The fight for equality continues - 100 years on

Today, 6th February 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, which began the journey to achieving universal suffrage. This was a historic milestone in Irish history and a victory for the ‘suffragettes movements’ in achieving the extension of the ‘franchise’ or the right for women to vote in elections.

This is no doubt one of the most revolutionary pieces of legislation to have ever passed through any parliament.

In Ireland, the campaign for women’s suffrage was led by ‘The Irish Women's Suffrage and Local Government Association’ - an organisation established in the early 1900’s, drawing inspiration from similar organisations in England, quite notably, the militant Women's Social and Political Union.

The Irish suffragist movement was led by unmanageble revolutionaries such as Constance Markievicz, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington and Kathleen Lynn who aspired to achieve, not only equality and suffrage, but struggled long and tirelessly for the re-unification of Ireland and the removal of British influence from their country.

1918 was a momentous year for republicanism, this revolutionary piece of legislation arrived at a pivotal time in our politics, in December of that year Sinn Féin received an overwhelming victory, winning 73 of the 105 seats in Ireland, which subsequently seen the formation of Dáil Éireann.

Constance Markievicz became the first women elected to the British parliament, however, she was an abstentionist MP and refused to take her seat. Markievicz instead joined Dáil Éireann upon its establishment.   

This marked a historic victory in the battle for rights and equality, but this battle is not over.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement of 1968, when nationalist citizens in the north were discriminated against in housing, jobs and did not have access to ‘one man, one vote’ - a sectarian state where gerrymandering was the order of the day.

Nationalists in the north were born in to a partitioned and conservative state who did not want them.

Fortunately, those days are over and the status quo is gone. Martin McGuinness re-affirmed this clearly in his resignation as deputy First Minister in January 2017.

But, historic events must be a reminder that the long struggle for equality continues - people on this island are still denied the right to marriage equality and language rights, whilst women are still denied access to proper health care.

We, as Irish citizens have a duty to overturn those outstanding issues.

Today is a time to reflect and take pride in the struggle of people like Markievicz and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington. We take inspiration from their determination to fight for what is right, as we move towards a rights-based society founded on the principles of equality.

 By Caolán McGinley, PRO National Youth Committee 

Ógra Shinn Féin