry forward the implementation of what is in these reports, they will get fed up and say that this is a talking shop and that the other House is a talking shop. I hope the Minister in her own capacity will ensure that we do not use the time of this House to deal with booklets on social reform without seeing the implementation of what is contained in the reports.
With regard to the changing role of  women in society, there is absolutely no doubt that women's role in society is changing rapidly. Women consider their own place in society is changing rapidly and I think that men's concept of women's role in society is changing. I do not think you are ever going to have a situation, as some people see it, where men would be equal to women or women be equal to men. There is absolutely no way that that will ever happen but nevertheless I suppose legally we should aim at having the same standard of education for women, that women would not be discriminated against in health services, that women would not be discriminated against if they have marriage problems, that the same type of service would be available to all members of our community. This report gives broad headlines towards which we could aim for some of these changes and some of these changes would be extremely welcome. I hope the Minister and the Government will push forward to make certain that as many of the actions that would come from this report would come as fast as they can so that we do not have too many debates on reports but that we would debate the Bills rather than anything else in this House.
Mrs. McGuinness: In speaking on this report, I would like to begin by complimenting the Minister of State and the working party in particular for the very large amount of work that has been done for this report and in particular the way in which it has gathered together the various issues that affect women in this country. This has not been so well done since the time of the original Report of the Commission on the Status for Women and in a sense this is another step in that direction. It is very important that we should pull together all these issues in the different fields with regard to education, social welfare, law and so on. The committee have done an extremely good job in doing this.
I would like to say that something that came towards the end of Senator Lanigan's speech is, perhaps, the most important issue of all and that is the issue  of implementation. This is drawn attention to in paragraphs 11.15 and 11.21 in the report and yet in a sense it is not fully dealt with. The difficulty is that reports like this draw together the issues and make a range of extremely good recommendations, recommendations which I would greatly support. Virtually all of them are good recommendations and recommendations which we should value and study but, more than that, which we should implement. One of the major difficulties is that quite a number of the recommendations made in the report, I am not saying they are any the worse for that, but they are not new recommendations, are recommendations which groups who have to do with women, with women's rights, with women's life generally have been saying for years.
Just to take one example, the law of dependent domicile of married women is something that has been virtually agreed by everybody to be an outdated and completely useless concept nowadays and, in fact, militates against married women in the law and is likely to be in breach of international convention. We all agree with this. It is not difficult to bring in a Bill doing away with it. It is quite a simple task and yet year after year, not just this Government but previous Governments, have not dealt with the matter. We still have ancient actions like the application of marriage and loss of consortium, loss of services of children and so on. All of these could very well be done away with and yet it simply does not happen.
What we must ask ourselves, particularly in approaching this report, is how is it going to be implemented and when is it going to be implemented. To be fair to the report, it deals with this question and it realises that this question arises. On pages 309 to 311 it speaks about that. It talks about implementation and the administrative structures necessary but at the same time there is the conclusion in paragraph 11.18 where it states:
The question of the best administrative structures for implementing a programme of reform is, however, of such crucial importance that the Working  Party believes that it merits full consideration. This can best be done after the Government have considered the findings of the Working Party, by the Government mandating a small group to look specifically at the matter.
It is a good idea that there should be a group who would look into how things are to be implemented but, at the same time, I would not like that to be just putting the thing on yet another long finger. A very vital question, which really goes to the roots of the way our democracy works and the way our whole system as Government and Civil Service works, is how do you get things, even things which are basically agreed by the public and which would be pleasing to the vast majority of our citizens, implemented reasonably quickly?
At the moment I am afraid there is an unending frustration of nearly all the nongovernmental bodies, the non-State bodies who are dealing with the issues that have to do with women at any rate, and lots of other issues as well. For the moment let us deal with the issues that have to do with women and with the family. They suffer from an unending frustration. For instance, we have been waiting for a new Children Bill for years. All credit to the Minister for Health that he produced at least part of the legislation in a new Children Bill. I know that he wants to press on with it. At the same time, that Bill has been lying around, as far as I know, being discussed and produced in the Department for years. There has been agitation for years by everybody interested in it. We are still dealing with the 1908 Act and it does not seem to be possible to do everything quickly.
We have a suggestion in the report that the Department of Justice should be responsible for implementing family law reform. I do not want to be hurtful to the Department of Justice but I believe most people involved in family law would regard that as a rather poor joke because all these issues of family law have been waiting for reform and agreement on all  sides, leaving aside the question of divorce a vincula, which is obviously the hot potato. Leaving aside that altogether, there are very many issues of family law reform that everyone working in the field, lawyers, social workers, women's aid groups, women's self-help groups and so on would all agree on and yet there does not seem to be any move. For instance, why does it take so many years to get rid of criminal conversation, an action which was absolutely ridiculous? Why, for instance, given our Law Reform Commission, did we have a Law Reform Commission that instead of recommending its abolition actually recommended that it should be redoubled and that husbands should be allowed to take criminal conversation actions as well? What sort of a Law Reform Commission is this? Even where the Law Reform Commission make reasonable recommendations it takes years and years for them to be dealt with.
I know there are many excellent reasons that will be given for the delay in each individual case, reasons which if you sit down and listen to them you think, “Well, well that is reasonable,” and so on. At the same time I would have to say, if I may coin a phrase, that one man's reason is another woman's excuse and that these reasons are so redoubled and redoubled they move into the field of excuse and they are very depressing and very frustrating for the many people who are looking for these kinds of reforms.
I know the Minister of State would share my feelings about this and I am not criticising her in particular but it is a situation into which the small group she is talking about will have to have a fundamental look, to see the way we produce legislation. It is not just a question of tidying up the ends here and there. It is a question of looking at our present system of producing legislation through the various parliamentary draftsmen, through the Department, through going back and forth to the Cabinet and so on. Are we really doing it the right way or is this a situation in which Ministers who want to reform find themselves tied and  bound by various conventions, by various systems? Is it possible to have a really fundamental look at how legislation is produced, how we can streamline this, how we can bring in legislation which does the things that all of us as legislators want to do?
