Young Fine Gael Females Trip to Brussels – June 2016

By: Lucy O'Shea

I have been actively involved in Young Fine Gael for five years, and during that time I have made some fantastic friends and had some great experiences. However, one thing that has been evident in the organisation is the alarmingly low amount of females that become involved, and more importantly remain involved.

Women don't get involved in politics for various reasons, but one of the main reasons seems to be a lack of confidence; the confidence to show up to meetings or put their names forward to join committees.

To target this, Young Fine Gael organised a female member’s trip to Brussels which was hosted by Fine Gael MEPs Deirdre Clune and Mairéad McGuinness, VP of the European Parliament.

While many of us may have varying views on gender quotas or various other avenues that are being pursued to encourage women to get involved in politics, there is no doubt that a females trip was a fantastic idea. It gave us an opportunity to speak to other members that we may have never met before and more importantly, it gave new members a chance to see the benefits of getting involved in politics.

We spent two full days in Brussels in which we got to meet our Irish MEPs Deirdre Clune, Mairead McGuinness and Seán Kelly and the remarkable Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola. Roberta spoke passionately about how she balances her family and her work as an MEP however, emphasising the fact that no one ever questions how male politicians balance their work and home life.

We took in a tour of the Parliamentarium, bumped into Nigel Farage and were extremely lucky to be able to sit and watch the extraordinary plenary session on ‘Brexit’ on Tuesday morning. We were treated to dinner on Monday night by Deirdre Clune MEP before (us older, weary members) retired to bed!

For many of us, it was our first trip to Brussels and it provided a great opportunity to see how the European Parliament works and the difference that our Irish MEPs are making in Europe. Brussels was an exciting place to be in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum and the arrival of the European Heads of State.

We took in the sights of Brussels on Tuesday afternoon - the beautiful Place De Luxembourg and Grand Place before we headed off back to Dublin.

The group bumped into John Bruton and some lucky group members spotted Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy as well as our Taoiseach, Enda Kenny going into EPP Headquarters.  David Cameron was also spotted amid a flurry of security and press.

Having been a member of YFG for many years, it was great to see so many new and enthusiastic members come on the trip to Brussels. We discussed the various barriers that women experience in politics and the ways in which Fine Gael can improve on this and move towards a more equal representation of men and women in the party. It was also an opportunity to hear from our own members who have served on National Executive or ran for various elections themselves.

Hopefully we will now see more initiatives like this adapted to entice more women to get involved in politics.

Tús maith, leath na hoibre!

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