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In a Significant Change, Women Win Almost 16% Seats at Waterford City and County Council

Five women have been elected to Waterford City and County Council, marking a significant breakthrough in the historically male-dominated body. In 2019, only two women were elected, but this year sees an increase to five.

Lola O’Sullivan (Fine Gael) topped the poll in Tramore-City West. Joeanne Bailey (Sinn Féin), who was co-opted onto the council during the last term, won a seat in City South on her first election attempt. Mary Roche secured a seat for the Social Democrats, a first for the party in Waterford. Niamh O’Donovan (Fine Gael) clinched a victory in Lismore, ousting long-time councillor Declan Doocey. Additionally, Catherine Burke retained Sinn Féin’s seat in Portlaw-Kilmacthomas, where former party member Declan Clune, now an Independent, was also elected.

During the count at SETU Arena, the Waterford News & Star spoke to several women in public office about the state of gender equity in government. There was a general consensus that women in politics often face harassment. Waterford TD and Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler (Fianna Fáil), recalled her experience since being elected to the council in 2014, noting the small number of women in office. She highlighted the increased scrutiny women face, particularly on social media, where comments on their appearance are common and serve as a deterrent.

Butler stated, “I personally believe that social media and the abuse women get is definitely a deterrent. Men can run and there’s never a comment on what they’re wearing and how they look. But there will always be a comment in relation to female candidates on their weight, their hair, what they’re wearing, how they look. That’s hard on people.”

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