At present, as far as I can see, any Minister who wants to bring in a matter of law reform or any kind of reform with regard to women's rights or anything else, first of all, needs a will of iron, secondly, the skin of a rhinoceros and, thirdly, absolute Cabinet support all the way. It is very difficult to see that all the Ministers we have who have goodwill need to have these absolutely harsh qualities in order to achieve any sort of reform. I feel, when we look at this report and, indeed, when we look at the two reports which we will be dealing with later today, that the same thing applies. The crunch comes at implementation. We can all produce reports, we can all say this should be done but the question is who is going to do it and when?
I can remember discussing with some one who was a chairman of voluntary committees for many years how you deal with people on the voluntary committees who say “We ought to do this”. She said to me, “Well, the only thing you can do in that situation is to look the person straight in the eye and say, `Yes, of course we ought to, and you will arrange to get it done.”' Sometimes there is too little of that in our administrative structures.
I should like to mention some of the matters in the report which caught my attention and then deal with the chapter on family law which, of course, would be my particular interest. There are a number of other matters which I might mention.
The committee mentions of the problems of the lack of women on State boards and this, of course, is something that the Council for the Status of Women have been dealing with over a considerable period. I would re-emphasise this in regard to particular boards like AnCo and the vocational education committees, AnCo springs to mind in particular. If we are going to go ahead on a practical  level with fulfilling the equal opportunities for women in these kinds of job related courses and so on, we do not just want legal equality, we also want women involved in the administration of these boards so that they can keep an eye on what is happening and can progress the equality of women in the various activities of the different boards.
That is true in a lot of areas. Senator Lanigan said he felt that things were moving along fairly well in education. I agree that there seems to be a considerable commitment in education at the moment to bring forward the education of women and to deal with the curriculum problems that equality gives rise to. I feel that definite progress is being made in this area but, of course, we can never be complacent about it.
I also recommend the chapter on child care facilities which I think are very important in the whole context of the position of women in Irish society today. Provisions such as care for young children, play groups and so on, which sometimes are thought of simply as conveniences for married women who prefer to work rather than to mind their children, are not only for the social development of children of that age living in particular urban areas, where you have a nuclear family and you do not have the same interaction perhaps between neighbours, families and children as a group. These playgroups and child care facilities serve the social development of the child very greatly as well as being a help to the mother and father. Again, as far as social welfare is concerned, there still remain a number of areas where equality has not applied. I hope these will be dealt with as soon as possible.
The recommendation in chapter 8 with regard to the re-entry of women to employment after they have spent a period at home caring for their children, is very important and becoming more important because we are now moving into a situation where we have relatively long lived people and people are having rather smaller families than was the case in the past. The parents tend to have their children while they are still young and  the children are grown up, independent and gone, while the woman still has maybe 20 or 25 years left in her married life and her employable life. This becomes more and more important as time goes on. We are no longer in the situation we had at the beginning of this century when we had most women marrying rather late, having very large families and then dying rather young, many of them dying in child-birth or with child-birth related diseases. Therefore, there was not such a large group of older women who were available and who needed some fulfilment in their lives. This is a very important recommendation.
With regard to single parents, the report draws attention to the fact that many separated wives have difficulty in securing maintenance from their husbands. This is an understatment. Where a husband is fully determined not to pay maintenance to his wife it is virtually impossible to secure maintenance from him. The final thing you can do is to have him put in jail. While that may give you a certain amount of emotional satisfaction and cause him a certain amount of pain, there is no doubt that it will not get a penny maintenance for you. The courts, particularly the District Court, are filled with women trying hopelessly to enforce maintenance orders at frequent intervals. The suggestion that this matter should be looked at from the point of view of providing an allowance through the State and the State then recouping the money from the husband is well worth looking at, because the resources of the State in enforcing a maintenance order would be far greater than the resources of the unfortunate wife. The same thing would probably apply to payments made under affiliation orders for unmarried mothers. This should be looked at.
As far as the problem of cohabitation is concerned, again this is becoming much more serious than it was in the past, not only because many people are living together without the benefit of matrimony, but also because of the rate of marriage breakdown and the number of second relationships. Many of these second relationships may be based on  church remarriages or technical remarriages after divorce is obtained abroad so that they will have, as it were a veneer of respectability about them but, nevertheless, legally they are cohabiting. Under the social welfare legislation these people, strictly speaking, are cohabitees. It is a situation which needs a great deal of looking at. That and the whole issue of illegitimacy to my mind are closely tied in with the issue of providing a dissolution of marriage which would end the first relationship properly and deal with the rights of the first relationship before one goes on to the second relationship. If we must do without this reasonable system, then we must face up to the problems it creates and realise that the number of people cohabiting but not legally married is increasing very rapidly and the social welfare legislation will have to deal with this situation.
As far as family law is concerned, there are a number of items that have been dealt with. Again I would say that the recommendations made by the working party are fine. They are splendid recommendations, generally speaking. The only question is: will we ever see them brought into effect? Some time ago there was a proposal by the Government that all family homes should be held as joint tenancies or that the spouses should have equal rights of ownership. I realise that there are many complications involved in this.
I can well understand that this is not a particularly easy piece of legislation to bring in. With regard to retrospection and dealing with already existing marriages and marriages that have broken down, there are many complications, but a first step could be taken by providing for this in all marriages from now on in prospective legislation. Certainly it is an area of equality and an area of justice meriting fast action. Perhaps we could have fast action in relation to all marriages from now. We may need to take more time to deal with the difficulties that are raised by retrospection and the various complications about people whose marriages have already broken  down and who have made arrangements about the family home through separation agreements, or court orders, or whatever.
