"We need an Ireland that both strong women and men are the voices of the people."

Nineteen year old Niamh Walsh from Inishowen has taken on the role as Women’s Officer for Donegal Sinn Féin Republican Youth.

Niamh is currently in her second year at UCD, pursuing her passion of history and politics.

This young activist plans to run feminist workshops and highlight women’s issues throughout the course of her budding political career, alongside promoting socialist values of equality and environmental issues.

Niamh Walsh

She is passionate about social issues facing women, and calls for young women to get involved in politics as she believes that more strong women are needed to take seats alongside their male counterparts in the Dáil.

Speaking to Donegal Woman, Niamh said; “I think it’s very important for women to get involved in the traditionally male dominated arena of politics. We need to show young girls and future generations that women are just as good at politics as men.

“For too long now mostly men have been representing women in the Dáil and councils. How can we expect men to be able to fully understand and speak on issues that are specific to women?

“We need an Ireland that both strong women and men are the voices of the people.

“We’re lucky now to actually have strong women representing us in the Dáil and European Parliaments. Women like Mary Lou Mc Donald, Martina Anderson, Michelle O’Neill and Lynn Boylan to name a few. More female figures like this is what the future of politics needs!

2016 marked a historic year for female politicians as 22.2% of all deputies in the Dáil were women, a massive 40% increase from 2011’s figures, when women only accounting for 15% of seats.

“I think it was very fitting that 2016 marked a record amount of women elected to the Dáil, especially with 2016 being the 100th anniversary of the 1916 rising.

“Women played a key role in the Rising with the likes of Countess Markievicz and Margaret Skinnider.

“However, politics still has a long way to go though before women are fully represented equally.

“We need to make politics more fitting to the needs of women, for example introducing proper maternity leave.

Niamh highlighted the issue of lad culture, and how sexual harassment is normalised under the guise of “banter”.

“One issue that I think it is vital to exterminate is the issue of lad culture or banter. It normalises homophobia, racism and especially sexism.

“Most women at some stage of their lives will have experienced some form of sexual harassment on a night out; whether this is in the form of sexual comments or touching.

“Telling the person to stop and then getting the reply, “sure it’s just banter” – it is not just banter, it enforces the idea of male entitlement over women.

“The thing is that a lot of men that partake in this lad banter may not even realise what they are doing. They may really just see it as banter. That is why it is so important to open up conversation about lad culture and the serious impact it has on women and society.

Niamh is using her platform as Women’s Officer to educate others on feminist issues and plans to host a diverse range of workshops. The SFRY have already submitted six motions during the SFRY National Congress, including one which concerns the detrimental impact lad culture has on society.

“I have plans to do workshops on feminism and women’s issues for our youth members. As well as hopefully doing some campaigns around Repeal the 8th.

“We also put forward a few motions for the SFRY congress that was held in Derry at the end of January.

Donegal SFRY with Michelle O’Neill

“One of our motions was to recognise the serious issue lad culture plays on our society. It serves to normalise sexist attitudes towards women as well as racism and homophobia. It is great to raise awareness about an issue that effects most people.

“At the minute I’m happy being a political activist at the grassroots level. I don’t necessary think that you need to run in elections to have a voice in politics.

“I would prefer to make a change at my local level by continuing being an activist for republican, socialist, feminist and environmental issues.