Conor McQuinn

Irish Independent

January 7th 2018

Women don’t need a husband to succeed in politics – it’s “fire in the belly” that makes the difference, according to Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte.  Her remarks come after Fine Gael minister Josepha Madigan advised aspiring female politicians to

Get a good husband.

Ms Rabbitte – a widow and mother of three teenagers – said her own message to women considering entering politics was:

Once you have the bit between your teeth and fire in the belly, you will succeed.  You don’t need to have a husband there, you don’t need to have a wife there. If you actually feel that this is a right match for you, and you feel you can do it, you can do it.

The Irish Independent reported how Culture Minister Ms Madigan warned of the “relentless pace” of political life being a “sacrifice and privilege at the same time”.  She encouraged women to enter politics and advised them to speak to those who had done it before: “Get good childcare, get a good husband, have the confidence and don’t over-think it.”

Ms Madigan has previously told of the support offered by her own husband, Finbarr Hayes, during her career.

Ms Rabbitte said her own comments were not a criticism of Ms Madigan’s remarks or experience. But she said she would like the message to go out that “you don’t need to have a strong partner” to succeed in politics.  Ms Rabbitte’s husband, Paddy Callan, died in 2011. She has three children: Fiachra (17), Caoimhe (15) and Aoibhinn (13). Ms Rabbitte was a full-time bank worker before she was first elected to Galway County Council in 2014.

She won her Dáil seat for Galway East in 2016 and praises a network of good friends, family and staff who help her balance family and work commitments.  A neighbour stays with the three children on days when Ms Rabbitte is in Dublin during the Dáil term and others get them to and from school.

Ms Rabbitte says she’s there at weekends and is the driver “if one of them wants to go to a teenage disco”. She reschedules constituency clinics “depending on who’s got a rugby or camogie match”.She said constituents were understanding about this and how she was “mummy first and the politician second when I’m down home”.

Ms Rabbitte insists nothing is compromised by her dual role as a parent and politician, adding that having three teenagers “keeps me very rooted”.

Fianna Fáil’s children spokesperson said her advice for women considering entering politics is:

Put your name forward if you have a desire, willingness or belief that you could make a difference.  Get out there and get your team of women and men behind you and get on the doors.

She also said the backing of other women was necessary, saying:

Women aren’t great at supporting other women.

Ms Rabbitte said at the start of her career she had women saying “has she not enough to be doing?” and “should she not stay at home and mind her kids?”

She said she still gets questions on how the children “cope” without her. She added: “We need to encourage women and not judge them for wanting to step forward.”

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