The Illegitimacy Bill is dealt with in the White Paper and we are expecting legislation on this as soon as possible. This is obviously something which will create problems for the Government in getting this legislation through even given the fact that they have the backing of the main committees of the Roman Catholic Church pressing for the equality of illegitimate children. It will be very difficult to deal with illegitimacy without dealing with divorce as well because of the fact that one of the major areas of increase in illegitimacy is illegitimacy resulting from illegal or unmarried second relationships. One could envisage a situation in these second relationships where the first relationship's rights had not been thought about and where, in fact, to grant equal rights against the husband for the second family could be an injustice. That is something that has to be taken into account however strongly one feels about equal rights for these children. It will be very difficult to cope with that situation unless there is an arrangement whereby the rights of the first family can be fully dealt with and organised through a dissolution of the first marriage before emarking on the second relationship.
The report referred to the Law Reform Commission's report on divorce a mensa et thoro. The Joint Committee on Marriage Breakdown also made considerable recommendations on divorce a mensa et thoro. I would prefer their approach — not because I was a member of the committee — to the approach of the Law Reform Commission because the approach of the Joint Committee was that we must stop regarding divorce a mensa et thoro as being totally falsely based as it is now. As Senators are probably aware, the only grounds now are either adultery, cruelty or unnatural practices. Desertion, for instance, is not a ground for divorce a mensa et thoro at the moment. A marriage can be totally broken down and neither party has  grounds for divorce a mensa et thoro as the law stands at the moment.
The approach of the Joint Committee was that the basis should be irretrievable breakdown of marriage. In the Law Reform Commission's report they suggest that there should be a new ground in addition to the grounds of adultery, cruelty, and so on, and they recommend desertion as a ground also. They recommend that there should be new grounds for breakdown of marriage. In a sense I would prefer to see it approached by saying that the breakdown of marriage is the ground and the other things are evidence of the breakdown as was suggested by the Joint Committee rather than the approach of the Law Reform Commission. I hope that when reform in this area is being legislated that approach will be taken.
With regard to the dependant domicile of married women the report considers it to be important that the matter be dealt with expeditiously, particularly in view of the desirability of the State being in a position to implement the United Nations Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. All I can say is yes, yes, yes, and why are we waiting so long for it? What is so complicated about this? I can accept complications about the family home and I can accept complications about illegitimacy because they exist, but what complication is there about this dependant domicile? There is an example in the British legislation where it was done away with a considerable number of years ago. The Government would only have to copy the British Act if they are so short of parliamentary draftsmen that we cannot produce an Act for ourselves. The restitution of conjugal rights, the jactitation of marriage and related matters, the production, entitlement, harbouring of a child, loss of consortium and loss of services of a child are all actions based on a totally outdated concept of the relationship of men, women and children and the construction of the family.
I cannot understand why it takes so long to do away with them. They are not used. How long is it since anyone has seen  an action for the restitution of conjugal rights? Even if a court order was made, how would you go about enforcing it? Do you tie them down in the bed together or something? This is just ridiculous. Why can we not do away with it at the stroke of a pen? Why do a working party like this, full of well qualified people, have to waste their time talking about actions like this which should have gone long ago?
With regard to nullity of marriage, the report of the Law Reform Commission is referred to in this context also. This, too, is dealt with by the committee and we will be dealing with it again this afternoon. I would like to say briefly that both the Law Reform Commission and the committee have expressed concern that the ground of mental incapacity, the inability to form and sustain a marriage relationship, the inability to form a caring and considerate relationship, due to mental illness, personality defects and so on, are increasing, and cases in the courts are increasing at present. I do this myself and I have every intention of continuing to do it. As long as this ground exists in the rather vague form that it is, lawyers and others will push and push to enlarge the scope. Basically, we are producing a situation where it would be quite unsure whether anyone was married. I do not think that nullity should be pushed so wide that almost anyone with the right sort of legal argument and the right sort of psychiatric evidence could look for a decree of nullity.
This is something that attention has been drawn to in both the reports I referred to and requires legislation to set out the parameters. I am not saying that there should not be a ground of nullity in incapacity for marriage. Just as we have physical impotence there would be such a thing as a psychological impotence of a marriage. We need legislation to set out the parameters of this ground because it is rapidly becoming wider and wider and is really offering divorce Irish style. Perhaps that is what we want. That is what is happening and it is a dishonest way of dealing with the problem.
With regard to adoption, this will be discussed later so I do not want to refer  to it at any great length. It is a problem of implementation. I am inclined to feel that where additional areas for reform are listed the examination of the divorce question is regarded as a matter for the Joint Committee on Marriage breakdown. This is a very convenient way of skipping out of this area. Some comment could have been made, if nothing else, on the way in which the lack of divorce affects women's rights in particular.
We have recommendations about the training of judges which is to be carried out by the Department of Justice. I wonder what our judges will say about this. I certainly heard at least one Circuit Court judge expressing resentment and horror at the suggestion of the Joint Commitee on Marriage Breakdown that there should be training of judges. I agree with the recommendation that it is a specialised job to be a family law judge. Australia is one of the jurisdictions that has dealt with this in a very reasonable way. The only problem is that since it has arisen in Australia at least two family law judges have been shot by disgruntled litigants, I hope that that will not happen to our specially trained family law judges. It is important to realise that family law is a rather specialised area of law and that we need courts that are tailored to meet the particular questions that arise.
With regard to matrimonial property, the issue of community property is a live one but I warn the Minister for State that she will come up against great difficulties in trying to get that implemented because many people on the Joint Committee on Marriage Breakdown reacted with horror and dismay to the suggestion of community property. To get that put across in Irish society, in particular rural Irish society, will be a big challenge for the Minister for State, or whoever will be dealing with it. In the meantime, one of the first reforms needed in the area of maintenance is that the courts should have power, as they do in Britain and other jurisdictions, to order a lump sum by way of settlement and not just periodic maintenance, because there are many cases in marriage breakdown when it  would be a great deal more convenient for all parties, where there is capital money available and where there is property, that there should be a once off settlement. The present situation where the courts can only order periodic maintenance is not really very satisfactory.
