Fine Gael Councillor and Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council, Thomasina Connell, will be the first Councillor in Ireland to benefit from the new measures set out in the Local Government (Maternity Protection and Other Measures for Elected Members in Local Authorities) Bill 2022 which was passed by the Oireachtas last Thursday. The legislation was passed just days after Councillor Connell welcomed her first child, Thomas Norman, together with her partner Tristan Lynas. She will be the first County Councillor in Ireland eligible to seek the benefit of the new Maternity Protections.
The progressive legislation introduced by the Minister of State for Local Government and Planning at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Peter Burke T.D., gives Councillors an entitlement to Maternity Leave for the first time. “The absence of Maternity Leave and associated rights for Councillors has for so long, been identified as one of the major bars to women entering into, and remaining in political life, particularly at County Council level,” Councillor Connell stated.
“I am pleased with the options that this legislation delivers, in that, should the leave be taken up by the Councillor, it will allow the nomination by them of a substitute to undertake their role in the Council. This is crucial from many perspectives, not least from the situation where an essential vote arises in the Council Chamber.
“The alternative to taking a period of leave is that an additional allowance is available to cover the cost of administration assistance incurred in order to carry out their Council duties and meet their commitments as a Councillor.
“I am keen to see the impact of targeted measures like the provision of Maternity leave following our next local elections in 2024 and I am certain we will see an increased number of female candidates being elected across the country, where currently only 24% of County Councillors are women.”
Councillor Connell contested the 2016 General Election and thereafter was elected to Laois County Council in May 2019 representing the Portlaoise Municipal District where she lives. She was elected as Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council in June 2022.