The Fine Gael party has this week unveiled four candidates who have ambitions to bridge the gender gap in Donegal County Council.
Eimer Friel, Bernie Moran, Evelyn Sweeney and Michelle McKenna have all been confirmed as candidates across four electoral areas in the local elections this May.
The four dynamic women, who are all well-known in their communities, have set out to win a seat on the council, which is currently the worst in the country for gender balance. Just 8.1% of sitting councillors, at present, are female.
Fine Gael’s new candidates all say they are passionate about bringing new voices for women into the council chamber in Lifford.
Eimer Friel, (35) and Evelyn Sweeney, (43), are native Irish speakers from Fanad and Gaoth Dobhair respectively. Both work for Minister Joe McHugh’s Constituency Office and will run in the Milford and Glenties electoral areas.
Bernie Moran, a 43-year-old creche owner and medical professional, and Michelle McKenna, (48), from Buncrana, will run in Letterkenny and South Inishowen respectively.
All four candidates and their supporters packed in the Radisson Hotel in Letterkenny on Monday evening for the Fine Gael Constituency Convention.
Eimer Friel, from Cashel in Fanad said: “Fine Gael is such a diverse party with people from all walks of life and it’s important that women like me help to create role models for the next generation; strong women are at the heart of families and communities and we need strong women in our county councils and in Dáil Éireann reflecting those views and reflecting the needs of rural communities and rural villages and towns.”
Ms Friel added: “I believe in the ‘can-do’ spirit of the Donegal people. That’s where my heart lies. I am humbled by the groundswell of support I have received from every townland across the Milford Electoral area.”
Evelyn Sweeney says she has key issues affecting West Donegal that she plans to set out to address:
“Working with Joe (Minister McHugh) has given me a unique insight into the issues which affect ordinary hard-working families in the county. Helping people overcome those issues is very rewarding but I feel I also need to the voice of people in Lifford too, working on issues which the County Council needs to address,” Evelyn said.
A native Irish speaker originally from Cnoc An Stollaire but now living in Bun A Laca, Evelyn says she’s proud of the work of Minister McHugh and the Constituency Office team and she wants to help share that love of language in Donegal.
Bernie Moran is a leading local businesswoman and healthcare provider in Letterkenny who says she wants to work hard for families throughout the area.
Bernie: “I believe my background in healthcare and in education provision gives me a real understanding of the challenges facing families in Donegal on a daily basis. This is why I have decided to stand in the local elections on May 24th as a Fine Gael candidate.
“Women are hugely under represented on Donegal County Council, comprising only three of 37 sitting councillors. Women and men bring a different perspective to the table and a fairer gender balance will better reflect the views and needs of our community.
“If elected I will serve the whole community and represent the interests of the entire electoral area, urban and rural, individuals and families, business and the farming community. My experience as a nurse, as a mother in the home, as an employer and provider of preschool educational services, gives me a real understanding of the challenges facing families in Donegal on a daily basis.”
South Inishowen candidate and Buncrana native Michelle McKenna is involved in a range of voluntary organisations including the GAA and the LGFA.
“I love working in the community; I have a huge passion for it. I know that being elected to Donegal County Council will give me even more opportunities to get more done for people in Inishowen,” she said.
“Our council must reflect the people it serves. We need more women as councillors and more women in the top jobs inside the council. It’s about bringing a new dynamic to our entire county and I am delighted I will running with such great candidates like Bernie, Evelyn and Eimer – all bright, intelligent and dynamic women.”