The question of judgment mortgages is also a live one in that the judgments at present negatively affect the Family Home Protection Act, as far as judgment mortgages are concerned. We have considerably legal difficulties in this whole area. Apart from what the report says about the judgments on the Partition Acts, which suggests that an order for partition will not be made without the consideration of the Family Home Protection Act, we have now made the embarrassing discovery in a recent judgment that the original Partition Act, 1542 was repealed by the Statute Law Reform Act, 1966 and nobody appears to have noticed that until about a year ago. In fact, all the orders based on this Partition Act are probably void since 1966. Certainly the making of any other order under it is a very pressing one. This is an area which meeds to be acted on very quickly indeed. How it happened that we inadvertedly repealed this Act without noticing what effect it would have I do not know but it has been repealed for 20 years and people were still entering actions in the courts in the matter of the Partition Act, 1542 which no longer existed.
I want to refer to the recommendations on legal aid and advice referred to in this chapter. The report says, very truthfully, that most of the issues related to the availability of financial and staffing resources. This is very true with regard to the Civil Legal Aid Board. They have been operating under very difficult constraints because of lack of staff and lack of money to pay staff and so on. We have again and again the situation where people looking for urgent legal aid and advice are informed that the legal aid centres in Dublin are closed for a period of weeks to new applications because they are already over-worked. They cannot take on any more cases with the  number of solicitors they have. This has nothing to do with the quality of the solicitors in the legal aid system which, in my experience, is very high.
The service which people get through the legal aid board solicitors is a very good service but, nevertheless, it is very much constrained by lack of finance. I know there are great difficulties in providing finance for anything at the moment but this is an area of real priority because if we are to fulfil the terms of the Josie Airey judgment in the European Court we must offer proper represented access to the courts by all our people. There is no doubt that a half-hearted scheme which shuts out a great many people by the curious operations of its means test and by the lack of staff and the lack of facilities is not a sufficient answer to the Airey judgment.
That covers most of the areas that I have particular interest in in the report but that does not mean that I do not think that many of the other areas that have been dealt with are most important. I compliment the working party on the way in which they have brought all these issues together. Once again, the real problem is responsibility. Who is responsible for implementing these recommendations and how can the implementation be brought about reasonably quickly? At present it seems that even the full lifetime of a Government is not sufficient to process legislation like this. If you have a change of Government the whole thing tends to have to start at square one again. We need a continuing body with responsibility for bringing in these reforms, reforms which are not a political issue as between parties in the House. They certainly are not. There are people with different views on them in all parties. It is not that this Government want it and the other Government do not. I am sure there are many people in Fianna Fáil who are just as committed to family law reform as the Government are. If there is a change of Government we tend to go back to square one. The crunch issue in this whole report and in the other reports that we will be dealing with today is the  issue of responsibility and implementation.
Mr. J. Higgins: Like all the other speakers I would like to commend the Joint Committee for producing a very comprehensive and a very pragmatic agenda for practical action. It is a very comprehensive document, well enumerated, well tabulated and realistic. In conjunction with that I would also like to add my voice in commendation of the efforts of the Minister of State who has shown a mastery of her brief and by virtue of her designation has managed to focus more than a fair degree of public attention on this area requiring urgent action.
Within the European Economic Community we have 13 million people unemployed. Inherent in that statistic there is the job anomaly situation, and the residue of discrimination against women highlights the twofold problem that confronts us. In Ireland the statistics have not been so daunting. In Ireland the share of female unemployment out of a total unemployment at 25 per cent is the lowest in the Community. The disquieting aspect of it is that, in the past two years, the pattern has deteriorated and it has begun to rise. It is obvious that traditional categorisation and job roles are not adequate. It has been accepted that the tradition in Ireland — as indeed throughout the world but we have managed to maintain the residue of this tradition more than others — is that men have gone into the skilled and semi-skilled areas and that women have gone into the service and clerical areas. It is generally accepted that education must be the whipping boy for this pattern. I commend the Joint Committee for having addressed the problem relating to our education policy, structure and framework in a very forthright fashion in this document.
I would like to address my comments to the area of unemployment and discrimination in relation to women. I commend the work of the various agencies which have been established with a view to redressing the various imbalances and discriminations that exist. AnCO  have been a unique success. AnCO in 1975 adopted as part of their policy an equal opportunity programme. In fairness to AnCO they have managed, by and large, with their various courses to integrate women into training courses which hitherto were largely the preserve of the male. It is obvious that if women are to make inroads into areas which were traditionally the male preserve then the process must start at the training level and the retraining level. Here I would like to welcome the five AnCO programmes which are specially designed, geared and designated to increase female participation in training programmes.
However, the statistics still tend to show that by and large the majority of training programmes undertaken by AnCO and by the Youth Employment Agency and youth employment schemes are of a manual nature. Therefore, despite the best intentions of the designers of the courses, such courses tend to be male dominated. The Youth Employment Agency have been successful in some regards. They have been successful first in setting down as an ideal the provision of adequate opportunities for young people of both sexes. While statistics would seem to suggest that there has been a relatively high degree of success and that girls currently outnumber boys on youth training, employment, work experience programmes, and so on, nevertheless in other areas of endeavour and taking the overall statistics, the reverse is the case and because of the manual and physical nature they are male dominated.
Girls have been successful in two areas, first of all, in the start your own business course and secondly in the enterprise allowance scheme. One area in which females are beginning to encounter considerable difficulties is in relation to raising capital in their own right. Unfortunately, it is still a tradition that the lending agencies and the banking institutions tend to see females as being mere appendages of their male counterparts. This is something that will have to be considered at all levels.
