March 2021 was a month of great political debates, announcements and interviews. A month that was dedicated to celebrating women and St Paterick did reap a number of political moments that will be remembered. From misogynistic cartoons, candidate announcements and Joe Biden’s immigration policy there were many political moments of note in March 2021.
The month began with International Women's Day on the 8th of March, these were an abundance of webinars, podcasts and events to celebrate all women. This was soon tarnished not long after with the fallout from the Sarah Evarad case and the protests that followed. The the media was full of pieces by women relaying their experience of sexual assault. On social media women shared tips that had learned to keep them safe while others railed against the hashtags that surrounded the response.
The issue of the characterisation of women in politics also came to the fore. The portrayal of Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald as a witch in a very popular Irish newspaper. It's not the first time a woman has been drawn as a witch in politics, Hillary Clinton faced similar issues during her career. The cartoon drew criticism for all political perspectives and parties. The National Women's Council spoke out against the cartoon, the leadership coordinator Emma De Souza said “It is a deeply sexist trope used to dehumanise women and is exactly the type of behaviour that deters women from going into politics,”
McDonald responded indirectly on twitter saying; “ We are the granddaughters of the witches you could not burn- Deal with it #womenpower.”
The leaders of the three main parties in government also came out against the cartoon, they each came out to condem that cartoon. The Taoiseach Micheal Martin said that “I don’t approve of that kind of characterisation of women in politics and we’ve all been characterised to different extents in different cartoons.”
This was just one of the political moments that stood out among the political discourse of March.
The month of March also brought a variety of discussions about the Irish-American relationship and the annual visit of the Taoiseach to the White House. This year the event was virtual due to coronavirus. The event passed without much surprise, the leaders spoke about a variety of issues, including Covid-19 and the Good Friday Agreement. President Biden reiterated his support for the agreement saying;"On the Good Friday Agreements, we strongly support them and think it is critically important that they be maintained,".
The day was hailed as a success and continued the relationship between the two countries for another year. Surrounding the event was much media commentary about Joe Biden Irish heritage. This was very clear later in the month when Biden gave his first press briefing of his presidency.Biden faced questions around gun control, climate change and particularly immigration.When answering questions on immigration Biden spoke about his Irish ancestors.
When asked about the administration plans to stop immigration from Latin America, when fixing the issues in these countries would take a long time. Biden mentioned the desperation of these immigrants who are forced to leave. He related this to his own family history saying that his family had been forced to leave Ireland because of “ what the Brits had been doing”. He said that his administration could improve the lives of people living in Latin America; “ I can guarantee we can make everything better. We can make it better. We can change the lives of so many people.”. This was a clear sign that much of Biden's attitude towards immigration comes from his own family history. This was a very important political moment in the month of March and for the relationship between the two countries.
Lord Mayor Hazel Chu announced her candidacy for the Industrial and Commercial panel in the Seanad. The announcement overshadowed the passing of the Climate Action Bill that was a priority of the Green Party in Government and caused a flurry of controversy in the Green Party. Chu, who is chair of the Green Party was criticized by many within the party and supported by others.
The current Lord Mayor of Dublin stated that she wanted to run in the Seanad Bye-Elections because; “ I believe adding diversity to this ballot,representing both women and those from an ethic minority, is crucial at a time when we need more voices heard in politics''. This announcement startled the Green Party and shook up the Seanad Bye-Elections that had almost had a foregone conclusion before the canvassing began.
In conclusion the political moments of March 2021 were laced with symbolism and history. There were shock announcements and tried and tested criticisms that brought new issues to the fore and clarified positions. Hopefully the political moments of March 2021 will have a lasting impact on policy and practice.