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27 Jan 2022

Offaly County Council adopts policy on women and diversity

Cllr Clare Claffey.

Cllr Clare Claffey.

A policy on women and diversity in local government was adopted at the last full meeting of Offaly County Council.

Cllr Clare Claffey said she was happy to welcome this policy, and she thanked the Management for their commitment to the issue, and the individual staff members who worked so hard not just on the policy but also the consultation that had informed it.

“While I welcome the policy,” continued Cllr Claffey, “I think it’s important to put on the record that it doesn’t go far enough.

“To date we have consulted with young people, women travellers and women migrants. A policy on diversity should also include consultation with and plans to increase participation by all the women of the county, and also people with disabilities, all travellers, people of colour who are not migrants and members of the LGBTQ+ Community. Until those voices are listened to and truly heard, our policy is not complete.

“But this is a good first step. I warmly welcome the planned working group, and propose that the first action that’s taken by that group is to widen the remit of the policy and start the task of listening to wider voices. We must expand the proposed membership of that group to include more diverse voices and most urgently voices of people with disabilities, different ethnic groups and LGBTQ voices.

“A remark was made during the early stages of the development of this policy, “Oh where’s the policy for men?” and while it's easy to dismiss that as just reactionary, to a certain extent it’s true. We have ample representation of white settled men here in Offaly County Council. We don’t hear the voices of traveller men, men of different ethnicities, men with disabilities or gay and trans men. So, a truly inclusive council would reflect all of those voices and priorities. And that’s what we need to be working towards.

“One specific issue I’d like to mention is that the policy mentions training for women to help them to increase their participation. I think that’s important, but it’s also important that we commit to providing training for all staff and existing councillors to help us to recognise and understand our privilege, to acknowledge the existence of unconscious bias in all of us, and to start to work to break down the barriers to truly inclusive participation.

“So, this is a great start, but we have a lot of work ahead of us. I know I’m up for the challenge and I’m looking forward to getting started.”

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