 We welcome the various flexibilities that have been introduced into our work pattern such as the acceptance to a higher degree of the role of the part time worker; the introduction of the notion of career breaks although still in its embryo stage. This is to be commended and pursued in the private as well as the public sector. The concept of job sharing is unfortunately still only a concept and by and large is not implemented in this country. The introduction of flexitime must afford females a higher participation rate.
One point highlighted by Senator McGuinness is the need to accommodate re-entry of women into employment after rearing their families etc. This is something to which we will have to address ourselves with considerable vigour. The Employment Equality Agency are referred to and their important strategic role in helping to clarify the law, what people's entitlements are, and in eliminating the residue of discrimination that still exists.
We will have to address ourselves sooner or later — preferably sooner — to the whole business of early retirement. If we have given fruitful employment to people for approximately 35 years of adulthood, at that point in time we can be excused for asking these people to bow out and afford the people at the end of the labour market access to the jobs in question. We are not doing something unique, dramatic or revolutionary. We are merely moving into line with what has been the accepted pattern and norm of our EC counterparts. I know that there is a once-off problem for Governments and Departments in relation to the actual funding of gratuities, pensions, etc. People in the high income brackets are being allowed to take early retirement and pensions and people are being taken in at the lower incremental stage. If we had had the foresight necessary to see that this is merely a transfer of resources I think we would be well on the way now to accepting and implementing this policy. Between the ages of 60 and 65 we have in the region of 10,000 people, so this should be examined as a matter of  urgency. It would do something, at least, to alleviate the problems of the 10,000 graduates who are unemployed.
The Irish Presidency of the EC was remarkable in many respects and was particularly commended at the final summit meeting by all partners as having made a considerable breakthrough in a number of difficult dialogues in relation to accession and so on. One area of achievement of the Irish Presidency was the draft recommendation on positive action in favour of women. It is recognised as a feat on the part of the Irish Presidency that they managed to get unanimous agreement and acceptance of this draft recommendation. Our Government at national level and Civil Service level managed to set the headline. Again, I welcome the action taken by the Minister for Labour in setting up a study group to look into the anomalies of the Civil Service where we have a glut of women employed at the lower level and as one gets to the higher end of the scale the figure peters off. The number of women assistant secretaries in Departments could be counted on one hand.
The document is a very worthwhile one. I share the sentiments of the people on both sides of the House that it is not merely a recommendation but an agenda for practical action and the word “action” will be the feature of it which will distinguish it from many of the other worthwhile, formidable, comprehensive, practical, but unimplemented documents which we have had in the past.
Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mrs. Fennell): I should like to say how pleased I am that the report “Irish Women—Agenda for Practical Action” is getting its first airing here in the Seanad where over the years debates have taken place in a very courageous and informed manner on issues relating to women and on related subjects. I thank Senators who have contributed to the debate and particularly the leaders of all parties. I am very pleased that their views will be on record.
Taking up some of the points of criticism  of the report, I would say first that it is a report; that it is not legislation, or a programme for legislation. I will take up Senator Dooge's remarks about the earlier report of the Commission on the Status of Women 1972, which is and has been for many years my bible and the bible of many women working in the area of the women's movement. At the time when the report was published, there were many who said it would be buried in the garden and a headstone put over it. I felt rather offended by that suggestion because there is no doubt but that it is a splendid, competent and a very readable document. Looking back now after 12 or 13 years we know that action took place; we know that things changed; we know that it was sent out to relevant bodies, to institutions, to decision-makers. We know that it instituted debate; that it was a seminal influence and that it brought a considerable amount of change.
Indeed, only this year in preparing for the international UN conference when I had reason to draw up facts and information on what has happened over the last ten years did I realise the amount of legislation that, perhaps, did not come directly from the commission's report, but certainly was allied to it, legislation such as the Family Law Act, the Maintenance of Spouses and Children Act, 1976; the Juries Act, 1976; the Family Home Protection Act, 1976; the Employment Equality Act, 1977; the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977; the Health (Family Planning) Act, 1979; the Maternity (Protection of Employees) Act, 1981; the Family Law (Protection of Spouses) Act, 1981, and so on. I will accept that Senators might say some of that legislation came directly from the EC, that there were binding statutes on which we did not have any option. That is quite true. But the equality legislation we have here is as good as there is anywhere and better than in most places.
Similarly, I would accept the argument that in some instances, certainly in the case of the Juries Act, it was brought about by the action of a number of women who challenged the position under the existing legislation under which  they were not given the right to be judged on a jury by their peers. In between — I address this to Senator Dooge — the interim report which was brought out before it and the report that the working party which I chaired has now brought out, we had the revolution. I would like to pay tribute to the many women in the women's movement between 1970 and the breakthrough in 1981, when we had women coming into the political forum and taking or attempting to take control of things — though our numbers are still very small — and articulating women's views at the highest level. But the women in the women's movement — though I do not apologise for or deny the incredible work that they did; the women's liberation movement was a very small group in the early seventies — embraced all organisations, the ICA, the Irish Housewive's Association etc. They all played a role which changed thinking, which made people stop and reflect and which had the effect of making Irish society realise that the role of the woman as the drudge, the property of the man, the person who did not figure and was not considered in many instances, any more than — rather less than — farm animals.
There is plenty of evidence of the bad treatment of and low regard that existed for women. I suggest that, as well as the excellent work of the Theckla Beere Committee and the report of the committee that she chaired, we have to say that our revolution in the seventies was responsible for pushing forward the thinking and changing — which is probably as important, if not more important than what we do in either of these Houses — concepts, bringing in new models, breaking old moulds and challenging the traditional customs which were built on our religion, our culture, and our political struggles against colonialism. For the past decade we are in a new era. We are going to continue in this forward trend. I do not see that we are going to have reversals.
The report before the House is not just a report: it is a very special report. It is the first time a report was produced by a  working party like this on any subject. I commend the people who worked on that report. It was not easy because we have 11 Departments. We had representatives from 11 Departments meeting and coming to an agreement on the one issue — women, their needs and their rights and what response could be made within the various Departments, health, social welfare, justice, agriculture. It was a great binding together and there was a great need for negotiation and careful examination of all these issues.
Many Senators have highlighted the areas that still need change and still need action. But again I would remind them that in 1972 we had a society in which, for instance, a women in the home, had not much right to a job because of the marriage bar, had not the right even to children's allowances — because that was vested in the husband — but further, was not entitled to the savings she made in the housekeeping money. My memory goes back that far and I am very much aware of and I can almost see in my mind's eye, the kind of letters that I would have got at that time from women whose right to small savings, which would have been put aside out of housekeeping money — meagre enough I am sure — would have been challenged and the courts of law would have upheld the man's right to claw back that money. That is the kind of background we are talking about, and against which these changes have happened — and more need to happen.
I am not happy at the rate of change. I wish things would move along faster but, in looking at the structures of our society, we have to look at them from top to bottom. There is political goodwill. There is political commitment in this Government, as Senators well can see. We have a special section for women which has produced its report and which has a role from this on to play in bringing forward an action programme. It will seek, and is determined to get, action which will be monitored by this House — and I would welcome the idea of it — based on the progress of the report.
At the same time, we have in our  society all kinds of prejudices and resentment, a sense of threat for generations since the time Senator Dooge mentioned in his speech, when women had a particular role in Celtic Ireland. Irish men dominated at all levels. So, we have the remenants of that in the trade unions, in church bodies, in management, in work; all these play a role in the changes we have to bring about.
In the Civil Service itself — I am not attributing any criticism or any blame — there is machinery; all the cogs have to work together and it is important that we can, if you like, motivate people so that they will co-operate. It is using a blunt instrument to say: “We are going to bring in legislation which says that from X date on there cannot be and will not be any discrimination against women”. I am quite sure that might be possible: it has been tried in other countries and has not been successful. Immediately that is done or tried you will find institutions beginning to get around it. I am one of those people who believe in conviction. I am very convinced that we need to change attitudes, to change our customs, to have men and women accept the new concept of women. Much is said about the new profile of women, the new expectations of women. Of course, they have changed, and women have every right to expect that the structure of our society will reflect the changes that now apply to them. But unless we get people to understand that for far too long women have been left unjustly and unfairly outside all the power and decision-making and the sharing in Irish society, we will only be limping along.
I had an example this morning at one of my advice centres. A 21-year-old girl came in to me and explained that she had applied for the position of fire fighter. Three women had applied and this was the second time women had replied to the advertisement. She went for all the interviews and actually had to do what is called the strength test. That 21 year old who is 5'10” actually carried an 11-stone man the full length of a football pitch in under one minute, as a test of her strength  and ability. She had all the other qualifications. One of the other women was actually a nurse. When the panel was announced, she got a letter telling her she did not succeed. Again, it was a panel of men as was the last one, a panel of men. This is something I hope to take up, but it again illustrates the point.
For the Dublin Corporation interview there were three men interviewing. One has to question what was those men's concept or image of a woman as a firewoman. It is very difficult for them to cope with, but they will have to do it. But it is an area that perhaps we should look into again to see if there should be a specific policy measure taken to ensure that women can make a breakthrough. If we do that, we are into the matter of tokenism. The whole area of affirmative action, as it is called in America, can in the long run work against women. So my feeling would be that we need to have the statutes; we need to have the laws that are proposed in this report. We need to have people such as Senators and Deputies, men and women who will understand the reasons for the change and will promote them and give them leadership in whatever profession they operate.
Senator McGuinness dealt in great detail with the family law reform section. On page 22 we have a list of reforms in progress. I can agree that our administrative structures are not good enough for bringing forward in a consistent way reforms that are needed in this area. We have made a proposal on that in the report and it is something I am going to promote. The reality is that work is being done, and work has been done. Legislation in this area is slow. Speedy legislation in the area of family law or the human area does not benefit anybody. In other countries it can take eight to ten years to bring about reform. I am not giving excuses. I am trying to give an explanation.
Having been involved quite closely indeed with the illegitimacy proposals, I may say that took a major amount of work in the Department. The White Paper is now out and I have every hope  that it is going to be before the Dáil in October.
I would like to address myself to the point the Senator made about the domicile legislation. I am sure she will understand that changing the law on dependant domicile is not a simple matter. It is not a question of just looking at the English law changes and copying them because, when we change the law on domicile, we have to bring in new rules for recognition of foreign divorces. This is something I am quite sure the Senator is aware of and it would not be appropriate to have a law that was only, if you like, a half-baked law. We have to bring in legislation which will ensure that clear rules will be provided thereafter when we change our laws. Again I would say that the working paper of the Law Reform Commission and their report only came through in January or February of this year. Since then, all our endeavours have been put into bringing this reform through in time for this year of the end of the UN decade. I am hopeful that the ratification of the convention and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women will happen before the end of 1985.
I am going to Nairobi in July — that is on Thursday week — with what I consider to be a good report from this country, a report that we can be proud of and that will stand up to those of other developed countries such as ourselves. The Government agreed, when this report was considered by the Cabinet, that there should be an action programme brought forward on particular areas of action. It is called an agenda for practical action. I have had to look at this issue of women's needs and women's rights in practical terms and say what is necessary, is possible and what we can do in a staged way. The Government have agreed to this and I am preparing proposals at present. There really is no point in making recommendations that have no chance of being implemented but I have short term and long term proposals.
One of the points that was only vaguely  referred to — and perhaps I will just take it up here because I think it is important in Ireland and very important in the context of women's role and women's rights — is the position of women in the home. As somebody working for women's rights and as a feminist I believe that the pillars of liberation for women are economic independence and fertility control. They are the two basic essentials. All women ought to have the ability and the right to earn for themselves and not only for themselves but also be able to support any children they might have. This is probably what most people would accept as more relevant today than it ever was because nobody at any point knows when she get married how long her husband is going to live, whether he is going to be made redundant or what the economic situation is going to produce or whether she is going to be deserted, or whatever.
The ideal I would like to see would be that women would be in a position to provide economically for themselves and their children and not become financial cripples once they become mothers. That is an ideal, I believe, that other countries like Denmark, as Senator Dooge remarked, have achieved. In China, also, all women are in a position to provide for themselves and their children. We should not have the kind of situation that we have here where we have a number of single parents and deserted wives in a position of poverty depending on State aid. There is another aspect which is also important. It is that women in concert with their husbands should decide on the number of children they want to have. It should not be as in the past, that they had to have an endless number of children and no possibility of controling the size of their families. In this country we still have a situation where we have an overlarge group of women in the home. The ratio we have of those economically active is 4.1 women in the home and 1 out at work. That is quite extraordinary by EC tables. It works out in terms of numbers at 524,400 women in the home to 127,600 out at work. These women have special needs. I believe that many women, even when they are in careers  that are promising and that have a future, will still opt to leave work when they have children and to stay at home and look after those children. The number of women who are making this free choice surprises me. If it is a question that they cannot afford to have child care facilities or to pay for them then it is not exactly free. In many instances there is a free choice for women who would have had third level training and who would have a contribution to make to the work force but they are staying at home. It has to be recognised that these women are making a contribution to the family, the community and to general social well-being. This is where policy in this country has to concentrate in the future. It certainly will be an area which I will be concentrating on and looking at. There is a definite sense in this country — and it has been there for some time — that the woman who stays at home and looks after the children is the lesser of two spouses. She will feel, in many cases, because her work is not recognised, because it does not appear in the labour force survey and because she is not out working with peers and tends to be isolated, that her job is not of a high status. This is a perception that is waning. It was much worse about five years ago, at the height of the women's movement. What I feel is important and what I am going to attempt to do is to bring in structures and to establish groups, whether it is in rural areas or urban areas, but more particularly in urban areas, in which women can organise and get together and where their needs as mothers and wives can be recognised. These needs, I know, related to having a right to some health benefits.
We have dealt very explicitly with the health needs of women in our report. They have needs of good play group facilities or mother-and-toddler groups where they can get together and not be so isolated at a time when the extended family has gone. This is even more so now in rural areas probably where it is more apparent that the old grandparents are no longer around. This creates a situation where the wife is thrown in on herself. There is not continuity of knowledge  regarding the rearing of children. In many cases people do not want to read this and will not learn out of books. The tradition of passing down the tips or the whole content of child rearing from one to another has gone. There is isolation and loneliness and this has to be tackled.
It is important to acknowledge, as Senator McGuinness said, that women's childbearing years are now shorter than they were in the past. There will be a need for women to re-examine their wishes, after the children have grown up, to go back to work. They have a need for child care facilities, health facilities, retraining facilities and for proper protection in terms of the family home and proper access to legal aid, where it is necessary when they have difficulties in their family life. I would just like to say at this point that I feel that the present report will form the basis for a sustained programme of achievement in the years ahead. It will improve the lot of women in all aspects of their lives. I have sent the report out to the universities, to social researchers, to employers and to all the people who should know about the many issues that are there in the various chapters. I will be interested to get their responses and I will be drawing up my action programme on the basis of that. I would like to thank the Senators.
Mr. Burke: I want to welcome the report that has been presented to us and to congratulate the Minister and the working party for the work they have done. The terms of reference of the working party itself were very broad-based. Their task was certainly a very difficult one in so far as they had to knit together many trends that had to be brought in under the one heading. For that reason the task of the working party was a difficult one and everybody recognises that.
 Most of the Senators have made wide-ranging speeches but I would much prefer to concentrate my few words on the educational aspects within the working party's report. Before this working party had reported the whole idea was set in train by the Minister for Education when she, in co-operation with the Minister of State present here, had taken action on this aspect over the last two-and-a-half years. Indeed, the Government action programme for education set out a very important section to bring about equality within the educational system. It is within the educational system that we see in a simple way the most blatant violations of the equality of women in the community.
The achievement of the working party's goals — and how we actually assess that achievement in the long run — is going to be very difficult. If their goals are to be achieved at all the ground-work for success will have to be within the educational system. If we work on the younger generations and make them aware of the terms of equality and what equality means within society, I believe in the generations that follow the problems we now see, and the remnants of many of the problems over the past generations, will be automatically and without notice obliterated. For that reason the Minister for Education's action to date has been very important. Simple things like text books which, in a glib fashion did stereotype the sexes, have been adopted. It was normal for references to be made like “daddy drove the car”, or “mother pushed the pram”. These in a small way have been responsible for bringing about the attitudes that later in life were to be compounded into the attitudes which men had towards women, and vice versa. The Minister took action on this point and now we have an agreement with most book publishers in this country that we standardise that aspect of presentation. This was a worthwhile step, small though it may seem to some people. The effects of that move will not be seen for a matter of years but will be reflected in the lifestyles of the young people now within the  educational system. Another small but very important step that has been taken by the Department of Education is to ensure that the identity of candidates in examinations will never be known to the examiners. The action programme also provided a greater and wider choice in the curriculum. There was an idea in the past that the numbers of female students taking mathematics, physics and chemistry was very low. The facilities for change in those subjects have been provided over the last year or two. We hope that when the curriculum board have reported there will be a very simple message contained in their reports indicating that there will be equal opportunity for boys and girls to avail of the widest possible choice. This choice has not been made available heretofore.
It is important that within the planning section of the Department of Education from now on, wherever possible and wherever it is appropriate, co-educational schools will be provided. In a manner of speaking, we have a co-educational system within the vocational sector. The level of co-education is very limited in so far as the subject choice deters girls in some instances. It makes subject choice impossible in most instances on an equal basis between girls and boys within that system. It must be realised that behind all these changes, simple though they might seem, there is a caste. I would hope that the Minister of State, with her counterpart in the Department of Education, would see to it that at no time during the lifetime of this Government would financial restraints limit or curtail the ideals which the Minister of State is trying to implement. I congratulate both of them in the ways in which they have presented their briefs to the Government so that action can be taken to provide equal opportunity.
It is within the educational system — not entirely but certainly within it — that we can see the most blatant discrimination towards women. I am thinking in particular about teacher selection at primary level. Very often the power of selection has been retained by a single person, usually the manager of the school. The  manager of the school in the past always has been the parish priest or cleric within the parish, particularly in rural areas. That is now changing. To compound the difficulty of obtaining equal treatment for female candidates for positions of managerial status within the school the GAA have lent their support to the continuation of the present practice by their complaints. They have complained that the reason for the decline of hurling, for instance, in rural areas in particular and perhaps in urban areas, has been the increased number of female teachers who have acquired positions within the national school network throughout the country. That must be rejected as blatant discrimination against women.
I would like to say that it was unfair at the outset to blame the decline of hurling, in particular, and the skills involved in football to some extent on the non-participation of female teachers in sport. Indeed, on that point we must turn to an organisation like RTE where any person interested in sport will rarely see female athletes portrayed in the advertising before a particular programme. The most glamorous male athletes of international repute will be portrayed. Even at local level it will be the achievements of great footballers, rugby players or tennis players that will be shown almost to the total exclusion of the achievements of female athletes. They are very noticeable achievements. I think the importance of females in sporting organisations and in the world of athletics has been lessened by the portrayal of these attitudes.
With reference to education, Senator Lanigan mentioned earlier today the importance of vocational education in the context of equal opportunity. I would like to remind him that Senator Lanigan and his many supporters throughout the country will have the opportunity to recognise the importance of women in education. We will see whether they will support the appointment of females to the various vocational education committees, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, on next Thursday. I will certainly be watching very carefully the appointments list of Fianna Fáil. Over the last week or so  particularly they have shown the country at large that they are the people who have won so many majorities throughout the various local authorities. I am hoping that there will be a very positive response by way of appointments of lady members to the various vocational committees.
It is important also that the appointments boards or the interview boards of vocational education committees rarely have lady members. There has been a directive from the Department of Education to the effect that at no time were any individual members of any selection board to make any suggestions of sex discrimination in relation to candidates seeking employment within those boards. It was a very important directive. The male-dominated committees were for the first time made aware of their attitudes as they had been seen in practice down through the years. It was a timely intervention on the part of the Minister in that aspect of appointments.
It is not only in the area of education that there has been discrimination against females. I have mentioned in this House before that in the banking world, probably the most notorious of all, we have seen very few female managerial positions being filled. In fact, the females have been swept aside by various senior management people and it was more or less said that they were unsuited for the positions. I welcome it indeed, and want to congratulate Mrs. Sylvia Meehan of the Employment Equality Agency on her work in trying to rectify the position against all the odds. The tide has been against her on many occasions and she has seemed to achieve a small but very important recognition of the place of women in the employment structures. Where equality was about to be overlooked, she has in some small way seemed to rectify that situation.
I would say also that the proposals set out on the practical agenda for equality and family law reform will meet with a tremendous amount of goodwill on the part of many people in the present context because of the attitudes of people today. The old traditions place the females — as the Minister has so rightly put  it — in the role of the child minder at home. At a time of high unemployment it has been seen that the place of the woman is at home, but it is important that we are coming forward with this report now and placing an importance on the woman in society, saying that she has a right to employment if that employment possibility exists. If we weather the storm of the present discontent and the particular aspect of the working wife, as it were, working away from the home, when times and opportunity for employment are better in the future the result will be that there will be an easier road for people to travel, whether they are unmarried or married. It will be easier to get that concept accepted and to get recognition from employers.
I will conclude by saying that I welcome the report. I congratulate the Leas-Chathaoirleach and the members of the working party. I wish them every success in the way in which they presented this to the various sections within the community. I hope that it will be a success, perhaps not in the working life of this Dáil but the ground-work will have been laid for other Governments in the future to follow their established principles. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.
Mr. Browne: A Leas-Chathaoirligh, like some of the other Senators who have spoken here today I would like to see this debate culminating in action. It is a very extensive report and covers a lot of ground. If action is not taken on it, then we are all talking in a vacuum here. Senator Burke has just mentioned the role of women in the home. I should like to make my contribution on the role of women in the home. I was amazed to find a quotation from Alfred Marshall who in 1898 said that a woman who makes her own clothes or a man who digs his own garden or repairs his own house is earning income as would a dressmaker, gardener or carpenter who might be hired to do the work. When you think of what has been said on many occasions of late about what women are doing and the value of their work in the home, it is amazing that  a man was so enlightened in 1898 that he could see that people who were not getting monetary reward were contributing in a big way to the economy.
I would find it very difficult to put monetary value on the role of the woman who stays at home. It is marvellous that so many women are prepared to spend their time at home with the children to give them a start in life. In saying that I in no way take from many excellent women who go out to work full time and combine that very difficult job with rearing a family and looking after the home. I was disheartened slightly to see the figures quoted in the report of the contribution made nowadays by the husband even in a situation where the wife is working full time. To combine a full-time job with the role of mother and home-maker is very difficult. Many women who give up good jobs and give up skills that they have acquired and spend the time at home do a great deal for society. The children who are in that environment have an advantage. Sometimes it is difficult to understand the position of the children who are reared in their mother's absence by housekeepers or others. It can be difficult. Many people think that women who stay at home are playing no role in society. Because that is the general opinion I want to contradict it slightly.
Professor Dooge: I would suggest we suspend this sitting. I think that there are Senators who wish to contribute to this debate. We should take it up again on the next day if possible. It would not take longer than an hour then. We should suspend now and come back to Private Members' Business.
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